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The world has been talking about the retail apocalypse for the last decade - at least. Perhaps it was triggered by issues like rising rent and accelerated by the onslaught of technological advances. One thing’s for certain - expectations regarding customer experience have changed and if your company can’t keep up, you may just fall into the black hole that is the retail apocalypse.

Here are some ways you can improve customer experience and successfully bridge the retail-online gap.

  1. Tailor experiences to the individual customer
  2. Reward the most engaged brand loyalists
  3. Focus on omnichannel
  4. Use social media
  5. Extending the experiential approach to both your online and offline stores

1. Tailor experiences to the individual customer

Customers want to be treated as though they’re special, not just one person in the ocean of customers you likely have. So, personalising experiences to the individual customer can meet that expectation.

Another benefit of personalisation is that it can also help your customers find the solutions to their problems more quickly. Here are some examples of personalisation:

  • Recognising returning customers and website visitors - this could be greeting them by name, recommending products/offers based on their previous website activity or reminding them of what they abandoned in their basket
  • Greeting customers via the first name in marketing emails
  • Personalised product suggestions based on what you already know about your customers (e.g. previous website activity, interactions with customer service, order history)
  • Personalised product suggestions based on what other customers with similar profiles interacted with (e.g. “Other customers also bought…”)
  • Exclusive bundles and pricing offers based on what you know about your customer
  • Search results tailored to the customer’s previous interactions with your website/company

2. Reward the most engaged brand loyalists

Loyalty schemes can easily be overlooked but they’re actually a great way to improve customer engagement and experience. Not only will it help your most loyal customers feel more appreciated, but it also ‘gamifies’ the shopping experience. It provides an incentive to keep purchasing and make bigger purchases.

You could offer various levels within your loyalty scheme (e.g. Bronze, Silver, Gold), where customers climb the ranks based on how much they’ve spent overall or within certain timeframes (e.g. monthly, quarterly). With each level comes different perks and the perks improve as you climb.

Here’s another example: how about a VIP club exclusively for customers who spend a particular amount each year?

3. Focus on an omnichannel experience

An omnichannel experience puts the customer at the heart of your commerce strategy. The modern customer wants to jump from one channel to another and the path they take will often vary from person to person, even if their profile falls within the same demographic and interests as another.

Read the Retail Gazette industry report

When you offer an omnichannel experience, all of these individual customer touchpoints will seamlessly join up. Now your customers can easily pick up where they left one channel (social media, your website, customer service, a physical store etc) and continue the experience on another.

To execute this properly, you need to understand your customers, from their needs and ways of thinking to their buying journey.

4. Use social media

The popularity of social media is only continuing to grow. Studies have also found millennials are having an ever-increasing impact on B2B purchasing decisions:

  • 73% of 20 to 35 year olds are involved in product or service buying decisions
  • One-third are the sole decision maker for their department

And the majority of these millennials use social media to influence their decisions. So, it’s time to build your social media presence if you haven’t already.

You can use social media to:

  • Engage with your target audience by offering customer support or curating user-generated content
  • Monitor trends in the market and use that to influence your product, marketing and sales strategies
  • Widen brand reach via targeted ads
  • Offer purchasing functionalities (customers don’t need to head over to your website if they see something they’re interested in on your social media profile. They could purchase through that channel)

5. Extending the experiential approach to both your online and offline stores

Simply launching an e-commerce store isn’t the answer to surviving the retail apocalypse. Truly bridge the gap by using your online store to improve your offline and vice versa!

This goes beyond offering click and collect services. Transform your brick-and-mortar store experience to be as fun and immersive as your online. Think along the lines of showrooms that allow customers to touch and ‘experience’ products/services before they purchase them.

And then there’s the opposite - transforming your online experience to be as multi-sensory as your offline. For example, augmented reality so customers can see what the product will look like in real-life (without needing to visit a physical store). Or, sales representatives assisting customers via video calls.

Tip: Don’t forget to prioritise brand consistency. Customers might start with your offline store and ultimately complete their journey on your website. Wherever they start and end up, their experience should feel consistent - like they’re interacting with the same brand throughout.

The retail industry has changed dramatically. How can you keep up?

Bridging the retail-online gap is one way to keep pace with the industry. But there are operational hurdles and challenges that have cropped up as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Discover how other retailers are coping and what they’re planning to do in our exclusive report. Produced in association with Retail Gazette, an online publication focused on the UK’s retail industry, we examined how the nation’s retail landscape experienced five years of change in five months.

Download it below to find out more.

Read the Retail Gazette industry report

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