Truly understanding customer needs and effectively translating them into exceptional customer experiences can deliver huge benefits for a company, not only improving loyalty and increasing sales, but empowering staff and boosting the bottom line.
With this in mind, we’ve gathered insight from experts across the globe who offer valuable insight on how this can be achieved.
1. Get to know your customers
According to Heloise Rossouw, senior consultant at Willis Towers Watson, a good place to start is getting to know the customer. “Customer insights on product, price, sales and brand – the four key competitive differentiators in business – make it possible to create a sustainable business model that meets customers’ needs at an affordable cost, provides a great experience and generates profit,” she says.
“We have observed that many insurers have focused mainly on the customer-facing elements of the end-user experience, such as faster, intuitive websites and user-friendly apps, in their bids to become customer-centric. The next step, and more consequential challenge, is to get to know customers better and uncover insights from how insurers interact with them. And finally, once those insights are learned, insurers need a corresponding agile and seamless back-office architecture to connect customer data and insights to service delivery and value.”
2. Make use of artificial intelligence
Nikki Baird, managing partner at RSR Research, says that AI will have the biggest influence in 2018, particularly because many retailers are already implementing solutions that use, or rely on, the technology in some way. This impact will be seen by customers who will benefit from a more personalised and relevant shopping experience. AI should also help retailers better match inventory to customer demand, thereby reducing stock-outs and the need for mass discounts, while increasing profit margins and optimised inventories.
3. Turn your attention to chatbots
Michael Goller from Detego says interacting with customers and offering personalised services will bring AI powered chatbots onto the sales floor, meaning that consumers can get rapid assistance for general enquiries directly on their smartphone. “In the not too distant future, it will be common practice to pull out your phone and ask a question as you enter a store, rather than seeking out a sales assistant or searching through the rails yourself,” he says. “For instance, the chatbot can immediately check with other systems in the background if a particular article is available in your size and notify the staff to bring it to you. These chatbots will bring a form of intelligence into the store that is well-known in online retailing, including targeted recommendations and offers, whilst promoting other popular, similar items, bestsellers, or articles on sale.”
4. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes
Marc Truffault, CPG-RETAIL industry solution experience senior manager at Dassault Systèmes argues that, with increasing pressure from online competitors, brick-and-mortar retailers must increasingly place the shopper’s perspective at the heart of their execution strategies. They must identify how best to deliver a compelling experience in store to keep customers passing through their doors.
“Dassault Systèmes’ ‘Perfect Shelf’ industry solution experience based on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, allows users to create an immersive, virtual 3D store environment and view ideas from a shopper’s perspective. The objective is to enable users to design new retail experiences, at a much faster speed, and improve staff performance while remaining compliant,” Truffault explains.
“‘Perfect Shelf’ allows users to build store environments and navigate them as if they were a shopper, and appreciate how merchandising shifts with customer expectations. Furthermore, the solution allows for increased engagement with global or field sales teams, and lets users create virtual designs and envisage how best to introduce effective merchandising to a store.”
5. Create a truly omni-channel shopping environment
According to Pinar Salk, Microsoft’s industry solutions director for retail, most retailers are yet to deliver an interactive and frictionless shopping experience, largely because they have no way to connect the customers in their stores to the customers using their online and mobile channels.
“Ideally, customers should be able to search for products online, create a wish list, come into a physical store and be personally greeted by an associate who will take them directly to those products,” Salk comments. “However, most retailers have separate siloed systems for capturing operational, online and transactional data, and they often have no way of collecting data from their physical stores. This means they can’t create a 360-degree overview of every individual and their preferences, so they can’t provide a consistent service when customers switch between channels, or identify potential sales and marketing opportunities that would drive sales and customer loyalty.”
Marcos Suárez, retail strategy and growth director at Avanade Europe, offers a solution. “In the past, siloed processes and systems prevented the retailer from offering a consistent customer experience across these channels. However, this has changed thanks to the Commerce Cloud multichannel content management system implemented by Avanade,” he explains.
“Supported by Microsoft Azure, the platform maintains all information about the products, prices, discounts, promotions, loyalty programmes and members, and more. Now mobile customers get an experience consistent with other channels, and obtain promotions that can be used in the store. We’re extending the solution to improve online/mobile click-and-collect order management.”
6. Leverage the power of the intelligent cloud
Through the adoption of intelligent cloud technology, US retailer Columbia Sportswear is able to deliver a more personalised customer experience for its retail, call centre, customer relationship management and merchandising operations.
The sportswear provider will also use Dynamics 365 and Azure to gain consumer insights and business intelligence through consumer interactions, whether through its wholesale businesses, physical stores, ecommerce experiences or mobile channels.
“At Columbia, we have a long history of leveraging innovative technologies to help connect active people with their passions,” said Michael Hirt, chief information officer at Columbia Sportswear. “This practice extends not just to our products, but across every aspect of our business. Through our collaboration with Microsoft, we’re implementing intelligent cloud technology to streamline our global operations and provide additional flexibility and convenience to our consumers.”