Putting the X-factor in experience

Shoppers are getting more discerning – and fickle. The challenge for retailers is to offer an unforgettable customer experience, online and in real life.

customer experience

How many times have you walked into a store and been met with bored, inattentive or worse, surly sales staff?

Combine bad customer service with today’s savvy shopper and it’s no wonder that retailers are hurting at the sales till. These days, customers have no qualms about walking out the door if they feel that service is not up to par.

In a 2014 survey by American Express, nearly 70 per cent of 1,000 respondents in Singapore said that they would avoid businesses with bad service, while about 80 per cent would pay more for excellent service.

But the mantra of good customer service is often easier said than done. How exactly do retailers offer a great shopping experience if shoppers aren’t biting?

One way is to start from the bottom with training. New ways of training promise to be more than the expensive, old-fashioned programmes of old in dull classroom settings. These new training methods are becoming more interactive, cheaper and offer fun learning for retail staff – especially important when staff are expected to be much more responsive and better informed about products.

Take the startup Myagi, which offers an online training platform for the retail industry. Retailers create their own shareable videos on customer service for sales staff, who in turn are rewarded and given incentives for their engagement.

The subscription-only platform, which can be accessed on mobile, also integrates training data with a retailer’s existing system as well as analyses data from the measuring and giving of feedback.

Another Australian startup, arcade, goes a step further by “gamifying” the retail sales process to boost staff engagement – and increase sales. Its app lets users play games to turn their work achievements into points, badges and levels, helping even disengaged employees rise to the top of the leader-board.

arcade tool in different mobile devices

Image Credit: Arcade

Said David Cherrie, Head of Sales for arcade: “The benefits for retailers have proven to be increased productivity and sales, deeper insights into workforce dynamics and most of all, engaged employees!”

Aside from training sales staff, retailers would do well to keep their eye on customer loyalty too in improving the customer experience. With a deluge of loyalty cards and other points-for-purchases models, conventional customer loyalty programmes are not working as well as before.

Retailers now have to think of new and different ways to reward and incentivise shoppers. Another new loyalty programme possibility: Value-added perks, personalised offers and relevant discounts, such as customised welcome discounts, VIP member checkouts and free snacks in-store.

For instance, members of American online pharmacy Walgreens earn points each time they track healthy activities, such as walking or testing blood pressure, and set health goals.

Taking the high-tech route is American loyalty startup PunchTab. The startup’s platform allows retailers to create loyalty and engagement programmes. For example, retailers can offer a reward every time users show a receipt that they bought a product while collecting this data at the same time. 

Other tech-driven ideas that will help to engage and entice shoppers include dynamic and interactive electronic shelf labels; mobile payment and point-of-sale solutions; and one-on-one interaction with in-app messages.

And, over the next decade or so, artificial intelligence can also provide the next level of customer service. Already, Shell has introduced intelligent virtual assistants developed by Artificial Solutions’ Teneo Platform. Called Emma and Ethan, these online assistants advise the energy company’s customers in the US and UK markets on 3,000 lubricant products and their 16,500 different characteristics.

The list goes on – but what matters most to retailers is to get off their chair, bite the bullet and pick the best solution for their needs.

guide to disrupting retail


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