By Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media & SmallBizDaily.com
Is your retail business delivering a memorable customer experience or just processing transactions? Even if you think you’re providing a standout experience, shoppers may feel differently, according to the 2019 CX Trends Report from InMoment. While half of the brands in the survey believe they are “definitely” providing a better customer experience than last year, only 11% of consumers agreed.
There are five key trends the CX Trends survey identified that retailers can learn from and use to improve the customer experience.
1. Lurking versus listening
How do you find out what your customers think of your business? Do you “listen” to their social media comments, read their online reviews, or use digital tools to track their online behavior? When asked about the most important thing businesses can do to find out how customers feel, customers overwhelmingly want to be asked directly. Almost 70% of customers prefer this option, but just 26% of businesses engage in direct conversations with customers about their experiences.
Solution: Stop lurking and start listening. Make it easy for consumers to tell you how they feel. Provide as many channels as possible for them to contact you and share their experiences, comments, and concerns. Be responsive and take action on their suggestions and requests.
2. Dismissing the human factor
Businesses in the survey greatly underestimate the value of human interaction. When asked about the most important thing businesses can do to improve customer experiences, 42% of consumers chose “better service from staff.” However, only 24% of businesses put interactions with employees first. This finding is consistent with InMoment’s 2017 and 2018 reports.
Employees can make or break the customer experience—74% of consumers surveyed in 2017 said negative staff interactions resulted in a bad experience. But 65% of consumers said staff employee interactions highly influenced their decision to buy more.
Solution: Hire employees who have great people skills and empower them to do what it takes to enhance the customer experience. Brick-and-mortar shops should have enough staff on the sales floor on any given day. Using employee scheduling software can help managers quickly adjust schedules as needed—calling in additional workers on a busy day, for instance. TSheets time tracking software sends employees reminders to clock in and notifies managers when employees don’t clock in for a scheduled shift. Using scheduling software can provide a more consistent experience for your employees, too—and a positive employee experience contributes to a positive customer experience. When your employees feel they are valued and treated with respect, they’ll treat customers the same way.
3. Pathetic personalization
Technology is enabling personalization to an unprecedented degree, but are you using personalization the right way? Some 42% of businesses in the survey think personalization makes customers feel cared for; however, just 21% of customers agree.
What’s the problem? Many companies use personalization to push products—not to improve the customer experience. About half (48%) of consumers want businesses to know their prior buying habits, and 45% want businesses to know their history of interaction with the company (such as emails, chats, and social media engagement).
Solution: Sending personalized emails and offers isn’t a bad thing, but there’s much more you can do with personalized knowledge. Use the data you gather about customer behavior to improve the experience not just for one customer but for all customers.
4. Neglecting non-buyers
Why do shoppers leave your website or store without making a purchase? In the case of online shoppers, many probably weren’t there to buy in the first place. Almost three-quarters of consumers who leave a website without making a purchase were just there to browse or research products. In brick-and-mortar shops, 40% of non-buyers are “just browsing,” but another 40% leave without buying because they couldn’t find what they wanted.
Brick-and-mortar stores in the study vastly underestimate how often shoppers discover the products they want are out of stock. The “instant gratification” of getting the product in their hands is a key reason people visit physical stores, so if too many products are out of stock, your business could eventually be out of business.
Solution: Use inventory management software to manage inventory and make sure popular products are in stock. Show non-buyers you value them, too. (Just because they didn’t buy this time doesn’t mean they won’t buy next time.) Train in-store staff to ask questions and help buyers when products aren’t readily available. For example, send follow-up emails or offers, offer to contact them when the product is back in stock, or order the product online for them.
5. Divergent definitions of loyalty
A loyal customer is one who comes back and buys from your business repeatedly. However, the survey unveiled another definition. Loyal customers who feel invested in your business are willing to share their opinions with you and give you more than one chance to make things right when they go wrong. This type of loyalty can be just as valuable as purchasing because it helps you improve your business.
Solution: Encourage constructive criticism from consumers. (Think of it as a gift rather than an insult.) In addition to customer surveys and direct interaction, allow customers to share their feedback on your website (the place where 37% of shoppers want to tell you about their experience). Just 5% want to share negative information on a review site, so don’t rely on online reviews as your sole source of feedback.
Customer experience is a significant differentiator in the retail world. The closer you get to your customers, the better you can meet their expectations.
Rieva Lesonsky is the CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Google+ and Twitter, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for free TrendCast reports.