Five tips for creating remarkable customer-led retail experiences
14. January 2022
Consumers have crystal clear (and increasingly sky-high) expectations of the service they receive from retailers.
From lightning-fast delivery and hassle-free returns, to large product ranges and diverse payment options. Many of these expectations place demands on the underlying in-store technologies that help orchestrate great retail experiences. But it’s worth taking the time and effort to get this right. Placing your customers’ needs at the heart of your retail operation is the quickest way to win and maintain market share.
Dive into their expectations and discover five actionable recommendations for delivering a convenient and competitive retail experience that keeps them coming back.
you’ll learn FROM
Senior Consultant & Practice Lead for OMS & POS at IMPACT.
The brain behind this article is one of our most experienced technology experts. He’s nothing short of a living encyclopedia when it comes to trends in retail, and then he’s one of the founders of our in-house IMPACT Demo Store.
Just a few years ago, many retailers would have been surprised to hear that customer expectations would soon become the guiding force behind fundamental business decisions and strategic choices on IT architecture. Today, any retailer who refuses to grasp this evolution is setting themselves for irrelevance and failure.
The incredible power of the customer is driven by the experiences and habits they gain when they shop in various stores, both physically and online. Let’s take same-day delivery as an example. What started out as a niche opportunity, is now quickly becoming a standard expectation across all categories.
To make the most of the opportunity presented by changing customer expectations, you need to learn and embrace your customers’ preferences on parameters such as delivery, payment and product range. When used correctly, this knowledge provides a way to stand out from the crowd and win exactly what all retailers are looking for – customers and market share.
“Brand loyalty? I’ve never heard of it.” – Generation Z
One of the most important retail trends turns the retailer-cherished concept of brand loyalty on its head. According to a Salesforce survey into customer expectations for the retail sector, a whopping three-quarters (75 percent) of Generation Z* prioritises convenience over brand loyalty. In other words, they would rather spend their money in stores that are willing to meet their needs rather than sticking to well-known, tried and tested brands.
The younger parts of your target group – and thus your future core customers – are completely indifferent about whether your brand has a high level of credibility. If it's not convenient and easy to shop with you, they'll go to your competitors with better service and delivery or collection terms.
All generations prioritise convenience over brand, but this is particularly true for Gen Zers — a cohort that can’t remember a time when anything wasn’t on demand with a tap or swipe
(STATE of the CONNECTED CUSTOMER, 4th edition, Salesforce, 2021).
Another key consideration for retailers to tap into this demographic is enabling a smooth customer journey across all touchpoints, from purchase to pick-up. The Salesforce survey reveals that the vast majority (83 percent) of customers now expect flexible delivery and business models, such as ‘buy-online-pick-up-in-store’ (BOPIS).
How to create a customer-centric retail model
It’s clear that customers’ increasing expectations should be included in your strategy-shaping process. To make things perfectly clear: we’re not talking about wishful thinking from first movers, but basic, firmly-held expectations from the majority of your customers. And remember, you’re not only up against your known competitors; you’re being compared to every retail experience your target customer has ever had.
The logical next question then, is what does a retailer need to do to become more customer-centric? And in what order should these changes happen? Read on for the answers to both questions.
1. Convenient delivery and returns are a must
Convenient delivery and return options are some of the most important parameters for shoppers when choosing a retailer to spend their money with. Customers have become accustomed to webshops offering day-to-day delivery (or even same-day delivery), and the convenience of knowing that the product is both easy and free to return.
You should ensure that customers can have their purchases delivered and returned in exactly the way they want. For example, this could be in the form of ‘Click & Collect’, ‘Reserve & Collect’ and in-store returns. The more options, the better.
And this isn’t just our opinion. We’ve done the research to back this up. Our 2021 Omnichannel Index (where we analysed 51 touch points at 253 Scandinavian brands and retailers) shows that less than five percent of retailers in Scandinavia offer same-day delivery. This means that the potential for leveraging speedy delivery in Scandinavia as a business differentiator is huge. It’s also helpful to take note of emerging retail trends in other markets.
The survey found that 27 percent of US consumers have cancelled an online order because the product could not be delivered on the same day as it was placed. And while the US mindset is not quite as prevalent in Scandinavia yet, it’s inevitable that this is just a matter of time. Who said Halloween?
2. Make the product available for purchase on your site
Once a customer enters the purchase stage of their journey, it’s essential that the transaction can be carried out wholly on your site, without linking off to another domain. This method is more secure, increases the potential for upselling and provides a more consistent customer experience. Crucially, in an era of data-driven marketing, retailers can obtain important data and insights about the customer and their buying preferences. Data that would otherwise be lost to a third party, a marketplace or in the worst case, your competitor.
The question of which retailer has the desired product in stock or who actually sends and delivers the package is immaterial to the customer. What’s important is that the purchase is carried out on the retailer’s own site. In this context, we will also see Point-of-Sale moving elsewhere over time – whether social shopping, live shopping or metaverse shopping (down the road, at least).
3. Omnichannel solutions require business-wide change
We can’t talk about the evolution of customer expectations without mentioning the ‘O’ word. Omnichannel – the seamless interaction between physical and digital channels – places great demands on your organisational structure and business model. Implementing omnichannel solutions not only requires investing in technologies and systems such as an Order Management System (OMS). It’s far more comprehensive than that. It also includes changes to in-store layout, the launch of new mobile Point-of-Sale solutions, staff training, new workflows and fresh processes to be mapped and rolled out. At the same time, omnichannel projects involve more parts of the business. These include finance, logistics, retail, digital marketing and e-commerce.
4. Prioritise your use cases
When planning your omnichannel project, it’s necessary to be tough when prioritising. Determine which use case needs implementing most urgently, identify all its related processes, then act.
What does that mean? A good rule is to select the use case(s) that provide the most ‘bang for your buck’ and/or have the least complexity on your organisation and IT architecture. There are no retailers – even the biggest and most cash-rich – that can manage to implement ALL omnichannel solutions at once. So, start with the use case that has the best conditions for improving the customer experience and adding value to your business.
Remember: it’s not always monetary value you should look for. Value can also be gained from providing great user experiences for your customers, gaining access to customer data and insights, selling a wider range of products and services and opening more markets either online or as physical locations.
5. Get your technical setup right, then lean into composable architecture
A recent Gartner report highlighted the role of composable architecture as a key driver for delivering future-proof commerce experiences. Being nimble enough to pivot to meet customer demands during a pandemic or a similarly disruptive event, will become crucial to the success – and even survival – of your business. Long gone are the days when IT systems limited the experience you could offer your customers. Now it’s time to let your customers decide what your IT system needs to deliver. As a result, when the process moves towards the development and implementation phase of your chosen use cases, it’s important that you have the right technical setup to support them.
Ready to deliver a winning retail experience?
If you’d like to learn more about how to meet your customers’ growing retail expectations and outshine your competitors please contact us. We can help with an individual assessment of your situation and walk you through the steps you need to take to optimise your retail experience.
Do you want to know
Contact Anders Wedendahl, Senior Consultant & Practice Lead for OMS & POS at IMPACT.