In nearly every sector, retailers have to fight for attention in micro-moments. In just a swipe and a click, customers can lose interest and shop elsewhere. If you’re not ready to evolve with their changing needs, you’ll get left behind.
But how do you know where to invest your time and money? What digital solution holds the key to your shoppers’ loyalty? Don’t ask us. Ask your customers.
“Retail is, by nature, an industry with very slim margins,” says Kars Kooistra, Client Director Retail. “Even when they know that customer experience can impact their bottom line, it’s often difficult for retailers to determine where to invest their money. Is a deep-impact organizational change necessary, or do we start with new apps and AI? Will what’s working for our competitors also work for us? All the uncertainty can feel very overwhelming. And if you make the wrong choice, it could have direct consequences for the company.”
Tip 1: Go to the source
The best way to begin to define a digital strategy is to go right to the source: your customers. Observing their behavior and tapping into their needs is the only way to discover your Unique Emotional Proposition (UEP) and the keys to loyalty and conversion. “Customers don’t make a distinction between digital and brick-and-mortar experiences,” explains Marco Morales, Creative Consultant at Mirabeau. “They just see opportunities for convenience and value.”
According to the Huffington Post, 55% of consumers are willing to pay more for a guaranteed good experience, and 72% of consumers will share a positive experience with 6 or more people. “These are numbers that can’t be denied,” Marco continues. “And the only way to guarantee a good experience is to get customer feedback.”
Tip 2: Learn from the pros
That same Huff Post article goes on to say that 70% of companies that deliver an outstanding customer experience rely on customer feedback. So the key to using digital to increase profits is not ‘death by 1,000 cuts’, but ‘proof by 1,000 insights’. There are many success stories that illustrate the difference that customer insight can make.
Shipping leader DHL is constantly working to improve supply chains and logistics. They conducted nearly 6,000 engagements with customers, and developed a number of new innovations, including Parcelcopter, a drone-based delivery system. Their contact with customers resulted in a more than 80% customer satisfaction rate, and a 97% on-time delivery rate.
Likewise, when Dulux wanted to help customers ensure that the color on the paint can would be the same as the color on the walls, they created a user-centered Visualizer app that’s been downloaded more than 5 million times. The app is responsible for a 65% increase in tester sales, a 92% increase in stockist searches, and a 247% increase in usage.
Tip 3: Increase your speed and agility
According to Marco, “retailers who prepare for the digital future can expect cheaper production, higher profits and faster go-to-market times. But being fast and flexible also means being at the right place at the right time when unexpected booms happen.” The first companies to sell fidget spinners were flexible enough to deal with the unexpected demand. Now that the popularity is waning, retailers who jumped on the fidget spinner train too late find themselves with a warehouse full of product that’s simply not moving.
“Competitors are already making the future happen, and technology makes it easier than ever for disrupters and newcomers to force their way into an already crowded market,” Marco explains. “A fast and flexible response to customer needs is the difference between making and breaking a profit. You must always be ready to be a first responder when the next boom happens.”
Tip 4: Use it or lose it
It’s likely that you’re already gathering insights about your customers, but are you getting the right insights? More importantly, are you using those insights to their full potential?
Forrester reports that 38% of shoppers believe that retailers are learning about their personal behavior and preferences, but infrequently use those insights to create personalized experiences. To give retail a real human touch, you must understand what drives your customers, and then learn to anticipate their needs.
“When you build a relationship with your customers, you can literally shape the future of your company. Put people first in everything you do. Follow their lead, and then leap ahead to ensure that you can make natural, smooth transitions as their needs evolve,” Kars advises.
Tip 5: Say what you mean, do what you say
The same Forrester report says that shoppers move swiftly and smoothly across channels, but only 31% of them have a consistent brand experience. “Consistency is key to building trust, and trust is the foundation of loyalty,” explains Kars. Forrester also found that shoppers aren’t experiencing the real value of many retailers’ programs.
According to the report, a clear digital strategy and omni-channel capabilities – both based on customer expectations -- are essential for a consistent, loyalty-building experience.
Perhaps most importantly, the study shows that, although retailers are missing the mark now, customers are more than willing to help them figure it out. Kars: “As long as customers know they can expect a better experience, they’re very willing to share their thoughts and expectations with you.”
Tip 6: Take the steps
An EY investigation into the ‘human side of business’ showed that “investing in technology to cut costs and increase efficiency won’t create a sustained competitive advantage. But organizations that put humans first, see the unique human qualities as a secret weapon and hold the societal ecosystem as sacred, have found the real competitive advantage.”
Getting closer to your customers won’t require major organizational changes – at least not at first. That will likely take too long, and only have minimal impact on your bottom line. Instead, take small, incremental steps to get closer to the people who buy – or want to buy – your products. Marco’s advice: “gather insights, and then create a mix of technology and communication that addresses those insights. Don’t use technology for technology’s sake, but as an accelerator to amplify and improve the customer experience.”
Tip 7: Start today
It may seem like an overwhelming task to crawl into the minds of your customers and anticipate their needs. But there are simple things you can do today to get started.
1. Take a look at the initiatives you already have in place to communicate with your customers. Find out which ones work the best or are the most active. If you don’t have any, get some right away.
2. Identify the strongest and weakest points of your customer’s journey. Build on those two moments. Build up the things that your customers find valuable, and adjust the products and services that don’t work well. If you need to, adjust your organization to better align with what the customer perceives as most valuable.
3. Create a strategy that includes both short-term wins and long-term goals.
4. Avoid the temptation to use technology for technology’s sake. Just because your competitor uses AI, doesn't mean it’s right for you.
5. Start small. See what works and what doesn’t, and analyze everything. Change small details and adjust until you get it right. Your customers won’t mind if you evolve on-the-fly. After all, they’re used to the rapidly changing digital world.
The Mirabeau Experience
“Although many of these concepts may seem abstract or oversimplified, we’ve actually seen them at work at Mirabeau,” explains Kars. “One of our DIY clients was struggling with a monolithic e-commerce platform that was slowing down online sales and frustrating customers. By identifying the areas of most importance in the customer journey and improving the platform with microservices, we were able to improve the check-out flow and bring new, needed functionality to the market much faster.”
And when a global fashion retailer wanted to eliminate the issue of items going ‘out of stock’, Mirabeau found a way to connect all of their worldwide distribution channels, so if, for example, stock ran out in the US, the customer could still receive the product from a warehouse in Europe.
Last, but certainly not least, Mirabeau is working with KLM to revolutionize the customer experience. New ways to gain insight into passenger information will allow the flight crew to address each passenger and acknowledge their personal preferences, travel habits and needs. “Soon, every KLM passenger will be given first-class service at an economy price,” Kars says.
Evolve or Suffer
Just because you’re a part of the retail landscape today, doesn’t mean that your tomorrow is guaranteed. But gaining insight into your customers, and using it to incrementally improve their experience, you’ll be well on your way to securing a place in the digital retail future. Start small, move fast, and adjust often. And before you know it, you’ll be on the road to higher conversion and customer loyalty.
Our Top Tip:
Use technology to accelerate the impact of customer insight.