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How to plan for more retail disruption and drive customer experience

Your brand is whatever your customer says it is. 

Whether responding to a transactional survey, sharing an experience in a group chat (or Zoom), leaving a public Google review, or streaming a live unboxing of your product on TikTok – customers are advocating for or detracting from your brand in new and countless ways. These customer experiences can either infuse others with a desire for the same shopping euphoria or cause would-be customers to distance themselves from your brand. 

Customer journey disruption is here to stay. Don’t get stuck in reactive mode

As the retail experience continues to be disrupted, in Australia in particular it’s fluctuating between either “shop-and-dash”, click and collect, or online only – so the opportunities to surprise and delight customers are scarce. Making sure you are plugged into customer feedback is essential to understand how your customers felt about their experience, but it doesn’t always help you stay ahead of the curve. 

In fact, it can often be a trap for brands to focus their effort and resources on responding to every piece of feedback, solicited or unsolicited, and getting caught in a state of perpetual reaction. 

What are the first steps to anticipating our customer’s experience?

The secret lies in having a deep understanding of your customer journey, informed by a combination of real-time customer feedback and operational data. Feedback can help tell you why an experience occurred. Operational data (such as CRM, clickstream, app usage, purchase data etc), can tell you who, what, when, where and how the experience took place. This combination of data to validate the key episodes in the customer journey will enable brands to identify the moments that really matter; where customer, employee and business needs align. 

The retailers that have broken free from the reactive state and reached this state of anticipating customers’ future wants, needs, and actions are reaping the rewards; 20-per-cent increase in profitability, 51-per-cent increase in sales, and 24-per-cent increase in repeat business.

How can brands combine feedback and operational data in real life?

Here’s an example from one of InMoment’s clothing retail clients who recently underwent a digital experience transformation at the beginning of the pandemic. 

Following the closure of its brick-and-mortar stores, this retailer mapped a new digital-first journey and set up new ways to listen to the customers at every stage in the journey.

In a matter of weeks, user behaviours on its website or the mobile app would proactively trigger unobtrusive, conversational surveys to better direct the customer to easily reach their desired destination, and increase conversions. 

Here are just four simple examples:

  • Abandonment Surveys (triggered if a customer places an item in the shopping cart, and navigates away from check out)
  • Browsing Surveys (triggered after a customer navigates to a specified number of pages)
  • Rewards Surveys (triggered when a customer visits the Rewards Program page)
  • General Feedback (user-initiated, unsolicited, always-on feedback tab)

Looking at the cart abandonment survey example, this retailer looked at signals in their clickstream data at the point of purchase to launch an intercept survey when the visitor navigated away from the payment page to ask them why they were changing their mind.

By utilising real-time text analytics to uncover themes in the feedback, this retailer was able to use AI to recover potential non-purchasers by resolving their issues live and also utilise the learnings to create better future experiences. New innovations included: the introduction of new “buy online, pay in store” options (BOPIS), enhanced search and navigational functions on the website for visitors to find a more suitable product fit, and provide additional choices in payment options. 

The experience improvements lead to a 9-per-cent increase in NPS, a 4-per-cent increase in online checkout satisfaction, and importantly a 51-per-cent increase in online sales in three months.

So, how would this work when physical stores open up again? 

Behavioural data isn’t just for online journeys, we can use it to re-connect with customers when they can join us back in store. Using location-based technology, past-purchase data, and the stated and observed preferences of its loyalty app users, this retailer has the ability to personalise offers and experiences while customers are in the store and afterwards – again, in a non-intrusive way.

As their stores start to open back up to the public, this same retailer uses handheld devices to notify staff when a loyalty member enters a store, and deliver specific information about that customer. This data feed allows the staff to create more personalized and meaningful interactions with high-value guests. 

Further, the brand can gently prompt customers to leave feedback through its app, Point of Sale system (POS), or kiosks for non-purchasers, ensuring the feelings from the experience are captured in real-time, accurately. 

How can I get started quickly?

Like the previous examples, you don’t need to move mountains to leverage your customer data to plan an in-the-moment positive experience for your customer. In fact, chances are the data you need to drive these improvements lives in your organisation somewhere already so you can get started in a matter of days. 

Once you link all sources of feedback together with operational data in one platform you can truly enrich your customer journey and start transforming your future business around the customer. 

If you’re looking to stay ahead of future disruptions to the retail experience, check out this white paper from InMoment: “How You Listen Matters: Modernising Your Methods & Approach to Customer Feedback.”

  • Scott Hobson is Director, Retail and Hospitality at InMoment.