Some retailers fail while others continue to drive growth, which begs the question: “What is the difference between a thriving retail business and those that are being left behind?” In the modern and often challenging retail environment, great customer experience is fundamental to making your brand stand, help cultivate customer loyalty and drive sales.

As the customer’s expectations of a seamless sales journey and experience become ever more demanding retailers must constantly innovate, be creative and agile. To understand what this means, in reality, I recently hosted a webinar to dig a little deeper and discussed with a colleague what we really mean when we talk about the current buzzwords ‘Customer Experience’.

Steve Ingram

Retail Industry Director

How was it for you?

We agreed that after a good experience, we have a warm and fuzzy feeling running through our veins so I decided to list the things that have to all come together to give this good feeling:

  • Range – offer things that are relevant to me! Online is easy as you know all about me, but it’s a little bit trickier in stores.
  • Availability – if you offer it to me, make sure it’s in stock.
  • Price – I have an idea of what I’m expecting to pay, so I don’t want any surprises once I’ve chosen to buy it. I do not want to feel ripped off.
  • Delivery – make it easy to get an item into my life, either by taking it away now or by arranging to deliver to a convenient location at a convenient time (and if needed, perhaps fit it for me too).

Technology, of many flavours, has been implemented by almost all of the familiar names on the high street, in retail parks or online. The range of products in-store takes shape based upon rules such as demographics and previous shopping behaviour while online we are offered tailored ranges of what I, or other customers similar to me, have bought before (as well as items that go with what we have bought). This same technology can check that everything that I want is available, not out of stock and that I can get it into my life with the minimum of difficulty.

Managing my experience throughout will be a sales assistant that cares that I get what I want, knows my budget and also that I am a regular shopper there – in fact, one of the most regular. They will make suggestions and recommendations, including highlighting additional services, such as fitting, which could make things even more convenient for me.

A glance at Trustpilot.com, the worldwide customer review website, will provide real examples of when it does not work. These range from being ignored by staff in store for over 30 minutes or being overlooked as the sales assistants were too busy talking to each other. We then face issues with deliveries – such as ordering a group of products only to be told, on the delivery date, that nothing has been sent out due to one item being out of stock.

Then there’s the classic: “Booked in a delivery date, waited at home only it never arrived.” Each one of these genuine grievances resulted in lost sales or refunds, loss of goodwill, and most likely due to word of mouth and social media, deterred others from shopping there. Technology failures are unfortunate, while employees ignoring customers is a clear sign of them being disengaged. Both of these are potentially hugely damaging to the brand.

When our webinar concluded, and once the microphones were switched off, we continued our discussion and wondered who does agree with our view of what defines ‘Customer Experience’?

Who has this as an agenda item in weekly trading meetings?