No more normal: What’s going to change now everything has changed

Pete Gullick
10 October, 22

Since the end of the pandemic, brands are once again concentrating on the future of retail. While consumers are safe to return to stores, it is evident that the shift to online retail is here to stay. The appeal of effortless shopping online has made it a cornerstone in the market; indeed, 46.9% of non-food sales in the UK were conducted online in 2021 according to KPMG, a remarkable figure given that the majority of stores had already reopened.

The distinctive manner in which a business offers particular services to its clients is referred to as Service Differentiation. While more prevalent in sectors with extensive client contact, even product-driven businesses can adopt service distinction as a strategy to increase client satisfaction and revenue. Several factors influence service differentiation:

Customer Service – Most businesses have a customer service division to assist clients in resolving issues and guarantee they have favourable interactions. Offering outstanding customer service that goes above and beyond what competitors offer is a sure-fire approach to standing out in the market.

Reputation & Reliability – Take proactive measures to enhance your reputation in the marketplace. Request consumer testimonials and feedback to use on your website and social platforms. Look for ways to demonstrate that your brand is reliable and trustworthy.

Convenience & Usability – Many customers will pick a simple solution over a more complicated, yet possibly better, service. Ensure that customers can swiftly and easily access your services, storefront, and customer support team. Any products, services, or digital content you offer should be simple to use and as intuitive as possible.

Customisation & Options – Provide your clients with a range of items or services that are tailored to their needs. The availability of options encourages buyers to make additional purchases after their initial transaction.

Environment & Branding – For the best possible consumer experience throughout their journey with your business, take into account architecture, interior design, and convenience items. Potential clients can be persuaded to interact with your services or products with the help of consistent and persuasive branding.

The personal touch in a virtual world

In the Internet age, customers desire an excellent customer experience, which means they look for memorable, authentic and personal interactions. Customers want to feel that they’re an integral part of your brand and that choosing you over your competitors was a wise decision. Retailers must be memorable to establish an immediate association between a product and brand – providing customers with unexpected gifts or perks, personalised and efficient customer service, and maintaining a distinctive online presence.

Your company’s front line is your customer service staff and is in the best position to establish a more personal relationship with your clients.  Developing a rapport with a consumer can help them form a favourable opinion of your brand. Customers’ desire to be heard and regarded as individuals is integral to building lasting relationships.

Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, discovered that the wealthy like to spend money on anything related to people: “What we are seeing now is the luxurification of human engagement.”

E-commerce channels, where shoppers must navigate multiple websites and items on their own, in a soulless virtual world with no expert advice or human connection, are a missed opportunity. The majority of brands are working tirelessly to automate human interactions, prioritising speed, efficiency, and sales over genuine connections with their customers. For example, Walmart is piloting a text-based concierge service; unfortunately, Walmart’s professed goal is to use algorithms to service customers before then eliminating people as quickly as possible.

Retail’s New Normal

Customers desire a customised, personalised experience; according to a 2021 Shopify research, “Personalisation applied properly will become much more prominent. Ideally at each contact point and done as unobtrusively as possible.”  According to McKinsey, online retailers can see a 15–20% increase in sales conversion rates when they tailor the purchasing experience.

Best-in-class services that are easily accessible have successfully ‘educated’ customers to demand more and refuse to settle for less. People buy because of an emotional connection, their belief system, their way of life, and how they want to interact with the world. People make purchases because of the people they meet and the individuals who created the brands and goods they decide to include in their lives.

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