How retail can build the customer experience of the future.

The customer experience of the future is all about digital.

No one would argue that 2020 was a year of significant change and disruption. But some of the developments we’ve seen in the consumer space have been on the horizon for some time and the necessary changes to business as usual just accelerated implementation. 

While retail outlets are now open and encouraging more shoppers to return, the customer experience is changing fast. And perhaps forever. For example, the sensory experience of shopping is a thing of the past. Sample products are packed away and atmospheric scents have been swapped with hand sanitiser and disinfectant (two smells that are now strangely comforting).  

The sensory experience has been replaced with a digital, contactless experience. In fact, digital is driving the whole customer experience of the future. 

Digital solutions for building the customer experience of the future

Customer experience has always been a primary focus for retailers. And, if your brand is going to survive and thrive post- pandemic, you need to understand and embrace what the future of the customer experience is all about. 

Here are the top digital trends that are shaping the future of customer experience and how you can adapt to the ever-changing digital consumer.


1. Personalising contactless interactions

In a recent retail industry survey  87% of surveyed consumers said they would prefer stores with contactless or self-checkout options. Retailers, however, need to put technology and processes in place that allow customers to opt-in or opt-out of human interaction. Customers expect to be treated like humans, not numbers,  which is why this experience needs to be personalised.

In a contactless world, customers can begin their initial interaction online or in-store and later complete it at the register or at home. You need to create a unified, personal experience at every touchpoint you have with your consumer.

A recent global Salesforce research survey found that 76% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations and will take their business elsewhere to find an experience that matches these. For retailers that are able to deliver a more human touch, the rewards are considerable.


2. Incorporating more smart customer support tools

Customers have come to expect instant and simple experiences with retailers. Slow service or having to bounce between multiple channels to attend to customer concerns is no longer acceptable.

More companies are exploring solutions that improve the customer journey by incorporating smart customer support tools, including mobile messaging (via text or chat apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger).

Customers enjoy the ease of communication via messaging rather than calling into call centres. For many consumers, mobile is the only technology used to access online services, which makes it a great reason for retailers to hop onto mobile devices.


3. 24/7 Support

As consumers grow accustomed to conversational interactions with brands, immediacy has become vital. To the extent that  64% of consumers expect companies to respond to and interact with them in real-time.

Customer service 24/7 and digital support are becoming more important – especially since most online shopping is done after hours. 

Chatbots are a helpful solution for offering after-hour support through automated customer service. As technology and algorithms advance, chatbots are becoming more popular, securing a valuable role in customer experience.


4. In-store automation

Brands estimate that by 2030, 67% of in-person engagements (sales assistance, information queries, etc.) will be completed by smart machines. This includes voice-based Artificial Intelligence assistants, augmented and virtual reality and holographic technology. 

Brands, however, must find the balance between the use of smart machines for performance with the empathy that humans bring. Technology, especially if consumer-facing, should be a tool to augment, not replace, humans.


5. Data and unified communication

Data will continue to play a major role in customer experience as it allows retailers to create personalised experiences for them. 

However, data storage is changing. 

It can now be combined into one platform, driving real-time insights through highly accurate user profiles.

Communication is also being managed through a single platform. 

“Finding a solution that combines customer data with consolidated channels will help you serve your customers better and engage with them in more meaningful and personalised ways,” according to MediaUpdate.


6. Mobile payment integration

With the rise in e-commerce, more companies have already started integrating mobile payment systems into their social media and messaging channels to streamline the customer journey and boost their sales.

In South Africa, however, cash still dominates according to a 2019 report by Deloitte. “For most consumers, cash is immediate, simple to use and easily understood, accepted almost  everywhere, with no apparent hidden fees and can generally be trusted.”

Digital solutions for building the customer experience of the future

Technology has fundamentally changed consumer behaviour. The future of consumer behaviour is more digital, more mobile, more social and more engaging.

To keep up, brands must embrace a holistic customer experience strategy that incorporates more digital solutions to create the customer experience of the future. 

Do you need help creating that kind of customer experience. Get in touch and let’s see how we can help. 

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