A guide to the retail customer experience
Interactions with your business are critical to customers’ overall feelings about your brand. For retailers, that means that selling high-quality products isn’t enough on its own (although that part is important). To win over customers and keep them coming back, you want to think about the entire retail customer experience. In this article, we’ll cover some of the most important topics to consider when you’re building your customer experience, including:
- What is the retail customer experience?
- Why is the customer experience important for retailers?
- 5 key elements of the retail customer experience
- Retail customer experience trends
- 5 ways to improve the retail customer experience
- How to measure the retail customer experience
What is the retail customer experience?
The retail customer experience (CX) describes the overall relationship a customer has with a retail brand. It encompasses every interaction they have with the business, from the first ad or marketing initiative they encounter, to each purchase they make, through every customer service interaction they have with the company. Every possible touch point a consumer can have with your company contributes to the retail customer experience.
Why is the customer experience important for retailers?
Creating a good retail customer experience can have real business benefits. According to a 2021 research paper from Sitel, 65% of US consumers said CX plays a very important role in choosing where to buy. On the flip side, a bad interaction with your brand can be enough to lose a customer altogether. Take 2022 research from Zendesk, which found that more than 50% of customers will switch to a competitor after only one bad experience. Two or more bad experiences, and you lose almost three-quarters of them.
In short, if you get the customer experience right, you can earn more business and gain customer loyalty over the long term. If you get any part of it wrong, you could lose customers instead.
5 key elements of the retail customer experience
Retail brands today need to consider 5 main elements of the customer experience:
The in-store experience
For customers who visit your stores in person, you want to craft an enjoyable experience. That includes considering the factors that influence the store atmosphere, like the layout, lighting, and music. It also requires thinking through the general shopping experience you offer—such as how easy it is to find different products and how long the checkout process takes.
The online experience
A well-designed website that provides clear product information and a smooth checkout process is central to the online retail experience. Beyond the website, the online experience also includes all the marketing and mentions of your brand that happen elsewhere online, such as online reviews, online advertising, and social media. And don’t forget third-party marketplaces where your business has a presence, such as a third-party delivery platform.
The delivery experience
For many online orders, your job doesn’t stop at the online shopping experience. You also have to get the delivery experience right. That means making sure you provide multiple delivery options to meet customers’ needs. If an item takes too long to reach a customer’s home, ends up at the wrong location, or is damaged in transit, the customer will associate those issues with your brand.
The product experience
The quality of your products is one of the main elements customers will judge you on. If you sell a mix of brands and product types, aim to work with vendors you trust to deliver products you’re proud to sell. If you sell products under your own brand, confirm that they meet the quality standards you want customers to associate with your brand.
The customer service experience
If something goes wrong and customers reach out with an issue, your response will affect their feelings toward your brand. Providing reliable customer service that helps answer questions or get to the bottom of problems is a crucial part of the customer experience.
Retail customer experience trends
Some of what makes a good customer experience stays consistent over time. But some aspects of retail CX evolve. Here are some current trends to consider as you shape your CX efforts:
Customers now want to be able to interact with brands across many different channels. Khoros research in 2019 found that “62% of customers want to be able to engage with brands across multiple digital channels.” And McKinsey reported in 2022 that “omnichannel customers shop 1.7 times more than single-channel shoppers.” Having a presence in person, on your website, on third-party delivery platforms, and on other online channels (like social media, chat, and email) is important for meeting customers where they are.
According to 2022 research from Zendesk, 62% of consumers prefer personalized recommendations over general ones. In 2020, Salesforce found that 97% of marketers reported seeing improved results due to personalization. Retail stores can offer personalization by using data from loyalty programs and website accounts to learn what individual customers like—and providing marketing messaging and offers accordingly.
Customers increasingly see convenience as a top priority in their shopping experiences. In a 2022 study from Shep Hyken, 70% of people said they’d pay more for a convenient experience. And 75% said they’d switch brands if they learned another was more convenient. Retailers can deliver more convenient experiences by adding self-service options, both online and off. AI-powered chatbots can answer many customer questions right away on your website, while self-checkout gives customers the power to get in and out of the store quickly. And offering same-day delivery means customers can get what they want when they want it.
5 ways to improve the retail customer experience
Investing in a good retail customer experience is more than just the right thing to do—it’s smart business. Here are several strategies to consider for improving your retail customer experience:
1. Analyze your current customer experience
Before you can identify ways to improve your retail customer experience, you need to analyze where you stand. By conducting a CX analysis, you can identify which aspects of the customer experience have the most room for improvement. You want this analysis to span the full customer experience, including all online aspects as well as the in-person experience.
A good CX analysis could include:
- Reviewing all customer experience data you have, to get a picture of how you’re performing (this data might include any you collect through your loyalty program, your ratings, social mentions of your brand, and responses to customer surveys you’ve sent out)
- Reading customer feedback and reviews to see which parts of the experience they love, and where they see room for improvement
- Conducting UX (user experience) testing to understand the usability of your website and online checkout experience
- Talking to employees who can weigh in on the in-store and online customer service experiences
You can use what you learn to identify the most important changes to make to improve your brand’s customer experience.
2. Design a pleasant in-store experience
For some retail shoppers, visits to your physical location will be the main way they interact with your company. To create a great in-person experience, you want to think about the overall atmosphere of your stores, how they’re organized, and what the staff is like.
Some ways to improve the in-store experience include:
- Investing in the visual atmosphere by selecting colors, decor, lighting, and music that match your desired brand experience
- Organizing the store layout so products are easy to find and customers have ample space to browse comfortably
- Ensuring that individual products and overall sections are labeled clearly
- Designing a fast and convenient checkout experience, which may include offering self-checkout to give customers a speedier option and reduce their wait
When designing your in-store experience, consider the preferences of your customers. It’s wise to cater to customers who prefer longer shopping experiences and to customers who want to get in and out as quickly as possible.
3. Set up employees to succeed with customers
Your employees are on the front lines of the customer experience. To serve customers well, they need to be equipped with the right information and tools.
That can include:
- Training employees on how to answer common customer questions
- Equipping customer service employees with software that makes it easy to understand the details of a customer’s problem, find relevant internal resources, and respond to them in the channel of their choice (including email, phone, SMS, or social media)
- Designing a fast in-person checkout process by making sure employees have an intuitive POS system and the supplies they need to complete each checkout efficiently (such as bags, packaging, and receipt paper)
The right tech combined with the right processes can improve efficiency, so that employees are able to do more with less.
4. Create a convenient online ordering experience
For online shoppers, convenience is key. Design your website so customers can find what they need and purchase it with minimal effort.
Some steps you can take to achieve that are:
- Making sure your website menu is intuitive and products are divided into categories that make sense to customers
- Letting customers create accounts on your website, to make future ordering easier
- Giving customers a variety of payment options, so they can choose the one that’s easiest for them; in addition to accepting credit card payments, consider adding options like Apple Pay, PayPal, and Google Pay
- Recommending products based on items customers have viewed or purchased, or suggesting replacement items if something they selected is out of stock
By making the online ordering process as convenient as possible, you remove barriers that might stop people from completing a purchase. That means a better experience for them and more orders for you.
5. Provide multiple options for pickup and delivery
Some online customers enjoy the convenience of delivery. Others like to pick up items they’ve ordered. One thing online customers generally have in common is enjoying the power of choice.
To satisfy the various preferences of all your customers, strive to offer:
- Online orders for same-day pickup, so customers can swing by at the time that’s most convenient for them and skip the work of looking for their items on the shelf
- Fast delivery options—including next-day, same-day, and express shipping that gets items to customers in under an hour
- Scheduled delivery, so customers can ensure that items arrive when they know they’ll be home to receive them (this is especially valuable for high-cost items, or those that require someone to sign for them)
- Traditional (slower) shipping options for those who value affordability over speed and don’t mind waiting a couple of weeks
Letting your customers choose the experience they want, based on their particular priorities, helps to make sure they’re satisfied.
How to measure the retail customer experience
As you work to improve your retail customer experience, it’s important to evaluate how well your efforts are paying off. A variety of metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) can help you track how customers view your brand.
- Online conversion rates. If customers find your website hard to use or the checkout process tedious, that dissatisfaction will show up in your website conversion rates. If a small portion of your visitors are completing a purchase, consider undertaking user testing to see if something about your web design and checkout process could be the problem.
- Customer reviews. Some of your most passionate customers will share their opinions in reviews. That includes not only the customers who love you but also anyone with a bad experience. Paying attention to your overall star ratings and the specific content of reviews is a good way to learn about the customer experience in customers’ own words.
- Return customers. A good way to tell if your customers are happy with their overall experience is by seeing how many keep coming back. A customer that likes you enough for repeat visits and purchases is usually a pretty satisfied one.
- Customer satisfaction score (CSAT). The customer satisfaction score is a type of survey asking customers to rate how satisfied they are with your brand. It helps you produce a quantitative measure of how happy customers are.
- Net Promoter Score (NPS). The Net Promoter Score is a type of survey in which you ask customers how likely they are to recommend your brand to others. Like CSAT, it creates quantitative data that can help you gauge how current customers are feeling about the brand.
- Loyalty program participation. Tracking how many signups you get to your loyalty program, as well as how often members make purchases and use their rewards, is a good way to track how active your top customers are.
Provide a better retail customer experience with Uber Eats
You don’t have to handle every aspect of the retail customer experience yourself. Partnering with Uber Eats can help you serve customers better by:
- Adding another convenient way to place orders. Retail businesses that join the Uber Eats marketplace can increase visibility with new potential customers who browse the app with a high intent to place orders. And the app is convenient for regular users too, because their payment and delivery information is saved.
- Increasing the delivery options available on your own channels. Uber also offers Uber Direct, a white-label delivery solution that allows you to add an array of delivery options to your app or website. You can let customers choose whether they want scheduled, same-day, or even express delivery (that gets there in under an hour) when they order from you. Through a simple integration with your existing POS or online ordering system, you can offer a native delivery experience through your sales channels while tapping into drivers in the Uber network to get packages to your customers’ front doors.
- Offering faster deliveries without bringing on more staff. When someone needs an item right away, having a fast delivery option is crucial. Uber Eats lets you start offering same-day delivery without having to build out an in-house delivery program yourself.
Working with Uber Eats is a smart way to improve your retail customer experience. You can expand your offerings, increase convenience for customers, and provide them with more choice—all while keeping your operations streamlined.
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