Imagine that you are walking from the train station to your office. Using live location tracking, Starbucks sends you a pop-up notification with your regular order, ready to be placed in one click. By the time you reach the franchise, your order is ready and already paid for.
I have always found it fascinating how customer experiences have completely changed in the last few years, and wonder to what lengths it can transform in the future. There was a time when customers had access to a limited number of stores in their locality to shop from, giving them a harder time to find the product of their choice/need. But with the increasing usage of e-commerce platforms, it is amazing how users have a million options to choose from. Purchasing merchandise from across the world has become a child’s play.
As expected, there are some interesting consequences to the spike in choices available. Too many options makes the competition higher, which further results in customers expecting more personalised services. Ultimately, there is a shift in the market from selling products to selling services around products. Their customer service becomes their stand out point, giving them an upper edge in the market. Six in 10 customers ranked service as the second most important factor when considering whether to do business with a company. For two-thirds of Singaporeans, two or more bad experiences with a company will prompt them to take their businesses elsewhere, while a third said they would switch companies after just one negative experience. Especially during the covid season, companies are providing higher customization to their products and services to retain their customers.
But does the competition exhaust here? Not even remotely. Customers are always striving for more, increasing the need for constant innovation. It’s ironic that now customers, with all the purchases moving online, are missing the human touch of personalisation that a retailer provides to their shopping experience. Hence, now when marketers are studying customer experiences of their potential clients, to formulate an omnichannel customer journey, which combines, both online and offline touchpoints.
Oasis, a UK based fashion outlet, portrayed an amazing example of omnichannel customer experience. Oasis created a heavy presence of their products online, on its websites as well as social channels with easy integration between the two. In their stores, the attendants were all equipped with tablets with up-to-date stock information, and set up delivery directly to the customer’s house in case of insufficient stock. Oasis also succeeded in launching a preview of their season to gain customer feedback before the actual collection was launched. The customers rated the collection clothes as ‘love it’ or ‘not for me’.
Innovative ways of engagement is what attracts customers the most, especially if it’s a combination of online and offline. Alibaba Group has put together several new initiatives that take the shopping experience from purely online/offline to an innovative multi-channel approach. Freshippo, Alibaba’s grocery chain leveraging New Retail to converge online and offline shopping, is a smartphone-powered experience. The mobile app provides product information by scanning the barcode, allows cashless payments and eliminates standing in line to pay, offers home delivery options to avoid schlepping the heavy bags back home.
Imagining the near future, I can imagine a drive through grocery store, AR based trial rooms, MYO-Car, live offers or sales and many more attractive engagement techniques that technology and creativity can provide.
The future looks even more promising with companies making use of the data available to them. The companies are using their customer data to target their customers more effectively. With the influx of information about customers as well as the increasing demand for a personalised customer journey, it has become a necessity for stores to integrate technology into their customer experience.