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    The Importance of Customer Experience in the Retail Industry

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    Have you ever experienced shopping in a store that is crowded with buyers, that has endless rows of hangers and racks stuffed with products and not enough staff to attend to your needs? In such a situation, even though the store has the products that you desire, you are not thrilled to make the purchase. So what holds you back? It is the shopping experience that is not up to the mark. Customer experience is one of the most important factors that retailers must consider to witness business growth and success.

    Retail: The Past & the Present

    There was a time when many believed that the retail industry was dying until it reinvented itself with a touch of digitalization. What started in the form of a plain barter system, now runs on digital technology and cashless payments. Back in the day, retailers and merchants had small shops and kiosks placed in the town center. Today, the retail sector has moved light years ahead and is dominated by shopping malls and e-commerce. In this evolving landscape, it’s not just about B2C retail; the B2B e-commerce model has also gained significant traction, reshaping the way businesses interact and transact in the modern marketplace. In today’s evolving retail landscape, B2B e-commerce is thriving, and a B2B referral program is playing a crucial role in reshaping business interactions and transactions.

    From cash registers to QR code scanners, from hand-painted posters and billboards to digital displays, from physical stores to online shopping sites, the journey of the retail industry has been quite fascinating. Despite this massive evolution, one thing that still remains common and a top priority for retailers then and now is customer experience. Your customers’ feelings about your products and services can make or break your business.

    What Is the Outcome of Neglected Customer Experience?

    Customer experience is the key to maintaining a positive brand image in an ever-competitive market. As retailers fight to stay on top, all efforts boil down to a single requirement – flawless customer experience. This begs the question – why is customer experience so important in retail?

    Let’s understand the adverse of neglected customer experience:

    1. Lowered Brand Reputation

    Your customers are your biggest brand ambassadors. Worth-of-mouth marketing benefits businesses immensely as people tend to trust personal recommendations above everything else. It takes great efforts and time for a brand to gain popularity, but it only takes a few mistakes for your customers to move on to another promising brand. Consistent customer service and product quality play a vital role in maintaining your brand’s reputation in the market.

    2. Decreased Customer Loyalty

    Retaining customers is tougher compared to acquiring customers. Retailers would agree that having a loyal customer base is critical for their business stability. However, the retail industry has massive competition, which means more options for customers. Today’s customers are always in a hurry. They expect instant services and quick experiences. A report suggests that nearly 61% of people would switch to a new brand after one bad experience. The inability to fulfill your customer’s in-store expectations can lead to decreased brand loyalty.

    3. Mismanaged Customers

    No one likes spoiling their shopping experience with overcrowded stores and tight-fitting spaces. Modern-day retailers need to adopt technology that suits their businesses and streamline customer management. Picking just about any digital technology is not enough, you need to identify exactly what can help you to simplify your in-store customer experience. Shortage of staff, inability to provide product information on time, long queues and endless wait time can vex your customers.

    4. Degraded Customer Satisfaction

    The inability of a business to showcase its products and services to its target audience, poor in-store customer service, few or no shipping methods, and inability to understand customer preferences and buying behavior can lead to degraded customer satisfaction.

    5. Decreased Customer Engagement

    A major part of how your customers feel about shopping from your store or retail outlet depends upon how well they are engaged. Most retailers struggle with finding the right balance for their customer engagement. Both low engagement and over-engagement can hamper the customer experience. Answering your customers’ queries, gathering customer feedback, and providing a self-service experience are all factors that help engage your audience better.

    6. Low Profits

    According to statistics, businesses that focus on enhancing their customer experience have observed an 80% increase in their revenue. Offering a great customer experience allows retailers to acquire customers and retain the existing ones. It helps retailers to upsell and cross-sell their products better. Most customers are willing to pay more as long as their shopping experience is good. A simple factor can have a significant impact on your business profits. The inability to offer a good customer experience can negatively impact your sales and revenue.

    How Can Retailers Improve the Customer Experience?

    If you are dissatisfied with the retail experience you deliver to your customers, it is time to implement some changes. Retailers need to evolve with the changing times and provide customers with what they want.

    Here are some of the top methods to improve your customer experience:

    1. Go Contactless With Self-Service

    A report suggests that 78% of leaders in the US are investing more in self-service, allowing customers to help themselves with self-help portals and AI-powered chatbots. Customers enjoy obtaining product information, adding items to their cart or checking out digital catalogs without having to interact much with the in-store staff. So, using customer self service portal software and similar tools is not only a necessity but also a strategic advantage in the modern retail landscape. Self-serve booths and a behavioural messaging platform can help customers gain a sense of privacy and independence and enhance their overall shopping experience..  If you’re not committed to digitizing all of your inventory, an alternative is to offer limited or exclusive products online. Such business processes like print on demand can allow the business to offer a larger variety of products to customers, as the business is not limited by the space available for storing inventory.

    2. Zero-Friction Digital Experience

    Retail stores and shopping malls are all highly digital these days. Right from product displays using digital signages, to self-checkout counters, digital devices are found at every nook and corner of the stores. What is important is to ensure that these digital kiosks have a simple user interface and that they never go out of service. 

    Your customers will love navigating your digital kiosks and displays as long as they are not too complicated. Sometimes, they may visit your stores across multiple channels to see if there are any differences. Retailers can use a multi-channel sync app to unify their product info. Retailers must have a way to quickly fix any technical errors with instant remote troubleshooting. Self-service counters that are non-functional for a prolonged period of time can disgruntle your customers.

    3. Faster & Secure Digital Payments

    The modern-day payment processes are hassle-free. Swiping credit or debit cards, scanning QR codes to make quick payments, net banking, the options are endless. In these times of ultra-fast payments, you need to deliver a rapid checkout experience to your customers. Expecting customers to stand in long queues or presenting cash at the check-out counter hampers their shopping experience. Adopting mPOS systems that allow your in-store staff to collect payments from customers on the go or installing self-check-out counters where customers even kids debit card can make instant digital payments enables shorter checkout lines and well-managed payments. In fact, it’s estimated that as many as 80% of people will abandon a purchase if they have to wait more than 2 minutes at checkout. That’s why instant digital payments are so important. They give customers what they want: fast, easy transactions that get them out of the store faster,” says Emily Jordan, the financial expert at ASCIN Loans.

    4. Streamline Critical Operations With In-House Staff

    By implementing digital displays and self-service kiosks your store staff can be made free of a variety of floor operations such as welcoming customers, providing product information and discounts, collecting payments, etc. With this, you can direct your staff toward business-critical tasks such as handling grievances, checking stock availabilities, customer management, etc. This ensures the smooth functioning of your store and satisfied customers.

    5. Analyze Customer Behavior

    TeamUp, reports that understanding and analyzing customer behavior is crucial in today’s fast-paced retail industry. The customer experience plays a key role in driving sales and maintaining customer loyalty.

    An underrated way of ensuring that your customers get the best of your retail experience is by analyzing buying behavior. Modern-day technology offers in-depth analysis of footfall and buying trends which allow retailers to identify which products are doing well and which ones need more work. Similarly, implementing sensors that analyze daily footfall can help you to identify the busiest time of the day, week and year. Modern data stacks enable businesses to utilize customer data stored in customer data platforms, use mobile analytics tools for digital behavior analysis to create a complete profile of their customer,s and personalize their services accordingly. You can then leverage email automation and other marketing channels to engage and convert leads.

    6. Faster Grievance Resolution

    Appreciation and criticism are a part of every business. Your customer’s opinions can guide you towards better service. It is important to listen to your customers when they have any suggestions or complaints. You can implement digital feedback and suggestion kiosks in your stores for your customers to share their experiences, suggestions, queries and complaints on your product range, customer service and more. Installing feedback counters can help retail businesses offer continuous grievance handling, even if the stores are short on staff. 

    With this, your customers need not wait in long lines just to speak to a customer service representative. You can also conduct customer surveys to gain a mass opinion on your existing and upcoming products and services and to reactivate customers.

    Closing Lines

    Retail is an industry that is far from becoming obsolete. However, retailers must stay at pace with the evolving trends to sustain themselves in the market. Understanding what your customers want and delivering not just products but an overall great shopping experience is critical. There are several digital technologies that help you create a seamless shopping experience for your customers. You can manage these diverse digital technologies including digital signages, self-service kiosks, mPOS systems and much more with powerful tools like MDM solutions for retail. The power to innovate your business is in your hands.

    Shambhavi Awate
    Shambhavi Awate
    Shambhavi is a Senior Content Writer at Promobi Technologies with prior experience in commercial writing, creative planning, product cataloging, and content strategizing. She is a "Biotechnologist turned writer" and believes that the inception of great ideas happens over coffee.

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