Taking a human-centric approach to customer experience
With focus driven away from the high street during the COVID-19 pandemic, and economic pressures forcing consumers to reconsider their spending-habits, retailers have found brand loyalty to be steadily decreasing over recent years, writes Nikki Flavell, retail client director for SAS UK & Ireland
With focus driven away from the high street during the COVID-19 pandemic, and economic pressures forcing consumers to reconsider their spending-habits, retailers have found brand loyalty to be steadily decreasing over recent years.
When ‘shopping around’ digitally, 73 per cent of consumers rank customer experience as a key factor for their purchasing decisions - right alongside price and quality, according to research by PWC. While the term customer experience encompasses a range of factors, there’s several that stand out. Not only do consumers expect online systems to work well and be convenient to use, they also expect retailers to anticipate their needs and suggest relevant products according to their unique interests.
As consumers have become increasingly accustomed to technology, their behaviour and expectations have evolved too - meaning that if retailers are to keep-up and remain competitive they need to have their finger on the pulse of what’s driving demand.
Hyper-personalisation is the creation of custom and targeted experiences through the combined use of analytics, AI and automation. Its use-case is being driven by consumers themselves, who increasingly expect more bespoke experiences in order to connect closely with a brand or retailer.
Doing this well is a benefit to both retailers and consumers. As the relationship builds, the consumer receives better, more relevant offers and retailers increase sales, as well as collecting more vital data for retailers to optimise personalisation.
Data is the key to understanding existing and potential customers and executing hyper-personalisation well. Fortunately, online retailers already sit on a wealth of information in the form of customer viewed products, purchasing history, and ‘wishlisted’ items. When used correctly, the insights from this information can drive real-time decisioning to build a customer experience around what they are interacting with ‘in the moment’.
Many retailers are already developing hyper-personalisation initiatives and applying insights to certain demographic groups. But, having a holistic understanding of the dynamics of consumer behaviour down to an individual level is crucial to maximising the impact of these efforts.
Product demand and agility
Staying on top of the rapidly developing wants of a consumer base requires agility and awareness. If market demand shifts from product A to product B, recognising the move and reacting to fulfil the demand on an individual level before competitors gives retailers a competitive edge.
With hyper-personalisation tracking an individual’s shopping habits and the habits of larger demographic groups becomes far easier. This capability will highlight a mounting interest in new products and services instantly.
However, when a group of consumers begins to shift interest not all in that group will be ready to move on, so applying a blanket campaign will not work entirely. Instead, highly targeted outreach campaigns can be deployed quickly to make the most of new demand where it actually exists. This way experiences that anticipate each shoppers' needs and put them at the forefront are curated.
In today's online world, creating an experience that requires less clicks, and is therefore more convenient, is a focus point for consumers - and therefore should be for retailers too.
However, gathering this data around customer demand is only half the battle. This data then needs to be turned into meaningful insight and action.
Due to the resource required to harness this insight, retailers previously had to employ a team with strong expertise in this area to see the most benefit. Which, for mid-sized businesses, created a hurdle due to a lack of data and analytics skills within their marketing or operations team and limited funds to hire in this expertise. It was also common to see businesses that had a large amount of data and data-expertise working inefficiently, with siloed data creating limitations and a lack of clarity.
Through the use of self-service analytics that rely on low-code or no-code tools and work across the whole breadth of data retailers collect, this skills gap can be bridged. Intuitive drag and drop tools reduce or eliminate the need for traditional developers to capitalise on the insights from technology - meaning key stakeholders can have access to and benefit from insights.
Working together to achieve industry excellence
Consumers expect highly personalised journeys, even from brands they rarely or have not interacted with. This is where real-time personalisation will come into its own. By using analytics across all channels, including online, mobile devices, and in person shopping, information derived from each interaction can build a highly personalised profile of each individual.
Gaining insights from omni-channel interactions is the only way to fully understand consumer behaviours, as habits tend to differ across each channel of interaction. And the only way to maximise the use of these insights is to complete orchestrated omnichannel customer journeys that put them at the centre.
Working together as an industry is vital. As experts in our own right we can each bring something to the table to improve the overall experience and protection of consumers everywhere. As innovation and technology advances at a rapidly accelerating rate, it is important to remember those at the centre of what is created, and design everything in a human-centric way.