We live in an era of instant gratification. Bored? There’s an app for that. Hungry? Uber Eats will deliver whatever you crave in thirty minutes. Out of laundry detergent? Amazon Prime will have it on your doorstep tomorrow morning or even sooner, and once you set up automatic re-ordering, you will never have that problem again. There’s no more channel surfing: Netflix puts a world of entertainment at your fingertips, and you don’t even need to sit through commercials. This new age of convenience has shaped consumer expectations, lifting them to new heights.
As equipped as modern shoppers are with technology, many retailers still lag behind. Nearly every customer that walks through the doors of any store has a smartphone within reach that can scan barcodes, look up reviews, check competing prices, send and receive messages, take photos, and so much more. Yet, it’s not uncommon for store associates to lag far behind customers in terms of their equipment and access to information. While customer expectations are high, retailer capabilities often lag behind. A recent BRP report uncovered “the execution gap” that often exists between what shoppers want and what retailers say they’re able to deliver well. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most important features that constitute a great customer experience and share ways that retailers can overcome the execution gap to sell more, retain happy customers, and beat the competition.
A great customer experience is typically seen as a retailer’s ability to provide quality customer service and a pleasant store atmosphere, but in reality, what can make or break a great customer experience is product availability. It doesn’t matter how friendly your salespeople are, or how entertaining the store is… if customers don’t find the products they want, when they want them, your customer experience is broken. The relatively new concept of the “endless aisle” doesn’t solve this issue entirely: while you might be able to order a product from anywhere, fulfill from anywhere, and ship to anywhere, if the product isn’t available when the customer wants it, you have failed to provide the instant gratification they crave. So, it should come as no surprise that product availability was the number one element that 92 percent of shoppers listed as being “very important” to the customer experience in the BRP survey.
Are retailers meeting those high expectations? A mere 45 percent of retailers rated their execution of product availability as “excellent”. Product availability is the single most important element of the customer experience, and yet, fewer than half of retailers are excelling at it. Getting the right product to the right place at the right time may be the first rule of retail, but in today’s omni-channel, complex marketplace, it’s a challenging task to accomplish. Retailers must equip themselves with the right technology – a strong foundational merchandising system and sophisticated demand management software that tells the retailer their next best move.
It’s the worst kind of shopping experience: when retail staff seems to be all over the place when you just want to be left alone, but when you actually need and want their help, they are nowhere to be found! Almost as bad is finding sales associates willing to help, but discovering that they are completely ill-equipped to assist. Available/knowledgeable staff is the second most important part of customer experience that shoppers listed in the BRP survey. Less than four in 10 retailers rater their execution in this area as excellent, leaving lots of room for opportunity.
Attracting and retaining top retail talent can be challenging. Retail jobs are often part-time, temporary, or viewed as a means to an end. Frontline retail staff often fail to regard their jobs as a career, and employee turnover is high. Retailers need to do more to make store-level jobs more attractive, more interesting, and more rewarding. Higher commissions aren’t the only answer: equipping store associates with the tools and technology they need to do work they are proud of is an excellent way to improve both the employee experience and the customer experience. Mobile technology like MPOS and clienteling arm associates – even new hires – to answer questions about products and inventory efficiently and confidently.
Channel Price Consistency
How frustrating is it to come across a bargain on a retailer’s website, decide to pick the item up at your local store to save on shipping time and fees, only to arrive in store and see that the same product you looked at online is much more expensive in store? Shoppers notice. The modern path to purchase takes shoppers across channels, devices, and into physical stores, and customers expect to have a cohesive, consistent experience with your brand no matter where and when they choose to shop. In fact, 77 percent of consumers who responded to the BRP survey rated channel price consistency as very important to the customer experience.
What’s holding retailers back from delivering the consistency that customers crave? In this case, it’s likely to be a combination of outdated processes (siloed channels, failure to collaborate around a common goal) and legacy technology (separate web and retail systems, sometimes with varying promotional capabilities). Retailers need to rethink their ways of working, adopt more collaborative models, and consider investing in integrated omni-channel retail systems that include modern price and promotion management tools to offer the customer experience today’s shoppers demand.