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Avoid The Trap of the Retail Customer Experience

Brian Cantor

The following first appeared in CCW Digital’s Special Report on the Retail Customer Experience. Download your complimentary copy here.

Let’s face it: transactions are the key tenet of the retail experience. The most obvious, most common interaction involves a customer going into a store – or onto a website – and making a purchase.

It is therefore easy to mistake the purchasing process for the entirety of the retail customer experience.

Falling into this trap, many businesses intently focus on the shopping component. They advertise discounts to entice purchases. They help customers easily – and quickly – find the products for which they are looking. They make the checkout process as convenient as possible.

Make no mistake: each initiative is incredibly valuable.

Today’s customers are drowning in promotional “noise.” They receive exciting offers from numerous brands on all of their devices. An organization that can use exciting offers to cut through that noise stands the best chance of attracting new customers – and preventing existing ones from switching to a competitor.

They are also demanding fast, frictionless experiences. A whopping 70% of customers call speed a top priority when interacting with businesses, while a similarly substantial 64% call effort a major concern. Organizations that prioritize simple, fast, convenient shopping experiences improve their odds of satisfying customers.

A problem emerges, however, when retailers make purchases their only priority. By viewing the experience in a reductive, transactional context, these retailers squander the opportunity to build connections with customers.

They, accordingly, fail to capture the true lifetime value of their customers.

Typically, this value comes from other purchases. Few products last forever, and no customers need only one product for their entire lives. In many cases, they will have a future need or want that the retailer theoretically could satisfy.

Even if a future purchase is completely off the table, a customer still carries meaningful worth beyond the first transaction. Customers share their experiences with friends, family members and coworkers. In the digital age, they can also share those experiences with hundreds, thousands or even millions of social media “followers.”

According to a recent CCW Digital study, 90% of consumers share their particularly positive or negative brand experiences.

If positive, their stories can deliver many new customers – and a substantial amount of new revenue – to the business. If negative, their stories can discourage shoppers from considering a particular retailer, thus imposing a considerable cost on the business.

And even if the advocacy element could somehow be deemed irrelevant or impossible, the customer would still have value beyond the initial transaction.

Customer service is a costly endeavor. If an unsatisfied customer contacts the support team, the business must devote time, energy and resources to fixing the problem. Worse, because the customer may be considerably upset, the upside of these support efforts is limited.

If, on the other hand, the entire experience goes smoothly, the business avoids the burden of a costly customer service interaction. It gets to reap the rewards of happy customers – and a more efficient contact center operation.

Ultimately, the correct idea of lifetime value underscores the importance of cultivating relationships with customers. It trumpets the notion of looking at the entire journey rather than the mere point of purchase.

The customer experience journey encompasses all indirect and direct touch points with customers. From the genesis of the marketing strategy, to the sales effort, to the purchasing process, to the post-purchase follow-up, to the customer retention and winback efforts, every potential moment of truth (in every channel) impacts the health of the relationship between brand and customer.

Mindful of that reality that every moment of truth carries value, customer-centric retailers focus on long-term customer connections.

Viewing their business as one of relationships rather than shopping, they are committed to enhancing all facets of the journey. They are constantly identifying “pain points” and seizing opportunities to improve the experience.

They are not looking to be a store at which customers can buy products. They want to be a brand with which customers passionately want to do business.