Is Customer-Centricity Driving the Future of Retail?
The number of customers who buy online rather than head to the high street is growing exponentially, and it’s a trend that shows no signs of slowing down. While holiday sales in 2017 rose an impressive 4.9% above those for 2016—the largest year-on-year increase since 2011—online retail sales, in particular, rose a whopping 18% over the same period.
But, the main story here isn’t about growth, it’s about how it came about—that is, it’s about the transformative changes that are sweeping across retail. This means, for retailers, it’s about figuring out the why behind consumer shopping habits; creating opportunities to both follow and influence them.
Customer experience is the key differentiator in retail
The key to understanding your customer’s shopping habits is to understand the entire realm of their experience—how customers perceive their interactions with your brand—in order to get a handle on this wave of change.
The truth is that the arrival of digital technologies is of enormous consequence. So, as we head out of the holiday season, this is a good time to ask yourself: Are you going to be impacted by these waves of change, try to absorb and integrate them, or—best option—be prime movers in riding them to shape the future?
One thing is certain: when it comes to retail, the old rulebook – in which pricing and product specs were the main chapters – went out the window quite some time ago. And in the present dynamic scene, it’s especially important for you to make every effort to steer current trends in the direction you want.
More to the point: waves don’t last. Ride them or miss them. The time to act is right here, right now.
Why the urgency? Well, in its predictions for this year, Forrester tells us that “the window of opportunity is closing” for many companies. Current market dynamics, it says, “favor those taking aggressive action and create existential risk for those still holding on to what has worked before”. This year “will force decisive action for firms looking to digitally transform, revitalize customer experiences, and take control of their destiny.”
But, what does it mean to be customer-centric?
An awful lot is being written these days, by Forrester and others, about customer experience, but also about customer-centricity. The same basic idea, right?
Well, not exactly: if we were to take the term “customer-centric” literally, it’d be an updated version of “the customer’s always right”—the idea that the customer always calls the shots.
And certainly, retail has to cater to customers’ needs—that is, their perceived needs. But when you think “customer experience”, you need to be thinking, not just about improving or enhancing that experience, but about shaping it.
We could think of it this way, with the help of the Spice Girls: if you say to customers, “Tell me what you want”, the first round of answers will probably include must-haves like pricing, product specs, and so on. But if you probe deeper—“what you really, really want”—you can quickly get into territory where you can start shaping their entire experience as consumers to make it truly remarkable.
The future of online retail
On its own, offering, say, a 15% discount—the old pricing mantra—just isn’t going to cut it anymore: it’s not remarkable. Personalizing your customers’ experience—that’s remarkable. Why? Take just one example: according to Forrester, three-quarters of consumers are more likely to buy from a retailer that recognizes them by name, recommends options, or knows their purchasing history.
Now, making these kinds of transformative change certainly requires a vision of where you want to go—but you also need the tools to get there. One tool that can help you make these transformations happen is a Voice of the Customer, or VoC, solution.
Creating a superior customer experience
Having the right VoC solution in place allows you not only to understand your visitors’ intentions and needs but to anticipate and optimize for them.
Implementing a solid VoC strategy means you can stop guessing what your customers want, and start listening to what they really, really want—ultimately shaping their digital experience in remarkable ways.
With Usabilla, you can target a specific user journey, behavior, or status based on specific events. This enables you to get the low-down on conversion barriers such as shopping-cart abandonment—but it also allows you to shape your customers’ experience at a more granular level.
For example, with Usabilla for Apps, you could use the data your retail app provides you to engage with your customers when a particular event occurs. For instance, you might reach out with, “Great to see your package was delivered today. So how do those cool new sneakers fit?”
The future of retail is about shaping your customers’ experience—not only by accompanying them on the buyer journey but taking them in directions they didn’t know were possible. The more personal that journey feels, the more receptive they’re likely to be; and the more often they’ll take the cart to the check-out.
Time and tide—and waves of change—wait for no one. And in this year of reckoning, it’s going to be more important than ever not only to meet the growing demands of your online customers but to be in a position to anticipate their needs and shape their experiences.
For more insights about 2018 is going to bring, check out our free report Customer-Centricity in Retail: Are you on track for 2018? or download our ebook to see the brands that are already getting it right.