It’s the age of the customer and retailers are getting serious about how they implement and manage the customer experience.
Today’s consumers live multi dimensional, multi platform lives and their buying behaviours reflect the same complex dynamics. These days it’s rare for a customer to be a ‘purely online’ or ‘purely bricks and mortar’ consumer; increasingly they expect their retailer of choice to provide convenience, choice and seamless interaction across all channels. All of this puts increasing pressure on retailers to deliver a consistent customer experience – and by implication, brand experience – whatever the channel.
Yet, providing a better in-store experience remains a top priority for retailers. Despite the inexorable rise of online shopping, research confirms that consumers want and crave the physical experience of shopping – and that includes the tech savvy younger consumer (the hyper connected Generation C). As a recent US survey* of the shopping habits of 18-25 year olds  reveals, just over two-thirds – 68% - prefer to shop in stores for clothing and shoes.
In response, retailers are planning more store openings. What’s more, we’re witnessing the emergence of a ‘clicks to bricks’ trend as ‘online only’ e-commerce businesses like Amazon invest in a High Street presence, opening physical stores to capitalise on the interaction opportunities afforded by a high-touch physical brand experience location.
In an increasingly complex retail environment the emphasis now is on allowing consumers to ‘shop how they want’ and brands that focus on delivering a strong customer service experience are the most likely to thrive and flourish.
In February 2014 Qmatic commissioned a specialist technology market research company, to identify what’s driving UK retailers to enhance the customer experience, their improvement priorities and the barriers that stand in the way when it comes to delivering a first class experience. The study, “Great Expectations” was designed to identify disconnects between retailer perceptions of service delivery and actual consumer experience. It was also designed to help retailers gain a deeper understanding of the business case and framework for investing in in-store technologies to improve how they manage the physical shopping experience.
Conducting in-depth surveys with 100 UK retail decision makers in organisations with both online and offline channels and 500 consumers who shop online and offline, Vanson Bourne found that while 92% of retailers acknowledge customer experience is vital to their business, over a quarter (26%) have no company-wide improvement strategy for customer experience in place.
The research findings also reveal that two-thirds of retailers (63%) are being held back from improving queuing and waiting in-store to enhance the customer experience because they are unclear on the right strategy and/or technology direction to pursue.
*Shopping Trends Among 18-25 Year Olds, LIM College and the US National Retail Federation 2012.