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The past two years has seen customer experience go from a nice to have to an absolutely essential element of business strategy. With services becoming increasingly digitally-led, whether in customer services via webchats, online payments or app-based shops, consumers have become accustomed to experiences that are convenient, available on-demand and personalised. In fact, 61% of consumers are willing to pay more for a better experience, while 55% would switch brands for better levels of service. Now, the way the customer interacts with the business needs to be at the forefront of every decision. 

In order to fulfil these demands, data is essential. Retailers need to be taking advantage of data points and build customer profiles that will allow them to develop an understanding of their preferences. What’s more, they need end-to-end visibility across the full customer journey to identify consumer shopping habits, and provide an experience that meets expectations and demand.  Only then can services be delivered at the right time, in the right place.

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Getting to know the customer

The growth in digitalisation – from one-click food delivery services to ride-sharing apps – has heightened expectations for personalised experiences. Retailers need to be one step ahead of their customers, recommending actions, suggested products and services at the point they are needed. This is vital to establishing brand loyalty and a critical part of the customer experience. It’s the difference between giving shoppers a seamless, convenient journey that truly makes them feel valued – and not.

With online services now being the go-to for many customers, this produces a wealth of data retailers need to make the most of. Throughout the consumer journey, each touch point provides information that allows retailers to build a detailed picture of the customer. Through these data insights, and with the backing of AI technology, retailers can understand trends in customer behaviour and tailor services to every individual. 

There are already retailers in this space transforming their businesses models to be truly customer-led. For example, Stitch Fix is an online personal styling service that uses AI technology in conjunction with human stylists to offer clothing recommendations based on size, style and budget. All customers need to do is take a quiz and a box of clothing that fits with their preferences will be sent to their door. Anything a customer doesn’t like can be returned, and this data will be used to inform their next purchase.

Ellie Lamey, Head of Retail Wholesale & Distribution at SAP

Visibility end-to-end

However, for retailers to follow through and make personalised offerings a reality, they need visibility across all business operations, from stock availability in-store to those delivered to doorsteps. This ensures that customers are provided with the most up-to-date information and that recommendations and services align with what’s happening across the business. 

Implementing software that enhances visibility into, and connects, adjacent functions like sales, fulfilment and logistics will ensure businesses deliver on their promises to customers. By linking up the back end to front end of a business’ operations, marketers are able to access and share real time insights into availability of products and speed of shipping. As such, any personalised offers, such as next day shipping or special discounts, are able to be delivered upon. 

If retailers want to continue to build relationships with their customer base and increase loyalty, this requires insights that help build the blocks of services that consumers can trust in.  

A new way of doing business

As recognition of the importance of the customer experience has become more widespread, there’s been a wave of new and exciting retail business models coming to the fore. Brands are now looking for innovative ways to address demands for personalisation that cuts through the noise. As such, we’re seeing businesses offer subscription based models, which take into account consumer preferences and offer tailored services on a regular basis.

For example, Lullaloop provides baby’s clothing on a rental subscription-based model. With a range of plans, parents receive a package of clothing every few months which is either pre-styled or selected by the customer. Customers are then able to swap items at any time when children eventually grow out of clothing. Through this, parents are offered a sustainable, affordable and convenient way to shop for their child.

Putting the customer first with digital services

For retailers to lead in this increasingly digital landscape and maintain a competitive advantage, they need data. Customers want to know that their preferences are important to the brands they buy from. The data generated throughout the customer journey when backed with AI technology gives retailers the insights into buying patterns, browsing history, and interactions with the brand. 

Making use of these insights, alongside software that provides visibility to link front-end and back-end operations, will allow retailers to tailor experiences and deliver the personalisation customers demand. With the data in hand, retailers can really begin to craft experiences that put customers at the heart of the business. 

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