The retail industry was already in a state of disruption before COVID-19, primarily driven by digitization in the consumer world. No one could have predicted the way consumers’ shopping behavior and communication with the brands they love would change as profoundly as they did.
According to a report issued by IDC, all indications point to the fact that the “new normal” is likely to be permanent.
For example, the divisions between online and in-store shopping have now blurred, due to changing shopping habits during the pandemic.
The safety and convenience measures of “Buy Online and Pick Up In-store” and “Curbside Pick-up” have become table stakes for convenience in shopping.
The IDC Retail Insights Consumer Survey found that that 50% of shoppers are likely to shop elsewhere if they can’t return items bought online to an in-store location, if they can’t do curbside pickup, or if they can’t see in-store inventory availability prior to making a shopping trip.
The consumer is taking the channel choice for granted in their shopping journey. For the retailer that means being able to maintain one continuous conversation with the customers and to pick up where they last left off, whether that was in-store, over the phone, or on their desktop or mobile device. This puts the burden on the retailer to stay on top of all channels the shopper uses.
“Omnichannel” takes on new meaning during COVID-19
Omnichannel experiences now encompass home, in-store, and on-the-go shopping via mobile devices. And each of these beg for a different strategy for reaching customers that considers their specific situation and communication preferences.
Connected customer experiences are at the core of all retail business today. With the right technology, retailers can unify all channels and deliver an exceptional experience to their customers. That is, meeting them where they are today and communicating in the channel of their choice as we embark on the future of retail.
So, how can retailers continue to serve and gain the loyalty of customers who expect more from their shopping experiences?
As consumers reduced spending and shifted retail channels, they have had the opportunity to reevaluate priorities and reconsider how and when they spend their money. For retailers, this is a critical moment – an opportunity to meet customers’ shifting behaviors and preferences to gain longer-term customer loyalty.Jon Duke, Research Vice President, IDC Retail Insights (former IDC)
Improving Customer Experience (CX) Innovation is a must
Fundamental to the changing tide in retail is the focus on the customer experience and the use of omnichannel solutions to meet customers where they are, both literally and figuratively.
It’s no longer enough to ensure a desirable shopping experience in-store, or even online. The shopping experience has taken a back seat to the overall customer experience – and this starts before the customer has even stepped into a store or logged in to a website or mobile app — and it extends after they’ve made a purchase. Today’s consumer trusts to have all communication channels at their disposal to interact with any retailer.
Ensuring an optimal Customer Experience means:
- Using data to understand buyer preferences and target products and communications to those preferences
- Using automation to deliver contextual interactions with customers where they are and over their preferred channels
- Making customer service available “in the cloud” so all agents have real-time access to purchase behavior, order information, past purchases, home store preferences, and more
- Using channels such as SMS, email, and automated chatbots to enhance customer service technology capabilities, freeing up call agents to only focus on the most pressing customer issues
- Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to further augment the potential of customer service and contact center management
Now there is a clear opportunity for retailers with the capacity to invest to focus on enhancing their omnichannel customer experience, communications, and engagement platform. In doing so, retailers can entrench themselves in the minds of consumers who want to shop brands that understand their needs and share their values.”Omnichannel Customer Engagement: The Future of Retail
Retailers must meet customers where they are – and they are everywhere
“Consumers demand (an) integrated experience model, and retailers can invest confidently knowing omnichannel shopping behaviors and processes are here to stay.” –Omnichannel Customer Engagement: The Future of Retail
All of us have looked on in our neighborhoods with a heavy heart as many of our favorite retail establishments have shut their doors for good. While at the same time, other businesses are seeing dramatic increases in their market values with unprecedented demand for both essential and non-essential items alike.
Retailers that don’t take steps to improve their customer experience and rely on tried-and-true methods of engagement risk losing out in the future of retail.
We have been in the business of improving the customer experience through technology for more than 10 years. We’ve developed solutions specifically tailored to the retail segment that have been shown to improve the customer experience and drive customer loyalty.
As retailers continue to invest in the customer experience, shoppers will respond with a renewed appreciation for not only their safety concerns being met, but also their needs for convenience, efficiency, and personalization. In turn, they will respond with the greatest reward for retailers — their loyalty.
For more on how the pandemic influenced shopping trends, read our blog, “4 Trends Facing Retailers as They Move From Crisis to Rebound”.
Are you prepared for the future of retail?
Download the Technology Spotlight whitepaper in collaboration with IDC.