The customer experience. It’s a common trending concept that draws a number of experts into the conversation. The contact center studies it in spades, speeding time to answer, focusing on first call resolution and integrating the omnichannel experience to give the consumer what he wants. Is it enough to remain competitive?
The answer to this question truly relies on the industry in which a company operates. An interesting study is that of the physical retail world. eCommerce has changed the game when it comes to consumer trends, and Amazon has certainly written the rules. But that doesn’t mean the death of the physical retailer. Instead, it means significant change.
Positioning – Who’s Making the Call?
For years, retailers positioned themselves in a number of different ways: price, product, fads and more. With the right business plan, product and pricing, a company could easily dominate the market – at least for a little while. Those who catered to the flavor of the month generally met the same fate. Those willing to take a bigger risk could carve out a healthy share. The same doesn’t ring true for today’s retailer. It requires something more.
Just a decade or so ago, a certain retail giant tried to position itself in the market as the leading location for low prices and the customer experience. The typical consumer would encounter a friendly smile, the products they need and the pricing they wanted to pay. On top of that, the company was actively giving time and money back into the communities in which it operates, making the consumer feel great about the purchases they made.
Change Dictates a New Game Plan
Fast forward to today and this retailer has become a caricature of its former self. Lower pricing is still a consistent positioning, but the company no longer promises the same experience as they are no longer able to deliver it. Expect pallets in the center of the aisles while you’re trying to shop during typical business hours; sales associates who don’t care if you’re finding what you need or might be blocking your way to the right product; and chaos is a regular occurrence when managers don’t schedule according to the volume of traffic in the store.
In this case, the retailer did it right – they stopped offering hollow promises of the customer experience as they believed they would survive and even thrive on lower prices alone. They still get people in the door in mass quantities, but is that enough for long-term profitability? Will this retailer continue into the next retail wave, operating on this same strategy? Or, has the digital age and the growth of the millennial generation changed the rules of the game?
Consider the options consumers have when it comes to satisfying their needs. For immediate satisfaction, Amazon is working on its drone technology. But the pricing needed to support this next level of innovation won’t match that of the discount retailer still trying to appeal to the masses. The game changer is that Amazon won’t need to attract anywhere near the same volume of business as the discount retailer to achieve the same level of profitability.
Given this challenge, which is the better strategy in the new age of retail? With the right strategy in place for the customer experience – the answer is likely to be clear.
4 Things to do Today to Improve the Customer Experience
Large retailers are now making it much easier to navigate aisles, access coupons and store preferences on mobile apps. The next level needs to be suggested items, store mapping, product availability notifications and delivery options, all on the mobile device.
Expand to Omnichannel
Whether in-store or online, consumers want instant access to information and interactions. Companies seeking to dominate in retail must be proactive in their approach, not only anticipating needs, but using the voice of the customer to design options and continually innovate.
Study Your Competitors
It’s always more expensive to start with a blank canvas. Instead, watch your competitors, note what they are doing well and then develop a strategy for how you can do it better. Once that strategy is tested, proven and in place, develop an aggressive marketing strategy that will position your brand as the dominate leader, even before market share supports the notion.
Invest in the Frontline
Don’t forget the value of the frontline players on your team. More times than I can count, I have to get out of the way of the young sales associate at a local retailer who missed the day of training where common courtesy was the primary focus. That kind of behavior often drives my preference for a competing retailer as the offending either doesn’t apply proper training or doesn’t hold their employees to a higher standard.
Once these strategies are firmly in place, the investment in the customer experience must be targeted at all levels within the organization, especially in the physical store. Even with the best marketing campaign in the industry, if your customers don’t experience what you promise with your brand, they will quickly turn it into something else and you’ll find you’re on a quick road to obsolescence. If that isn’t in your business plan, it’s time to start over.