Enter the modern day customer, John Doe. John has just moved into a new house, and is looking to buy a new television set. Like any other digitally-abled customer today, he visits the website of the store he has been regularly buying from, and compares the different models available and zeroes in on a model that suits him the best. Typically, this should have meant a conversion for the retailer whose website John visited to finalize the product. However, that wasn’t the case. Within minutes of John’s product search, he was fed with ads of televisions, luring him to take a look at all the available options. John followed one of the ads, visited another retailer who offered a better pricing, bundled with some attractive freebies, and made an instant purchase.
It’s staggering to think that the modern day consumer is more connected than ever before and can make purchase decisions on the go. With consumer’s dynamic behaviorism and lucrative offers displayed everywhere, barriers between the various channels are being broken down and customers like John are being empowered and engaged in a unified way.
What John experienced is a phenomenon called ‘Tinderization’ – a term derived from the famous dating app Tinder. Users of Tinder are shown a constant stream of profiles of people present on the app. They can swipe right if they like the profile shown, and that becomes a match, with whom they can connect. If they swipe left instead, it means that they reject the profile shown on the screen, and the next profile is shown. What has made Tinder popular is the vast variety of options available, and the ease with which a switch can be made. The same phenomenon can be observed in the retail space, wherein consumers are exposed to a constant stream of ads and offers, and they choose the ones that attract them the most. Switching from one seller to another is fast and easy, and happens on a day-to-day basis.
The retail business is tough. Consider the top 5 retailers in a region. Each of them are essentially selling the same brands, at almost similar price points, and mostly have the same geographical coverage. With such a flat playing field, one can only imagine how challenging it must be to keep ahead of the competition. If this was not enough, the digital wave has enabled a large number of new entrants into the market, making the space even more saturated, and hostile.
While they are trying to address the challenge of customer loyalty with discounts, freebies and offers, it is clearly not a long term solution. What will really make them stick, is top notch customer experience.
Using Technology to Optimize Channels
Customer perspective and preferences are changing rapidly. This has expedited the process of withdrawing old customer experience models and bringing in new models to serve the new customers with new expectations. This new breed of customers includes the millennials – a generation that has been raised online, have had smartphones since childhood and have little resilience for archaic processes that pose a threat to their complete shopping experience.
With customer loyalty in retail rising in priority, companies have partnered with providers to handle consumer engagement through voice support/phone calls. These channels have been amplified using technology and thus web services like e-mail, chat support, video call and smartphone support opened up. This is in addition to the age-old IVR (Interactive Voice Response) option that was extended for service operations. These channels helped organizations to optimize offshore customer service operations. However, given the diversity in the types of these channels, and their siloed nature, do they guarantee a delightful customer experience? Perhaps, not.
A leading global marketing strategist equates consumer behavior to a spiral. He says that consumer behavior begins with an interaction and with the consumer’s increasing engagement the spiral amplifies. True to the core, research has provided the following data –
With stats as diverse as above, it is a challenge to manage personalized customer experience seamlessly across all channels. However, with increase in the use of tools like predictive analytics and behavioral analytics, retailers find it easy to form an online persona of consumers and provide the best experiences and offers.
Customer Experience - Amplified
What the retail industry needs in order to amplify customer experience is an analytics-embedded technological grip. Retailers should look at technologies that provide holistic views of customer preferences, and suggest next best actions for issue resolution. The systems should also be able to come up with suitable suggestions for cross-sell and upsell opportunities. Customer service solutions that are coupled with strong predictive analytics can formulate a 360° view of the consumer, enabling omni-channel support, issue anticipation and higher degree of automation.
A paradigm shift in customer service can be foreseen. Business process improvement and increased profitability with high customer centricity is what customer service platforms should provide.
While the current establishment of online channels predicts a potential market continuity, enhancement of features in a highly competitive market can guarantee profitable existence. For instance, Digital assistants can be used to enhance customer experience in online shopping. One thing that brick and mortar stores have, that online retailers lack is the presence of people to discuss and assist with a purchase. This one aspect still remains to be addressed despite many advancements in the online space. However, with the use of analytics, and soft-robots equipped with cognitive capabilities, the day is not far when we can chat with a bot on a website in the same manner we discuss our needs with a person when we visit a physical store.
It is predicted that voice calls for support will reduce drastically, while social media enablement will increase at a rapid rate in the next 2-3 years. Web chat is also expected to expand its footprint. All this implies that to be a future-ready organization we need to have a proactive approach - a world where we contact the customers using any channel to address their issues and not wait for them to call us. A personal touch over phone lines and social customer services will go a long way to pave the path for exemplified consumer experience.