The ongoing pandemic has sparked significant changes in customer behaviour. Increased reliance on digital channels during the lockdowns has forced retailers to increase channels, but then also backtrack to create cohesive experiences across all channels to reach customers where and when they want to shop. The biggest challenge facing retailers now is connecting up all their new digital touchpoints and physical spaces with insights gained to deliver a seamless shopper experience, no matter where they choose to interact and buy.
Tryzens were lucky enough to host an exclusive retailer breakfast for a candid conversation focusing on just that: Creating Connected Customer Experiences. With our amazing panel of retailers, we were able to explore strategies for activating experiences at various customer touchpoints, including how retailers are evoking experience earlier in their strategic decision-making to drive and sustain value. The panel mapped processes for creating intuitive digital journeys that match the mobility of customers and explored the new business models and solutions reinventing the world of retail. You can listen to the entire recording here.
Some of the key learnings from this conversation included:
Before the pandemic, many retailers were taking digital seriously and striving to become digital-first with the customer experience front of mind. But the pandemic and the closure of physical spaces revealed that many retailers had not taken these channels far enough. The pandemic sparked renewed interest and drive within business to pursue these principles wholeheartedly and find new ways to create experiences online that paralleled the level of service that you would have received in-store. The importance of digital channels is now undisputed, and the conversation at the heights of leadership has shifted to driving connected customer experiences across the business. Accessibility and convenience are crucial in this context and have emerged as the core competencies that many retailers are innovating and strategising to achieve.
Accessibility and convenience are crucial for delivering an optimal post-purchase experience that grips customers. Last-mile fulfilment has become a vital building block for connected customer experiences. Retailers that effectively aggregate data from across the business to assume a holistic view of their customers are well-positioned to leverage diverse delivery channels that customers now expect.
Buy now, pay later mechanisms have had a meteoric rise across the global retail circuit. These payment solutions have become part of the consumer lexicon – they represent a new benchmark in flexibility at a crucial stage of a customer’s journey. As momentum grows, retailers and brands alike are giving deep consideration to the promise of buy now, pay later solutions and the implications for both their businesses and customers. The emerging challenge for retailers and brands is providing flexibility in the payments space without forfeiting data and directing customers to leave their own sphere of influence. Businesses should be paying close attention to the growing influence of white label buy now, pay later solutions, which are steadily empowering retailers to provide a branded payment experience that is in-line with sector-wide customer expectations.
Retailers are also re-thinking their business models and carving new routes to market. Once a trusted relationship with the customer has crystallised, a range of possibilities open up for deeper engagement and to reinforce alignment with core brand values. In this vein, we have seen the meteoric rise of marketplace models, for their ability to offer an expansion in product ranges and delivering convenience for customers looking for a seamless, integrated retail experience.
A deeper understanding of customer behaviour and advances in personalisation pushed a deeper integration of social media and commerce. The ability to make purchasing decisions and buy in-app in moments of instinct and influence creates a greatly condensed customer journey that mirrors the pace with which content is driven and cycled through social channels. The integration of commerce and social apps is prompting retailers to look not only at how they can create more meaningful content and link this to sales, but how they can deploy their own native apps as a channel to engage with customers on a deeper level.
Native apps are proving particularly relevant in fueling repeat purchase behaviour and driving a closer relationship with existing customer bases. By leveraging the full gamut of smart phone functions, from push notification to personalised, app-specific promotions, retailers are driving far higher-conversion rates and deepening the connection with loyal customers. This movement is further advanced in international markets, and it is expected that Australian retailers will push towards app as it represents a significant opportunity to re-engage customers and drive unique experiences.
Customers are rallying behind brands that they connect with on a deeper level. Creating a connection with customers that delivers on your brand promise and immerses them has become such an important part of their experience, across all channels. In order to thrive, retailers must build their emotional intelligence and respond empathetically to customers. The physical interactions between customers and staff in brick-and-mortar environments are essential in this mission and represent a key point of differentiation against competitors. Passionate staff that feel a genuine sense of alignment with company purpose have the potential to act as strong brand advocates in-store. Retailers should be asking themselves how they can leverage technology in-store, to awaken this potential and empower their staff to connect with customers.
Retailers have shown impressive levels of responsiveness and resilience over the past twelve months. In the unreserved pursuit of digital-first principles, businesses have pivoted to reach and connect with customers across all digital channels. But there has also been a more fundamental shift as the value of customer experience merges across all silos. The industry is now thinking more deeply about the services they provide, from integrating payments innovations through to advances in last-mile fulfilment, in order to create more meaningful and authentic connections with customers.