5 Customer Service Trends in Retail and Ecommerce

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Some brands set trends while others simply follow them.

For businesses that operate in the fast-moving retail or e-commerce space, it pays to be up on the latest customer experience trends. Armed with a treasure trove of information, companies can tailor their customer experience strategy to accommodate industry insights, capitalize on timely opportunities to meet consumers’ most pressing needs, and create a customer experience worthy of today’s savvy consumer. 

1. Consumers Prioritize the Customer Experience (over Products and Services)

At one time, the product was king. 

That king has been dethroned. Nowadays, people are buying fewer things and craving more experiences. So, particularly in the retail and e-commerce sphere, there’s been a movement away from selling products to selling services around products, experiences instead of tangibles.

For example, some brands, like sports brand Puma, have created experiential retail concept stores where customers can try out the latest shoes in an in-store soccer simulator. Others have employed augmented reality (AR) and other AI (artificial intelligence) tools to help the customer visualize how they could potentially use a product – without committing to buying it. For instance, IKEA uses AR to help its customers picture how an item of furniture might look inside their homes. 

While their approaches are different, what Puma and IKEA have in common is their laser-focused commitment to providing a unique and unforgettable customer experience. Not every company has the clout of a global retail powerhouse but, with a little imagination and lots of creativity, every company can improve its customer experience.

2. Consumers Expect Hyper-Personalized Experiences

We all know that in any relationship, courting typically comes before commitment. This is especially true in a brand/customer scenario. Before a customer commits to a brand, they need to feel that the brand has gone to some lengths to get to know them first.

According to a recent Google Business article, over the next few years, $800 billion in sales will shift to e-retailers that use site personalization, and away from those that don’t, which is proof positive of the absolute necessity of brands adopting a personalized approach in all their customer touchpoints. When you come down to the bare essence of it all, personalization is a result of great data being used in a smart way to attract and engage customers.  Unfortunately, due to poor data collection and capacity, some retailers and e-commerce companies grapple with delivering meaningful customer personalization.

If your retail or e-commerce brand wants to win the battle for customers ‘hearts and minds,’ it’s incumbent on your team to collect customer data from all touchpoints and provide personalized engagement and support at every stage of the buying cycle – from the initial discovery stage and product or service recommendations to post-sale support. With a 360-degree perspective of customers needs, your team will eventually be able to anticipate its customers’ needs – putting your company head and shoulders above the competition.

However, your efforts in the personalization game are only going to be as good as your data. This is why ensuring you have the necessary intel on both your current and potential customers is so important. Using a comprehensive iCRM tool like Group FiO’s Insight Marketing Platform (IMP) provides you with not only the deepest data available on consumers, but also backs up the numbers with the solid, deployable strategy that yields real results and ROI. If you’re not utilizing a platform that provides both the objective data and subjective strategy your eCommerce business needs to stand out, now is the time to adopt one.

3. Consumers Benefit from Empowered Employees

According to the Richard Branson school of thought, customer experience may end with a company’s target customer, but it starts with its employees.

The basic premise is that, if a company takes care of its employees, its employees will take care of the customers. This is why cultivating the employee experience can have such positive effects on the customer experience. The statistics bear this out, too. Gallup’s 2015 report entitled ‘The Engaged Workplace’ found that “companies with highly engaged employees outperform their competitors by 147 percent.”

Some companies concentrating on employee experience now have CEOs (Chief Employee Experience Officers) onboard and have rebranded their human resources groups to ‘employee experience groups’ where employees not only feel valued and appreciated but also fully equipped to do their jobs.

This mindset expands into providing your team with the tools they need to provide excellent customer service, and the best tool you can give is data. When your entire team has at its fingertips deep zero-party and first-party data on your customers, they’re able to turn that data into a superior CX at every interaction and touchpoint. Additional statistics bare out that employees who feel they are doing a superior job for their organization’s customers report they are four times happier with their jobs than those who don’t have that satisfaction. That’s why a robust CDP like FiO’s Insight Marketing Platform helps you win across the board.

4. Honesty and Transparency

Some brands preach transparency, but the ones that actually practice it will always come out ahead in customers’ eyes.

For example, look at Southwest Airlines, In 2015, they launched a marketing campaign about transparency, aptly titled ‘TransFAREncy.’ According to the low-cost airline, transparency is “a philosophy in which customers are treated honestly and fairly, and low fares actually stay low – no unexpected bag fees, change fees, or hidden fees.”

Far from a marketing gimmick, Southwest Airlines’ campaign secured hard-earned customer trust and differentiated the airline from its competition by keeping to these promises and always erring on the side of meeting customer demands and expectations, and because of this commitment, Southwest saw their patronage nearly double within a year.

Brands that keep their promises, prominently showcase their commitment to superior CX and yes, even own up to a mishap are the brands who will find they’re winning the CX game. Even mistakes don’t have to mean abject failure. Recent polls indicate that consumers are twice as likely to be loyal to a brand that makes a mistake but goes out of their way to rectify the issue than those who never ignored or the incident or did little to apologize for it. Owning the glitch then offering a special offer to a customer to make up for it serve a brand doubly; not only are you resolving the problem for the customer, but you’re also presenting them with a tantalizing offer to secure their repeat business. When communicating your company’s vision, products and services, it pays to remember that a little honesty goes a long way.

5. Take a Public Stand

Some of the most successful retail and e-commerce brands have developed a cult following by taking a stand on social issues that they’re passionate about. For instance, TOMS Shoes created a ‘One for One’ business model, which involves the company delivering a free pair of shoes to a child in need for every sale of its product. 

But not every company’s stance has to be as grand as TOMS. What is most important is that your company nails its colors to the mast on an issue unrelated to its bottom line. For instance, your company could offer loyalty incentives that support social causes that represent the values of your company and your customers. So, instead of offering Betty a discounted product, your company could donate a percentage of proceeds from Betty’s purchases to a charity she supports.

By communicating your brand’s purpose, your company will be well on the road to forging a genuine emotional connection with its customers, which is an excellent foundation for customer loyalty. If customers can connect with (and feel good about) your brand’s purpose, they will be more likely to remain loyal.