As I sat enjoying dinner at a local restaurant during a recent holiday break, I realized how much of my enjoyment was shaped by elements beyond the meal itself; that is, by the experience of being there.
I started to consider how delivering customer experience and reputation are key to success in the hospitality industry, and how retailers are now also judged as much for the experience they provide as for the quality of their products. It led me to think there may be some valuable lessons local retailers could learn from the restaurant market.
Building personalised experiences will differentiate your brand from your competitors.
Build your brand online and offline
For Australian retailers, the vital need to provide customer experiences that differentiate from competitors comes amidst a challenging backdrop. According to Roy Morgan, consumer confidence has slipped as households worry about high debt levels, low wages growth, and higher energy costs. While the Christmas and New Year period brought about some relief, spending predictions only grew 2.8%, compared to the 3% received in the same period the previous year.
The question then is, how can retailers capture the available growth while consumer confidence is low? The answer: By building experiences that are personalized to customer needs and that wield positive influence at every digital and physical touchpoint.
According to the 2017 SAP Australian Digital Experience Report, Australian retailers are improving when it comes to positive experiences, but consumers clearly feel businesses could be doing better. Digital experience is a lead indicator of customer experience and overall scores still sit in negative territory. While progress is being made, there is still a huge opportunity for early movers who get it right.
Omnichannel delivers outstanding customer experience
The key is to focus on doing the basics well – ensuring the experience online, in-store, and through call centres is delivered well. Customers are less interested in having a broad range of channels if the ones they have don’t provide as expected, including experiences connected to your brand that you don’t directly control, such as the delivery of goods.
Not only do these essential channels – mobile, store fronts, shop assistants, customer service, and delivery – need to be optimised, but they must work together to build seamless, consistent, and personalised omnichannel experiences.
And yet we see local retailers panicking about global competition rather than focusing on what they can control. If they would only concentrate on meeting the needs of their existing customers, then perhaps these shoppers would be less inclined to look elsewhere.
There are many examples of retailers out there who have got the message and provide an exceptional experience. Australian brands such as AESOP, Lorna Jane, and General Pants are players who have found a niche, developed their brand and focused on delivering quality interactions within the local market.
These brands resonate with a specific audience and are delivering a great differentiated experience. They seem to have understood that focusing on a few channels and doing them well is the secret to clear and consistent customer engagement with their brand.
So, what is the difference between those who have the mix right and those who need to improve? Focusing on your customers and creating a memorable CX that relates to their needs seems to be the secret sauce.
Customers are judging the value of your brand from the first engagement to the final transaction, so ensuring that customers receive the value they expect is key. Much like a great dining experience, it is every interaction that counts: from the welcome to the farewell, even down to the time it takes to get the bill. Everything needs to be personalised and considered.
Great customer experience isn’t a switch that can be flipped. But by working on the basics and forging personalised, omnichannel connections with customers, retailers can weather the changes in the industry. Simply put, it’s about building and serving great customer experience.
During uncertain times, what makes great CX?
Learn how adapting your commerce strategy can help you meet your customers’ needs now.
This article originally appeared in The ARA Retailer Magazine, and is syndicated here with permission.