We all like to think big. It’s energizing to think about customer experience transformation and what that could possibly mean for a business. In the retail industry, many organizations are at a pivotal moment of forging a path forward to define the future-state customer experience where the physical and digital converge. This ambition feels big and can overwhelm and even undermine an organization’s commitment to a customer-centric vision.
Feeling overloaded is not only common in the workplace, but in our personal lives as well. When responsibilities feel daunting, I often shift to a smaller task that I can start and finish, like organizing one shelf in my pantry. This is a good way to reset and take a strong step forward toward my end goal of having an organized kitchen.
When working with retail clients to design, define and deliver their marketing strategy, I often reflect on this approach and use it as a guiding principle to drive continual progress: take a step back and start tackling smaller tasks that are steps on the way to bigger goals, while focusing on opportunities with the potential to deliver big impact.
As we navigate an interesting year of retail revival, now is the perfect time to make some small shifts and shrewd strides forward into 2022. Let’s dive into some small ideas that can help tackle big goals:
1) Think Big: Increase customer engagement with more interactive marketing.
- Act small: Use a QR code! The QR code is back. What once had a brief moment of popularity has re-emerged. During the pandemic, it was an essential means of touchless communication, particularly in restaurants where people of all ages were engaged by the simple need to open a menu on their smartphones. Now the QR code is popping up on product packaging and in-store signage across various industries, and people understand instantly to scan the square. This is a direct and relatively simple means to take consumers to experiential landing pages where retailers and brands can share information about products, including new launches, recipes, instructions, promotions and more.
2) Think Big: Improve customer satisfaction.
- Act small: Upgrade the unboxing experience. Yes, removing a new product from the packaging is indeed an experience, and one that typically takes place in your home and can provide a level of gratification. Taking your new shirt out of the paper bag it was thrown into in the store or out of the brown plastic bag it was delivered in is expected, and the customer is hopefully satisfied with what was inside. But removing the same shirt from a reusable canvas tote that is almost as cute as the shirt is much better and provides excitement for the item as well as the brand. An added touch like a printed box, a piece of tissue paper or a personal note makes the experience even more special. Most importantly, it offers brands an opportunity to differentiate from the competition and make a lasting impression with the customer. There is a shift underway where many retailers do not include a receipt or any communication with ecommerce orders. This is a missed opportunity to tell your customer something — what new products are coming soon, a special offer for them, and the list goes on.
3) Think Big: Build loyal relationships.
- Act small: Increase the level of transparency with customers. What does this mean? Quite simply, tell it like it is. If shipping is delayed and orders are late, tell your customers. If a best-seller can’t be restocked, explain why. This communication can be delivered in an email, on your website or via social media. During a time when uncertainty is still heightened, customers appreciate the truth. And like most personal relationships, customer loyalty is built on trust. Virtual service tools on your website are also a great way to take this a step further and let customers ask questions and get answers quickly.
4) Think Big: Improve supply chain and inventory management.
- Act small: Add a feature to your website allowing customers to search inventory availability in local store locations. This gives consumers an additional element of control in their online buying experience. It also helps to set expectations and avoid disappointment after selecting an item online, only to find it is out of stock in their nearest physical location. This creates an opportunity to drive conversions online rather than risk a poor customer experience during a store trip. Recognizing that driving store traffic is a top priority, a happy customer is better no matter where they choose to purchase.
5) Thing Big: Improve order fulfillment.
- Act small: Improve the buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) experience. Alternative delivery options are the ideal opportunity to offer convenience to the customer and must be executed with that in mind. I recently placed a BOPIS order. To pick up my package, I had to enter the store and go up three escalators to then search for the appropriate counter. This inconvenience was arguably worse than not offering the service at all. New methods of pickup and delivery will continue to evolve, and considering the operations required are essential without compromising the customer need and expectation.
The retail industry is constantly evolving at a rapid pace. As marketers, we are excited about the challenges of reaching new customers, rewarding our best customers and charting a path to growth. Building a roadmap and investing time in long-term planning is essential for advancement. Evolving a retailer’s marketing strategy and approach can take time. Identifying and prioritizing smaller projects with specific and achievable shorter-term goals can accelerate progress toward achieving the longer-term objectives and the big wins. Seeking and striking this balance is a must.
Lisa Katz is VP of Customer Strategy at Merkle. She has over 20 years of marketing experience in brand development, customer strategy and analytics with a focus in retail, CPG, and beauty. Prior to joining Merkle, Katz was a member of the U.S. retail consulting practice at dunnhumby, where she was on the leadership team managing the Macy’s account. She led the Vendor Collaboration team, partnering with Macy’s key suppliers across categories including fashion apparel and cosmetics. Her career includes beauty industry experience, having held both brand marketing and retail marketing roles at Victoria’s Secret Beauty and Jonathan Product Hair Care. Her earlier career was focused on merchandising, having held multiple roles at Bloomingdale’s. Katz received her MBA in Marketing from Fordham University School of Business and a BA in Communications from the University of Michigan. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for The Lion Tales Foundation.