Delivering Customer Experiences in Online and Offline Retail in 2016 Means Helping the Customer

Our expectations have largely changed. While many of us may go shopping as a form of entertainment – this doesn’t mean being entertaining will make us to buy more.

2016 is set to see significant disruption in ecommerce and retail. It’s pretty clear that many retailers are still failing to connect digital and in-store experiences. And because of this, they risk losing consumer confidence and certainly relevance.

Not long ago I was in a meeting in London where I was talking with with a men’s clothing retailer about the ways that connecting digital and in-store could improve the experience. I believe the reason for the horizontal line imprinted on my forehead is related to the frustration experienced from the inability of people in that room to rethink how people buy clothes.

Up until now, many retailers have used new channels to create ‘Customer Experiences’ which were more about entertaining the customer than about providing a distinctly memorable service that would build brand loyalty. But even a survey conducted by Omnico Group more than a year ago suggests that the latter is exactly what the market is looking for.

My premise that day was very simple: men don’t shop the way that women do, research tells us they are more likely to focus on finding what they need and then getting out. With that knowledge it seemed that most men wouldn’t spend a lot of time perusing new fashions to create a new seasonal wardrobe as many retailers crave. But what if they could go into their favorite store and pull up a list of past purchases which would trigger suggestions for new items currently in-store which could be matched with garments already owned? What? Are you kidding? Helping someone expand their wardrobe? Certainly this would never create a distinct reason for a guy to keep returning to this brand!

Back in mid-2014 Omnico Group released a survey which listed several improvements retailers could make to augment the Customer Experience:

  • The top three technologies that will improve the average customer's in-store experience are self-checkout, free Wi-Fi and "click and collect" (order online, pick up in-store) technology.
  • Controlling price and reward programs are the most effective ways to encourage Americans to be loyal customers. Coupons are also well received.
  • Millennials are more likely to become loyal shoppers of retailers that are able to provide order history and have the ability to predict other items that they might want to purchase.

The reality that the research reveals is simple, yet in early 2016 most of us will agree that most retailers haven’t caught up. People aren’t buying entertainment, they’re buying when it’s easier for them to buy or when they feel a retailer is delivering more value in their products or offering a loyalty program which makes it clear to the consumer that there is a reward for the relationship. Let’s hope that more companies in 2016 except that Customer Experience is about adding value that improves the buying journey that people intend to make. Though perhaps instead of using the term ‘improve’ we need to use words like ‘simplify’ or ‘assist’.