With ‘retail-like experience’ emerging as a guiding principle for healthcare and banking industries, it is amply clear that customer-centricity is headed down the retail path. Why? Because retail has been at the forefront of adopting digital technologies and innovations, such as augmented reality or conversational assistants, to drive higher value for customers and enhanced differentiation for brands. There is also significant convergence across segments – with niche players merging to launch multi-faceted services. The $500 million acquisition of Mirror, an interactive workout platform, by the yoga pants retailer Lululemon is a perfect example.
This shift signifies the coming of age for retailers who now look beyond the online-in-store narrative. The focus is changing from touchpoints to customer journeys – or upstream/downstream interactions that customers have with brands before, while, or after a purchase. Focus on customer journeys improves customer satisfaction, with research indicating a one-point improvement on a ten-point scale corresponding to at least a three-percentage-point increase in the revenue growth rate. It also acts as a barometer to guide retailers on critical business decisions around merchandising, customer segmentation, and digital strategy.
If that brings you back to the whiteboard, here are ten Cs that you must consider while charting out a customer journey-led business plan.
Context: While looking at customer interactions from an end-to-end perspective, retailers must place the customer within a larger context – be it demographics, spending power, behavior, or attitude. This knowledge can be worked into interactions for a more personalized experience that contributes to customer retention and loyalty.
Consistency: Customers do care for a single, once-in-a-while good experience; but if they get enhanced experiences consistently every time they interact with a brand, it’sall the more better. Retailers need to deliver a high-quality, channel-agnostic experience, i.e., an omnichannel experience, to ensure consistency in customer satisfaction for a high brand recall.
Convenience: An important aspect is to ensure minimal disruption to customer comfort. This approach enables retailers to look beyond touchpoints – and bring in a larger focus on every customer interaction with the brand. Multiple payment options, the flexibility to buy online and pick-up in-store, or easy exchange processes are a few considerations.
Consumer Preferences: Customers leave behind heavy digital footprints – or data that can help retailers tweak products and services to cross-sell or upsell based on customer preferences. This data can drive personalization and help the brand connect with customers on a one-to-one basis – ensuring a higher customer engagement level.
Connected Value Chain: The brand must come off as a unified entity to the customer – even if there are disparate internal functional units that come together to make the brand what it is. This requires a connected value chain – right from suppliers to logistic partners – that must collaborate closely to create seamless and enjoyable customer journeys.
Cumulative Experience: The skewed focus on sales related grievances may overshadow other important aspects of shopping. Many retailers often tend to address those issues first that affect smooth conversions. This approach may lead to broken customer journeys and low brand associations. Instead, brands must look at offering a cumulative experience – not just conversion-centric instances so shoppers see that the brand genuinely cares about customer journeys.
Clairvoyance: Retailers need to continually engage the customers, often anticipating their needs, desires, and expectations and position themselves as fulfillers of those needs, even before the customer realizes them. Building clairvoyance into the customer journey can put retailers ahead of the curve. It could help them stay ahead of customer expectations, bearing a significant impact on how they position their products or pitch them to potential buyers.
Avoid ‘Company Speak’: It is essential to see the world through the customer’s eyes and reorient your worldview accordingly. Internal jargons or nomenclature could blindside retailers into force-fitting what they have to sell rather than focusing on what the customers need. A better approach would be to understand the customer demands and reposition products or services in a way that directly addresses those needs.
Clear Communication: It is easy for customers to be plagued by an information overload these days. Retailers need to cut through the noise and reach their customers in ways that speak directly to them, clearly, consistently, and cohesively. This would help them set their products or services apart from the competition, avoiding confusion and leading to better and deeper relationships.
Coordination: As retailers enter a highly-converged market space, there are several players in the league that they have no direct control over. For instance, retailers leveraging online eCommerce platforms to position their products need to bring coordination much higher on their business agenda than ever before to enable seamless customer journeys. It is crucial to ascertain the gaps and opportunities for improvement in the backend processes – so that the customer-facing interfaces deliver an enhanced experience each time
The last word: Go beyond transactions
It’s no secret that the economic profitability of retaining a customer is significantly higher than onboarding a new one. In a paradigm as this, nurturing relationships is crucial for businesses to sustain momentum. Moreover, with several government-mandated restrictions on cold calling or GDPR businesses have to rely on existing customers to become brand advocates for boosting topline numbers. This is why customer journeys become central to ensuring everything brands hope to do – from enhancing customer experience, increasing sales, and reducing churn to bringing down service cost. This mandates a shift in focus from treating customer interactions as touchpoint-led, metrics-driven transactions to more holistic, end-to-end journeys, fostered with time, attention, and customer relationships.
Rakesh Kumar, CSO, Pimcore Global Services, a Happiest Minds Company