Regardless of a retailer’s category or price point, customers are central to a company’s overall success. Whether they’re on an e-Commerce site, ordering through a call center, or browsing through a brick-and-mortar store, customers are expecting a great experience in exchange for their business.
During a recent webinar, executives from ForeSee and Forrester Research discussed the changing needs of today’s customers and how retailers can improve the customer experience across all channels to drive long-term revenue.
Chasing The Elusive Customer
Time and technology have changed the ways consumers interact with businesses. Today’s shoppers hop between channels — from the web, to their mobile devices, to the store — as they venture through the browsing and buying journey.
“Customers are getting smaller pieces of information as they move through the buying process,” said Ron Rogowski, VP and Principle Analyst at Forrester. “They are not necessarily coming to a single touch point with the intent, or attention span, to complete their goal in a single sitting. That is why you see this cross-device behavior with many customers.”
During his remarks, Rogowski shared insights from a Google consumer behavior study released in late 2012, which indicated that 81% of consumers were using their smartphones to look up product information while viewing that product on television.
“Customers do not think about the devices or platforms as much, they are only trying to live their lives and get things done,” Rogowski noted. “When you think about this, and you think of all the touch points that are available, customers are just ‘snacking’ on data that is presented to them through these touch points.”
Gauging The New Customer Experience
The largest obstacle retailers need to overcome is determining the most effective way to accelerate growth, according to Larry Freed, President and CEO of ForeSee. Success, he said, is driven by customer experience, so retailers need to analyze and measure the customer experience to find ways to improve.
“If you are not measuring your customer experience, you are operating your business in the dark,” Freed explained. “This leads to poor investments, missed opportunities and customer disconnect.”
In addition, retailers must take into account that in an omnichannel world, there is no single buying cycle, and the “sales funnel” is not a linear process that businesses can easily follow, Freed noted. To assess the overall shopping experience, retailers need to look at their relationships with specific customers, their past interactions and purchases, and analyze all forms of direct contact and communication.
“Companies do not control the buying process, customers do,” Rogowski added. “We need to change our way of thinking so that we can be where the customers are in the buying process. We need to shift our mindset to understand that it’s not a sales funnel, it’s a buyer’s journey.”
Cashing In On The Customer Experience
Along with analyzing and understanding the buyer’s journey, companies have to unify the customer experience across every available channel. According to Rogowski, the interactions — paired with seamless transitions across touch points — are extremely valuable in understanding customers’ wants and needs.
“Smarter, more contextual interactions will be critical to delivering successful customer experiences,” Rogowski said. “Uncovering the customer’s real needs and goals through these interactions will help you decide what services you need to deliver in order to maintain consistency in the services and offerings you have.”
Rogowski also recommended that retailers test and refine customer engagement strategies as a regular practice. As shopping behaviors and preferences continue to change, retailers should revisit their cross-channel interactions and marketing tactics on an ongoing basis.