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Some brands set trends while others simply follow them.
If your business operates in the fast-moving retail or ecommerce space, it pays to be up on the latest customer experience trends.
Armed with this treasure trove of information, your company can tailor its customer experience strategy to accommodate industry insights, capitalize on timely opportunities to meet consumers’ most pressing needs and create a customer experience to die for.
[Read More: eCommerce Customer Service Guide]
Without further ado, here are the top five consumer experience trends in retail and ecommerce.
Customer Service Trends in Retail and Ecommerce
Consumers Prioritize the Customer Experience (over Products and Services)
At one time, product was king.
That king has been dethroned. Nowadays, people are buying fewer things and craving more experiences. So, particularly in the retail and ecommerce sphere, there’s been movement away from selling products to selling services around products.
Some brands, like Puma, have created experiential retail concept stores where, for example, customers can try out the latest shoes in an in-store soccer simulator. Others, like IKEA, have employed augmented reality (AR) to help the customer visualize how they could potentially use a product – without committing to buying it. For instance, IKEA uses AR to help its customers picture how an item of furniture might look inside their homes.
Whilst their approaches are different, what Puma and IKEA have in common is their laser focus commitment to providing a unique and unforgettable customer experience. Not every company has the clout of a global retail powerhouse but, with a little imagination and lots of creativity, every company can improve its customer experience. Your business is no exception.
Consumers Expect Hyper-Personalized Experiences
Courting comes before commitment. Before a customer commits to a brand, they need to feel that the brand has gone to some lengths to get to know them first.
Often due to poor data collection capacity, some retailers and ecommerce companies grapple with delivering meaningful customer personalization. According to Kiran Mani, managing director of retail at Google, “personalization is nothing but translating information into assistance. Over the next few years, $800bn in sales will shift to e-retailers that use site personalization, and away from those that don’t.”
In the 2017 Salesforce article, ‘How Your Customers’ Expectations Have Changed in the Age of the Customer,’ 70 per cent of consumers said that a brand’s understanding of their individual needs influenced their loyalty while 69 per cent said the same of personalized customer care.
Accenture’s 2018 research supports this position. The ‘Personalization Pulse Check Report’ found that 91 per cent of consumers were more likely to buy from brands that recognize them, recall their name and provide relevant offers and recommendations.
If your retail or ecommerce firm wants to win the battle for customers’ ‘hearts and minds,’ it’s incumbent on your team to collect customer data from all touchpoints and provide personalized support at every stage of the buying cycle – from the initial discovery stage and product or service recommendations to post-sale support. With a 360-degree perspective of customers needs, your team will eventually be able to anticipate its customers’ needs – putting your company head and shoulders above the competition.
With Gladly, your company can take its customers from courting to commitment by developing and maintaining one lifelong conversation – a solid, foundational strategy for any brand worth its salt. Gladly’s customer service support software not only enables customer service agents to send personalized communications, it also empowers them to suggest hyper-relevant products and services. Gladly uses intelligent processes that draw from customers’ purchase history, relationships and past interactions with agents, which equips them to provide radically personal customer service.
Consumers Benefit from Empowered Employees
According to the Richard Branson school of thought, customer experience may end with a company’s target customer, but it starts with its employees.
The basic premise is that, if a company takes care of its employees, its employees will take care of the customers. This is why cultivating the employee experience can have such positive knock-on effects on the customer experience. The statistics bear this out, too. Gallup’s 2015 report entitled ‘The Engaged Workplace’ found that “companies with highly engaged employees outperform their competitors by 147 per cent.”
Some companies concentrating on employee experience now have CEEOs (Chief Employee Experience Officers) onboard and have rebranded their human resources groups to ‘employee experience groups’ where employees not only feel valued and appreciated, but also fully-equipped to do their jobs.
[Read More: Assessments for Call Center Agents]
Retail firms can achieve this by ‘democratizing’ access to customer information. By making this information easily accessible, employees are empowered to handle any customer requests that are thrown at them – driving up the ROI and optimizing the customer experience.
A first-class retail experience starts with knowledgeable and passionate frontline staff whose companies invest in collaborative and data-driven tools that democratize access to buyer profiles – making it possible for everyone at your company to deliver a personalized experience.
Gladly’s centralized platform democratizes access to your customer data and its Tasks collaboration tool enables the right agents to work together to find the right solution.
See how Gladly's Task Management feature helps support heroes
Consumers Value Brand Honesty, Openness and Transparency
Some brands preach transparency, but the ones that actually practice it will always come out trumps in customers’ eyes.
In 2015, Southwest Airlines launched a marketing campaign about transparency, aptly titled ‘Transfarency.’ According to the low-cost airline, transparency is “a philosophy in which customers are treated honestly and fairly, and low fares actually stay low – no unexpected bag fees, change fees, or hidden fees.”
Far from a marketing gimmick, Southwest Airlines’ campaign secured hard-earned customer trust and differentiated the airline from its competition. When communicating your company’s vision, products and services, it pays to remember that a little honesty goes a long way!
Consumers Want Brands to Stand for Something
Customers aren’t necessarily loyal to brands per se, but they can be loyal to beliefs that brands hold dear.
According to a Corporate Executive Board study published in the Harvard Business Review in 2012, “Of the consumers in our study who said they have a brand relationship, 64 per cent cited shared values as the primary reason.”
Some of the most successful retail and ecommerce brands have developed a cult following by taking a stand on social issues that they’re passionate about. For instance, Allbirds, a shoe brand focused on sustainability, created a specialty product called SweetFoamTM, which they use to create the comfort-focused sole in their shoes. This special component is actually a carbon-negative product (meaning it removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, rather than adding to it), and because the product has such a positive potential impact for climate change, Allbirds decided to open-source the component. Now, businesses beyond Allbirds are able to use SweetFoamTM in the process of creating more sustainable products. (Interested in learning more? Listen to the Allbirds episode on Gladly’s podcast.)
But not every company’s stance has to be as grand as Allbirds. What is most important is that your company nails its colors to the mast on an issue unrelated to its bottom line. For instance, your company could offer loyalty incentives that support social causes that represent the values of your company and your customers. So, instead of offering Betty a discounted product, your company could donate a percentage of proceeds from Betty’s purchases to a charity she supports.
By communicating your brand’s purpose, your company will be well on the road to forging a genuine emotional connection with its customers, which is an excellent foundation for customer loyalty. If customers can connect with (and feel good about) your brand’s purpose, they will be more likely to remain loyal.
Final Thoughts: Retail and Ecommerce Customer Experience Trends
Other customer experience trends include the rise in behavioral pairing call centers (read more: Call Center Software), self-help (see Gladly’s Sidekick self-service app) and omni-channel customer experiences (see Gladly’s omni-channel capability).
Gladly is a customer service platform for digitally-focused B2C companies who want to maximize the lifetime value of their customers. Unlike the legacy approach to customer service software, which is designed around a ticket or case to enable workflows, Gladly enables radically personal customer service centered around people to sustain customer loyalty and drive more revenue.
The world’s most innovative consumer companies like Godiva, JOANN, and TUMI use Gladly to create lasting customer relationships, not one-off experiences.