As the UK battles with the longest double-dip recession for more than 50 years, it would be all too easy for retailers to take their eye off the ball when it comes to customer service. However, no plan to boost efficiency should come at the cost of keeping customers happy, as this can be make or break for a business' bottom line. It's a well acknowledged fact that good customer experience increases the likelihood of repeat custom and long-term loyalty. On the other hand, a poor experience not only impacts revenues, but can quickly lead to brand damage, especially with social media channels offering an immediate and far-reaching platform for broadcasting discontent.
So, when the customer is still king and central to the success of retail businesses, the question remains - how can retailers create the kind of quality service and environment that attracts customers?
This is where technology comes to the fore, changing the face of the retail industry. From instore WiFi and augmented reality, to mobile coupons and vouchers, retailers have an unprecedented opportunity to engage with consumers in a more meaningful way. Here are some top tips for getting started:
Attract tech-savvy shoppers
Retailers must create the right touch-points throughout online, mobile and physical environments in order to welcome digitally savvy shoppers. Deliberately blurring the online and physical environments will ensure that customers have a consistent brand experience, no matter what the platform. For example, it's fairly straightforward to ensure a readily accessible shelf barcode is provided to take customers to a branded mobile site with relevant product reviews and additional information.
Stay one step ahead of changing retail etiquette
Advances in technology means that the margin on whether consumer make a purchase or not is much smaller - it's easier than ever to buy goods elsewhere, whether that be in a physical or virtual alternative. With this in mind, retailers need to make sure that the first impression they give consumers is the right one and the one most likely to incentivise a purchase.
Engage with consumers on social networks
Predictions from earlier this year claimed there will be 1.43 billion social network users around the world in 2012 - a 19.2% increase over 2011. The boom in social media activity offers retailers another platform on which to engage with consumers. It provides an easily accessible point of contact for a brand as well as a means of hearing and dealing with customer satisfaction/discontent directly, in order to maintain trust and shopping preferences.
Drive customer loyalty with cutting edge customer intelligence
The likes of social media, digital promotions, and smartphone analytics open up a new world of customer intelligence for retailers. To avoid getting overwhelmed by the sheer amount of customer data that's available, retailers must link all the channels together to identify trends in consumer behaviour. Once this has been done they can capture, manage and process it in order to build more accurate behavioural profiles. This means they can identify consumers with certain habits and target them in a much more sophisticated way.
Technology offers an undeniable opportunity for retailers and brands to better interact with consumers in a bid to keep customers happy. However, rather than being a replacement for human interaction, it is an enabler. Technology provides the data and communication platforms for retailers to better connect with their customers. The ones that get it right in the coming months will be those that fully commit themselves to delivering consistent customer satisfaction, no matter what the touch point.