Experience the retail revolution

How to win in the continuously changing world of experience touchpoints

The year is 2019. Electric cars are a thing. Goggles transport you to an entirely new world. Drones deliver packages within hours. Someone else is doing your grocery shopping. Your dog has a subscription box. And you make purchases with a single breath. Did someone in the back say retail was dead? (I’m lookin’ at you, 2017) [1]. All these evolutionary, innovative, lifestyle-changing leaps across categories & channels at retail means one thing…There has never been a more exciting time to be a consumer. Therefore, there’s never been a more exciting time to be a marketer.

Trend shifts in consumer behavior are common – in fact, we depend on it. For years, consumers have asked brands to dance to the beat of a customer experience drum. While that beat isn’t likely to change any time soon – 5, 6, 7, 8, – the lens through which we view the customer experience is rapidly, and quite dramatically, changing.  One example, according to a survey by Retail Perceptions, 40% of consumers are likely to spend more on a product if they can experience it through augmented reality [7]. Being early to embrace the future can pay off.

Focus on the Fundamentals

But, let’s not be quick to forget the “fun” in “fundamentals!” It has taken a shocking amount of time for retail and experience managers to recognize the power of a consistent “please,” “thank you,” and “my pleasure” (thanks to Chick-Fil-A for being a respectable pace car) [3]. Table stakes. There’s a reason that spend on social food and drink has outshone other retail spend since 2005 [2]. As the amount of real world, human interaction decreases, and the quality expectation remains high, consumers want more…They’re jealously guarding the time they spend experiencing the real world – and they’re picky about which brands they share it with [5].  

So, with that in mind, it’s pretty shocking that Clear’s 2018 Experience Gap study proves that too often, too many businesses are still underinvesting in applying their brand consistently and brilliantly across the experience. And, unfortunately, that’s costing the brands with biggest experience gaps millions of dollars.

But, to deliver a brand-right, remarkable, memorable, loyalty-driving experience across hundreds of on-and-offline touchpoints…piece of cake, right?

Well, let’s start with what your consumer wants. Do you meet their needs, known and unknown? Do they want a space to try on apparel but mostly it’s about having an afternoon cocktail with girlfriends? Do they want to be able to see, smell, touch, drive, and be introduced to their new car in a private, customer-centric facility that celebrates their prized purchase? (…Have you recently asked them?)

Experts agree brick and mortar has its place [4, 5] and isn’t going anywhere. But, as we’ve seen, our retail world is transformed from mere years ago.  And, since 63% of consumers will stop shopping at your store after just one unsatisfactory shopping experience [4], it’s vital to make the most of their trip every time, and to get it right.

Keep customers coming back by considering a few key strategies.

Shore up your brand and double down on rigorous, in-depth insight to drive change.

Today, the biggest challenge facing brand professionals isn’t a lack of data. It’s a lack of clarity. With so much information available, right down to the individual touchpoints of your experience, it’s often a major challenge to find a real, true, and valuable insight. It’s hard to see the forest for the trees. But throwing your arms up and saying it’s too hard isn’t a winning strategy. Real, impactful change is always rooted in a clear insight – so invest time and effort in finding them, recognizing them, and then acting on them.

So, build your brand, know your brand, and fiercely protect it. Dig in deep with your consumer – remember when we talked about asking them what they want from you? Do you know the most important needs on the journey they take with your brand, product, and experience? Uncover them, improve them, and win.

Be where your consumer is and prioritize accordingly.

Your consumer’s feet are no longer only walking your B&M stores – they’re hopping between your brand’s channels.  Omnichannel (mark your buzzword bingo card) presence is cost of entry today! In fact, 45% of people surveyed, age 18-35, say that the ability to shop from a retailer through multiple channels is very important. [8]. But with many touchpoints comes great responsibility. Do your tracking and CRM capabilities enable you to follow your customer channel-to-channel, registering each engagement with your brand? It should, because the consideration lifecycle continues to expand. Able to price and feature compare like never before, shoppers engage with an average of 2.8 touchpoints before committing to a purchase, especially when the purchase requires more consideration, like a tech accessory or something even higher end [10]. Omnichannel presence and availability is one thing but understanding what will keep your customer engaged is imperative to ultimately win their purchase.

With so many touchpoint opportunities, you have to prioritize where, how, and when your brand can deliver the most impact across the customer journey. Then, confidently and heavily invest in the hero moments that deliver the greatest impact, rather than thinly spreading investment across moments out of your control. By really delivering in the moments of greatest unmet need, you’ll close your Experience Gap.

Make tech a useful part of the experience.

Consumers are over the widgets and doohickey phase of digitally augmented retail (if they ever really engaged with it in the first place). Utility is both king and queen of experience. Golden Krishna says, ‘the best interface is no interface’ [9], but if technology isn’t adding obvious value…then don’t use it! “Cool” only carries so much weight with the busiest generation in history. Case in point – if a keyless entry and push-start is a one-step method for opening and starting your car, why would anyone take four steps via an app to achieve the same outcome?

Make sure your experience is the one-step in a four-step world.

Be honest…when was the last time you took a fresh look at your experience, or better yet, tried to take the perspective of your consumer? Believe it or not, they want to experience your brand – so give the people what they’re looking for! As a believer in insight-led strategy, delivering the seemingly unachievable brand-right, remarkable, memorable, loyalty-driving experience across hundreds of on-and-offline touchpoints is possible.

By understanding your brand and what you offer your customers, where to best invest in their journey, and ensuring tech has a useful place, your brand can stand up against the high tides of competition these days. The retail revolution is only beginning – make sure your business isn’t left in the dust.

 

REFERENCES:

1: https://fitsmallbusiness.com/death-of-brick-mortar-retail/

2: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/04/retail-meltdown-of-2017/522384/

3: https://www.businessinsider.com/chick-fil-a-most-polite-chain-fast-food-strategies-2019-6?r=US&IR=T

4: https://smallbiztrends.com/2019/04/things-customers-want-retail-stores.html

5: https://qz.com/1513164/the-21-biggest-retail-trends-to-look-out-for-in-2019/

6: https://www.forbes.com/sites/yec/2018/10/11/is-brick-and-mortar-retail-really-dying/#56c687b27e36

7: https://retailnext.net/en/blog/7-examples-of-retailers-making-use-of-augmented-reality/

8: https://www.social4retail.com/why-you-need-a-multichannel-retail-strategy-infographic.html

9: Golden Krishna, The Best Interface is No Interface: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Best-Interface-No-brilliant-technology/dp/0133890333/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+best+interface+is+no+interface&qid=1565623411&s=gateway&sr=8-1

10: https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/en-cee/insights-trends/research-data/study-reveals-complexity-modern-consumer-paths-purchase-and-how-brands-can-make-inroads/

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