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Defining the modern retail customer experience

By : Tim Burrow

June 14, 2017 08:00 AM

Customer experience is a term that will no doubt be very familiar to anyone who works in retail. In today's highly competitive marketplace, when the threat from major online players is greater than ever, there's a growing recognition that stores can no longer compete on price alone. Instead, it will be the level of experience offered - both in-store and online - that separates the leaders in the retail industry from the laggards.

 

But what does this actually mean in practice? Many retailers may be focusing so much on new, flashy technology that's intended to wow shoppers that they may be losing sight of what their customers actually want and expect when they go into a store.

 

Ultimately, a strong customer experience comes down to a few key factors; convenience, accessibility and choice. Or, to put it another way, giving customers exactly what they want, whenever and wherever they want it.

 

An omni-channel approach
At the heart of this will be ensuring that consumers are able to get the best experience no matter what channel they use, whether it be in-store, online or on mobile. It's also important to recognize that technologies such as smartphones offer much more than just another sales platform.

 

For instance, figures from Forrester Research reveal that by 2021, consumers will spend $152 billion directly via mobile phones, accounting for almost a quarter (24 percent) of total sales. However, it also noted that overall, mobile phones helped influence some $2 trillion retail sales in 2016, both online and offline, which highlights the importance of creating a seamless shopping experience that allows consumers to transition effortlessly from one channel to another.

 

In-store, this means additional touches such as customer Wi-Fi can actually make a big difference to the customer experience. Combining this with tools such as personalized and potentially location-based marketing can help send the most relevant offers and promotions directly to shoppers’ phones as soon as they walk into a store or even a specific department.

 

Creating a 'wow' factor in-store
Being able to send highly-personalized offers to shoppers' smartphones in store is just the start of offering an in-store experience that sets a retailer apart from its competitors. But while advanced solutions such as interactive multi-touch screens and virtual reality solutions can provide a very visible 'wow' factor for stores, there are many other more practical efforts that retailers can make to enhance the experience they offer in their brick-and-mortar locations.

 

Technology such as an up-to-date POS system may not be immediately obvious to shoppers, but they will certainly appreciate the speedy checkout such solutions can deliver. Being able to walk into a store, get knowledgeable help from an associate anywhere on the sales floor and complete a transaction quickly and easily will create a lasting impression on a shopper.

 

In addition, connecting these POS tools with information such as loyalty profiles and the ability to access inventory also help deliver a more personal level of service that customers will appreciate. The ability to ship to store or home also ensures that associates are able to prevent customer walkaways and close the sale if an item or size they need is out of stock.  The combination of these technology offers ensures a strong customer experience and gives customers the experience they deserve. 

 

Are you wondering where to start or what areas you need to improve?  You can learn more about how these and other tools are helping retail winners achieve significant gains, visit http://www.ncr.com/howgreenisyourgrass, and be sure to take the quick, three-minute benchmarking survey to see how your business stacks up.

Tim Burrow

Retail Solutions Specialist – Consulting Solutions Engineering

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Tim has over 30 years of experience with projects and product solutions involving the translation of technologies into practical solution implementations for retailers. Examples include store Automation, POS and integration around consumer-driven interactions and experiences across channels, and implementation and deployment strategy.