Every century has had its moments of inflexion that threw the world completely out of gear. The only way to survive was to evolve. 2020 was a year of that sort for everybody and it took retail customer experience to a whole new world. Right from scrambling for everyday needs to uncertainties of pandemic proportions(quite literally), it has been a bit of a rough year. It might be understated but, our dependence on technology to literally stay at home and get everything done is beyond normal realms of understanding. Technology has become such a key part of our lives that from a glass of milk to pills that put us to sleep(at least some of us), we are conditioned more than we ever have been to doorstep deliveries.
What is Retail Customer Experience (CX)?
It is defined as the customer’s experience across multiple touchpoints when they shop with any retail brand. The purchase can either be online or physical inside a store.
Retail customer experience defines how smooth the journey of a customer right from exploring a retail brand’s website or visiting a physical store and making an actual purchase that includes selection, billing, packaging and delivery of the products.
Retail Customer Experience (CX) Post Pandemic
The entire meaning of retail customer experience and the demands of customers post-pandemic have gone through a massive shift.
There were initial knee-jerk reactions to this and retailers had to figure a coping mechanism. This meant doing a variety of things such as building a delivery ecosystem, factoring in new safety protocols, handling surge demands, managing lean staff availability and more.
How Businesses Need to Reimagine Their Retail Customer Experience Strategy
Here is a round-up of how businesses need to reimagine their retail customer experience strategy in the new normal and how technology would be the key differentiating factor.
1. Delivery Experience is The New Currency for Loyalty
In the UK alone, there was a 23% bump for home deliveries. This dependence on home deliveries from the consumers is set to stay. As an interim measure, third parties to fulfil online orders and home deliveries is a good fix. But, in the long run, it has implications on not just profitability but also customer data.
The delivery experience is a relatively new idea for most retailers and with online-only having a strategic advantage over traditional retailers anyway, this is a bit of a long battle to win. Customers expect instant gratification and flexibility. Real-time updates and ability to make special requests are key factors of loyalty. Hence, extra focus on the delivery experience and keeping the entire ecosystem fluid enough to accommodate changes is something retailers need to consider right now.
2. Flexibility - A Key Differentiating Factor
While everyone is jumping on to the delivery bandwagon, keeping flexibility intact would be the strongest differentiator. The one which offers maximum flexibility right from delivery slot selection to pickup options, stands a better chance of winning customer loyalty. In addition to offering these options, fulfilling them is a different ball game altogether. Any ETA miss or a communication lapse can cost dearly customer goodwill and a lifetime of purchases.
Hence, having a solid delivery ecosystem that can guarantee the amount of flexibility that is promised is a key step in defining the new-age customer experience.
3. Product Availability Management
While store footfalls have considerably declined, there is a steady increase in demand in the form of curbside pickups and home deliveries. This has led to the emergence of multiple ways of handling peak demands like converting stores into dark stores, micro fulfillment centers.
While these may be some ways to handle surge demand and ensure there are enough ways and means to fulfil consumer demand, this puts immense pressure at the warehouse-to-store level or mid-mile logistics. Often, retailers tend to fight fires on the last mile while overlooking the mid-mile and especially in case of pre-booked curbside deliveries, when there is a failure of order fulfillment due to unavailability of product in the shelves, the customer is in for a greater disappointment.
Hence, the new era of customer experience management involves figuring new approaches to managing product availability.
4. Contactless - The New Normal
Before the pandemic, something as basic as digital proof of delivery used to be considered some sort of contactless. The pandemic has multiplied by many times the need for contactless deliveries and ensuring new safety protocols.
To ensure the safety of consumers and delivery staff, temperature checks, monitoring vitals around health check parameters have become key steps.
Technology that can capture and communicate in real-time helps a long way in ensuring safety standards are followed and everyone in the ecosystem is comfortable.
5. Payment Options
Cashless is the new normal. In addition to contactless, with multiple delivery options, making them 100% cash-free is a major change. This puts a lot of challenge in terms of reconciliation with third-parties and establishing protocols.
The downside of leveraging third-parties is inflated fees which the customers need to bear. To drive better retail customer experience, businesses need to shift to new modes of payment options especially for home deliveries and it should be accommodated within the technology platform.
The new expectations from consumers are ever-increasing and having a robust, scalable logistics arm with the right kind of digital technologies goes a long way in making this adaptation to change much easier. This is a time when it is not an option anymore for retailers to take the big plunge in to transforming their logistics operations.
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