You only have to open a newspaper to see that many retailers in the UK are struggling. Rising operational costs, price pressure from online-only competitors, or even consumption fatigue – there’s all sorts of reasons why shops are feeling the squeeze. And with many retailers now operating physically and digitally, there’s two different fronts to deliver on.
Fortunately, there are lots of strategies retailers can employ to keep thriving in this challenging environment. Like putting customer experience first and making sure everyone has the best possible interaction with your brand. Wondering how you can meet customer expectations in 2019? Here’s four ways to get started.
- Provide an authentic brand experience
Many of the retailers who have thrived in recent years, both on the high street and online, are those who have learnt to deliver an authentic brand experience. Which isn’t surprising, when you consider 90% of millennials claim authenticity is an important factor when deciding whether to support a brand. Consider Lush, a shop which has defied the high street downturn by offering ‘politics and principles’ along with their popular products.
But generating authenticity isn’t just about aligning your brand to a particular cause. There are other techniques you can use, including creating authentic branded content, having a strong social media presence and providing informative, friendly customer service over a variety of channels. Essentially, you have to give your brand a human face that’s easy to interact with – which leads on to our next tip…
- Make sure customers can get in touch however (and whenever) they like
The importance of the multi-channel communication offering can’t be understated. This is by no means a new trend for 2019, but it’s an important one to consider nonetheless. In every walk of life, we’ve become used to carrying out conversations across a number of channels, and this is just as true in our consumer habits. Which means retailers should be prepared to provide customer service in whichever way customers prefer.
That might be texting, email, instant messaging, a phone call or a chatbot. Of course, you’ll need the right digital platforms in place to support this, so consider a unified communications strategy to help customer service staff communicate with customers seamlessly across different platforms.
- Provide personalised experiences online
When it comes to digital shopping, customers increasingly expect a personalised experience. Brands like Amazon excel in this field, making shopping feel like a seamless and effortless experience. Because while it’s true that consumers are wary about how their data is held and processed, it’s also undeniable that many of us have grown used to having optimised, tailored web experiences. Through the content you show them online or the marketing emails you send out, make sure you’re offering a service that’s personalised to your customers’ preferences.
- Offer an enhanced-in store experience
With reports showing that 2,500 stores disappeared from the high street in the first half of 2018, there’s no doubt that physical stores are struggling. To survive, retailers need to find ways to enhance the in-store experience. Sometimes, it can be as simple as providing perks like in-store WiFi. But technologies like augmented reality (AR) could also help.
With nearly three quarters of consumers saying they expect retailers to offer some sort of AR experience, this is set to be a big trend in 2019. Whether they’re helping customers see how a sofa would look in situ or even letting customers try on shoes without unlacing their trainers, a number of retailers have already embraced this technology. But AR has applications far beyond simply trying before you buy – it can be used to help shoppers view stock levels, compare prices, access reviews, or see further product details on the spot. All of which are typically benefits of shopping online, so this could be a great way for physical stores to lure back customers.
With the right approaches to customer experience, retailers can thrive
With the economic climate expected to be uncertain, it’s likely that retailers will continue to face challenges in 2019. But as some are proving, it’s more than possible to meet customer experience expectations. With the right technology, comms platforms and personalised approaches, you might even exceed them – helping your business to thrive in uncertain times.