The future of retail isn’t just smart mirrors and the metaverse – it’s quality customer experience

Stuart Russell
27 February, 23

With Christmas sales predicted to be down at least 3% from last year, competition for customers is fierce. As such, customer experience has never been a more important shield for retailers to protect themselves with for next year and beyond.

At a time of year when industry experts like to look at the next big thing in retail (smart mirrors, the metaverse and so on), in today’s climate retailers must instead start focusing on fixing pain points to create frictionless customer experiences. Getting the customer experience basics right to retain customers is crucial. 

With many businesses starting to plan for the year ahead, providing truly seamless customer experiences is essential. And the way to achieve a compelling customer experience is through leveraging first party data and contextualised personalisation.

Seamless on-and-offline experiences  

Retailers are aware of the need to develop relationships with customers that go beyond being purely transactional. But when competition for customers is fierce, nurturing customer relationships and encouraging brand engagement and loyalty is critical.

A key pillar for customer experience is creating seamless on-and-offline experiences. By making it easy for customers to interact with the business, find the things they really want, know that what they truly need is in stock and where, and make purchasing decisions, businesses will increase retention, customer lifetime value, and NPS scores. 

Making first party data work for you

Brands need to have fully connected first party data, bringing together full transactional and behavioural histories to provide a holistic view of each customer’s relationship with the business. This uncovers vital insights into ever-changing customer behaviour, allowing retailers to notice new opportunities and enhance the customer experience in impactful ways. 

Then it’s about democratising that data. Through reviewing precisely which data is relevant for each customer experience use case, marketing teams can share the right data, at the right time, with the right teams across the business. This not only helps drive efficiency, it’s crucial in driving effectiveness as teams become empowered to make data-driven decisions that are more likely to result in a better customer experience overall. 

The final stage is then about activation. Marketers can start optimising campaigns, communications teams can refine messaging, and retailers overall can take advantage of these new opportunities to strengthen their relationships with customers. 

Prioritising contextualised personalisation

Optimised recommendations, loyalty programs, and wider contextual personalisation initiatives have been talked about by customer marketers for years. Yet many still struggle to integrate these key pillars of customer experience into their programmes effectively. 

The key is using what marketers observe through first-party data to reach conclusions about the different contexts which affect purchasing decisions. It might be that certain customers only read brand communications emails in the morning, or respond to loyalty programme offers at the end of the month. By using data to identify different behaviours, marketers can start noticing key moments to optimise recommendations, or share loyalty rewards. 

Contextual personalisation is vital in improving the customer experience, as instead of bombarding customers at the wrong times, with the wrong messages, teams are able to take customer context into consideration. When combined with empathy, retailers then can build up relationships with customers through providing a helpful, targeted, customer experience. 

Getting the right people, processes and technology in place 

Before retailers can truly optimise the customer experience through seamless on-and-offline experiences, utilising first-party data, and contextualised personalisation, they must understand the relationship between people, process, and technology. 

In order to make the most of the marketing technology available, retailers must have the right people in place to analyse the results the tools produce. These people then must have the right processes in place to ensure retailers are able to act on these insights. When this chain becomes interrupted, it makes providing a seamless customer experience, utilisation of first party data, and contextualised personalisation difficult to activate. 

As such, taking a holistic view of people, processes, and technology must be the first step for retailers looking to optimise their customer experience. Forget smart mirrors for the moment. As retailers weather the cost of living storm, having the right people, process and technology will unlock data-driven ways of enhancing the customer experience. This is crucial in building relationships with customers that go beyond being purely transactional, and it’s these relationships that will ensure retailers thrive in the future. 

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