Why Retail Brands are Not Just Products Anymore, but Living Experiences
The retail industry across the globe is not dying – it’s changing. As more shopping channels become available, customers are becoming more sophisticated. Amazon has seen this transformation and is accelerating their digital transformation accordingly. They understand their customer and, in turn, have turned to a more customer-focused retail strategy.
“I would define Amazon by our big ideas, which are customer centricity, putting the customer at the center of everything we do.” - Jeff Bezos.
Retailers are competing with the best experience a customer has ever had. This is why everyone is talking about the customer experience and its relevance.
What is Customer Experience?
When customers go shopping, be it online or offline, they are creating experiences with brands through their services and products. Every interaction is an experience. A lack of interaction can be an experience as well though not a positive one.
The customer experience is based on the emotions customers feel while buying or using a product. For good or for bad, emotions help us remember. So if we have a good experience, we will more likely buy a product from this brand again because we associate that positive feeling with it. This leads to brand loyalty.
Why is it so Important to Create Loyal Customers?
Mark Greif said: “The problem is experience […] gives us the feeling we are really living, but makes us unsatisfied with whatever life we obtain.” Experience leaves consumers expecting more. The better experience a company delivers, the more customers expect from them moving forward. Companies who do not understand this will not sustain success.
“The customer experience determines whether or not a customer make a purchase.”
Why Retailer Must Focus on Customer Experience?
As studies of Millennials and Generation Y have shown, “Millennials choose experience over stuff and expect great service.” Millennials are already the largest generation by population in America and will soon take over the top spot in Germany as well. With Generations Z and Alpha having grown up with technology, they are even more tech-savvy and used to better service.
Click and collect, cashless payments, personalized advertisements, interactive in-store use of a smartphone, and lineless store experiences will become the standard. Once they have experienced it once, they will expect an equal or better experience the next time. Through personalization and interactions with customers, retail brands are becoming living experiences.
Zara is a great example of this. With the slogan “Experience the Look,” the Spanish retailer Zara recently introduced its new AR Shopping App worldwide. This app effectively brings fashion to life.
“You can point the camera at everything from a mannequin to an empty Zara store window, to the screen on your e-commerce purchase, and the clothing will come to life on a model for several seconds. From there, you can click to shop the look and related items.”
Zara looks to spur in-store visitation through their digitally-connected experience, with the expectation that customers remember HOW they bought their look. In effect, Zara is changing return on investment to return on experience.
How to Ensure Great Customer Experience for Retail Brands?
When creating a great customer experience, companies should think outside the box (and the industry). Today’s customers are taking the best experience from one industry and demanding a similar or better experience in others.
Senior Vice President at Walmart Services and Digital Acceleration Daniel Eckert said customer experience is “[…] about saving stress, time, and addressing customer pain points.”
Mastering the different online and offline retail channels means staying on top of the needs and preferences of the customers; knowing where and when they want personalized products and services. However, the most important thing is to be real to your customers and to build an emotional connection. By engaging with the customer in a way that it creates a positive impression, brands can create a living, lasting experience.