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Delivering Excellent Brand and Customer Experiences in the New Normal

Mar 03, 2022

Delivering Excellent Brand and Customer Experiences in the New Normal

Delivering a consistent brand and customer experience is a key component to creating loyal customers—especially after the whirlwind of the last two years when many retailers struggled to keep up with the ever-changing state guidelines of COVID-related guidelines and protocols. Some brands were successful in their customer retention efforts—others damaged customer trust by not effectively (or consistently) navigating those changes.

Brands now have an opportunity to reassert themselves as customer favorites, but they can’t just return to the way it was “before.” To help you create a brand and customer experience strategy that will meet customer expectations in the long term, consult this blog for the 3 key takeaways we’ve learned since the start of the pandemic and the top 3 ways to prepare for what’s next.

Learn how Tractor Supply increased YOY comp sales by 130%

The top 3 long-lasting impacts COVID had on the retail industry

1. The digital experience will reign supreme

Long before the onset of COVID-19, organizations were prioritizing digital transformation efforts and opening up more channels and touchpoints for customers and employees to engage with their brand. But the pandemic only exacerbated the need, forcing more aggressive digital expansions across industries.

It’s critical for brands to remain agile as customer + employee behaviors, expectations, and needs continue to evolve. Having the ability to create, target, and deploy user experience feedback channels in a rapid fashion is essential to delivering on the heightened demands of your customer base and providing a great customer experience.

That’s why we have seen an increasing need for self-serve approaches to fielding digital feedback. Digital channels will continue to be a primary touchpoint for how customers and employees engage with brands—and those without an agile solution in place will get left behind.

2. The employee experience has become a make-or-break deal

With the recent record-breaking rise in job vacancies, organizations have been forced to work even harder to provide appealing opportunities to attract and retain employees.

With employee retention a primary concern, monitoring and assessing the employee experience (EX) to improve business outcomes has never been more important. Employee job satisfaction has become a critical objective as companies look to attract and retain as much talent as possible, and a proactive employee engagement program—the ongoing practice of seeking and acting on employee feedback—should be among your core priorities.

From employees’ heightened standards of a safe + healthy work environment, to the continuous need for improved diversity, equity, + inclusion (DEI) efforts, to the need to foster positive team environments that align with employees’ career needs, organizations must work harder to understand what matters most to employees and create the kind of employee-centric culture that wins their loyalty.

3. The customer journey encompasses more touchpoints than ever

Empty shelves. Delayed shipping. Canceled orders. Today’s retail supply chain shortages have created a nightmare for the industry—turning potential customers into frustrated non-purchasers. And with retail supply chain issues expected for the foreseeable future, cross-channel shopping will continue to increase as consumers are forced to leverage multiple touchpoints to fulfill their shopping needs.

The traditional “top to bottom” funnel of the past is no more. Customers now engage with brands when and how they want without a defined trajectory. And brands without an agile customer experience solution in place—one that measures across physical and digital channels—will have trouble providing a consistent experience at every touchpoint.

3 future-proofed customer experience strategies every retailer should implement

1. Continue to provide convenient, contactless options to customers

Buy Online, Pick-up In Store

Though online shopping saw a big bump in the last couple of years, many times the process doesn’t work to fulfill immediate needs. Click and collect or buy online, pick-up in store (BOPIS) options give brands a convenient, contactless channel to help customers get what they need—in a safe way, right away—and not have to take their business to a competitor.

Additionally, click and collect and BOPIS options help brands save in fulfillment + shipping costs, drive store traffic, and, when executed correctly, improve customer loyalty. But the key is in the execution. Follow best practices, such as establishing dedicated parking and a specific, clearly marked location in your store for click and collect or BOPIS customers. It’s also best to designate dedicated staff so you can serve those customers quickly.

For example, one SMG retail client wanted to ensure customers were fully supported across all touchpoints. Through an analysis of their customer experience data, the brand concluded declines in Availability of Assistance had the strongest correlation to increases in ship from store (SFS) and BOPIS transactions. The team also identified the volume tipping points for when Availability of Assistance began to decline.

Following additional field conversations and employee experience feedback results, the brand’s leadership team concluded in-store customers perceived employees were unavailable to help due to filling SFS + BOPIS orders.

To improve the customer experience, the brand launched a new scheduling performance metric to ensure labor was aligned with customer demand. They also provided stores with stationary printers, allowing employees to process SFS and BOPIS orders from multiple workstations within the store. Their actions paid off with a double-digit increase in BOPIS sales and orders, a 13%-pt increase in Availability of Assistance, and a 7%-pt increase in Overall Satisfaction for BOPIS customers.

QR codes

One contactless trend that has seen a big uptick following the pandemic is the usage of QR codes. Our research shows 3 in 5 consumers report use of a QR code and were 1.4x more likely to have used a QR code in the past 90 days vs. before the pandemic. And when it comes to demographics, 55% or more customers of all ages have used a QR code, but unsurprisingly, younger consumers have the highest adoption rates.

Consumers also have a positive outlook on the experience with 85% of those who recently used a QR code reporting the process was easy or very easy. What’s more, almost half of consumers associate them with being environmentally friendly.

While most consumers have used QR codes, usage remains narrow: 78% of respondents have used a QR code to view a menu. But brands of all industries have an opportunity to take advantage of the reemergence of QR codes and expand their purpose.

But again, it’s all in the execution. Our research shows 1 in 3 respondents reported running into an issue when scanning a QR code, with the top frustrations being slow load times and difficulty scanning the code. Expanding the application of QR codes is a natural next step, but brands must make processes—like using QR codes for payment—more seamless and beneficial for customers. One way to encourage usage is to incorporate perks, like accessing special promotions or receiving loyalty points after interacting with the QR code.

2. Prioritize the employee experience by creating fulfilling jobs

Brands must go beyond competitive wages (though money matters, too) to ensure they’re offering different ways for employees to find meaningful work—which means less tedious tasks and more meaningful interactions with customers.

SMG research shows, just after healthcare, retail was the top industry for job seekers—listing pay and fulfilling work as the main reasons they’ll stay at, or leave, a retail position.

The good news is customers want this as well. Our data also shows more than half of consumers prefer to use self-checkout—giving brands an opportunity to reallocate labor away from this process and put more staff on the floor to better serve customers.

Happy customers start with happy employees. Brands can attract and retain top talent by providing a positive experience and rewarding work environment that limits (or automates) tedious tasks and aligns with employee expectations.

3. Set up listening posts across the customer journey

You require a measurement strategy designed to support your evolving business needs—taking into account every step of the customer journey so you can connect with people where they are. With end-to-end, cross-channel customer feedback collection capabilities, you can surface CX insights at each step—from brick-and-mortar locations to digital touchpoints to new + evolving channels.

Location

Get closer to what your customers are thinking by capturing feedback on location-level experiences—surfacing actionable insights that drive loyalty and sales.

Digital

Rapidly shifting behaviors have fast-tracked a new customer experience where digital experience management is part of almost every customer journey with your brand. Through a combination of active and passive engagement methods, you can demystify customer intent and improve conversion, customer satisfaction, and brand loyalty.

Passive feedback

This always-on option lets customers react as they encounter issues, wish to provide feedback, or generally need assistance—giving you insight into the customer experience at the moment they are willing to voice their thoughts.

Active feedback

Invite users to provide feedback at strategic intervals based on real-time user behavior. When you do, you can pinpoint areas of frustration, friction, delight, and improvement for product feedback + validation, UX challenges, A/B testing, purchase abandonment, delivery experiences, and return visit intent.

Ratings + reviews

Capture social media ratings + reviews from the most popular platforms for location-level information and integrate it with your other feedback channels—allowing you to take a streamlined approach to online reputation management.

Contact center

Build better customer connections with contact center experience measurement, making it easier to monitor agent performance, improve service, and stay ahead of potential issues.

Brand

Get better, faster insights on the brand experience at every level of your business by combining operational measurement, attitudinal research, and behavioral data in real time.

Transform retail customer experience feedback into business-changing action

The unprecedented ups and downs of the past two years have made it difficult to prepare or predict what’s coming next. But we do know the most effective way to weather the storm is to leverage the direct feedback of employees + customers. Brands that can adapt their experience management (XM) strategies to meet changing needs and expectations will be the ones to come out on top.

Learn how Tractor Supply Co. was able to adapt to changing customer needs with quick feedback—resulting in a 130% increase in YOY comp sales. Download the success story: Digital enhancements offer new touchpoints for customers + yield significant sales growth.