Optimizing customer experiences to build loyalty in a contactless retail world
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How retailers can succeed in the new normal
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Optimizing customer experiences to build loyalty in a contactless retail world

How retailers can succeed in the new normal
  • The pandemic and lockdown has led to an overhaul of the overall brick and mortar experience and retailers have had to rethink the whole retail experience.
  • Sarah LaCourse, Senior Director for Strategic Consulting, Epsilon writes about a few strategies that will help retailers succeed in this new world order.
The world of retail was in for a rude shock with the onset of COVID-19. When brick and mortar stores were unexpectedly shuttered last year, retailers had to instantly rejig their omnichannel approach and begin creating contactless customer experiences. While there is no doubt that the pandemic has rewritten the rules of retail, it has pushed retailers to evolve and be in sync with rising customer expectations.

To help retailers succeed in this new normal, here are some key themes that will help them build brand loyalty in this increasingly contactless world.

Guaranteeing seamless online and offline customer experiences

Although customer experience (CX) has become table stakes in the retail industry, rising consumer expectations – both online and offline - continue to challenge brands. Leverage your data and technology to get a single view of your customer and personalize experiences seamlessly across channels. Invest and improve your digital touchpoints – website, mobile app, in-store technology, and e-commerce platforms. Integrating your online and offiline experiences will enable brands to reach out to the right customer, at the right time and with the right message, without wasting marketing dollars.

Shift from program-centric to customer-centric loyalty
Recasting customer loyalty strategy to ensure that brand promises are effectively communicated can be the best path to success. The opportunity for every retailer to leverage their unique brand voice has never been better. Consumers are always on the lookout for a value proposition that reflects the holistic nature of each brand. Brand authenticity, transparency and a connection to global and environmental causes are a few elements that need to resonate with them.

A survey by KPMG in 2019 revealed that 47 per cent of Indian consumers remain loyal to a favourite brand even after a bad experience. It also revealed that when a consumer is loyal to a brand, 93 per cent will recommend it to their family and friends.

Brands with a long-term vision on loyalty, look beyond vanilla programs. They use their loyalty strategies and tactics to create exceptional customer experiences that inspire passion and trust, resulting in long-term relationships. These emotional connections then serve as the steppingstone to enrol customers into a permission-based loyalty program. Brands can then garner data and insights to further deepen the relationship by delivering personalized experiences.

Adapt to customer expectations
Retailers who don’t ride the current wave and do not reinvent, will fall far behind customer expectations. They must constantly innovate and respond by adding functionality to mobile apps, introduce online order and delivery, and take an increasingly omnichannel approach to customer communications.

As the economy slowly limps back to normal, here are some ways in which retailers can navigate in the post-Covid era:

Offer seamless digital and offline experiences – With consumers preferring to purchase online and pick up in-store, integrate the online and offline experience and make it a pleasant one. Leverage technology that makes it easier for the customer to interact with your brand, such as self-pickup or contactless delivery.

Be sensitive in your communication - Keep your email messaging strategy top of mind. Consumers want to hear from you in this time of uncertainty as long as the message is relevant to their current needs. Continue to readjust your messaging and respond to change and uncertainty with empathy.

Be agile - Focus on how to incorporate a new reliance on digital as you plan for re-opening of stores. Be agile as different locations will have different needs. Create a fluid infrastructure at the program, operations, technical and employee levels, that is nimble and expectant of the on-going change.

Give your customers choice - Arm customers with the power to control the conversation through stated preferences in your website or app. Then be where they are to maintain the best relationship.

Personalization and differentiation need to be integrated into every step of the buyer journey to create stellar customer experiences. It is all about reflecting the brand, being sensitive and empathetic to consumer needs that provide a tremendous opportunity for loyalty strategies to evolve. By integrating the ideas shared above into our customer loyalty strategies, we have the potential to find breakthrough success and leapfrog to a new reality.