3 Ways to Drive the Retail Customer Experience

When shopping for a product, the price and quality of an item are often key differentiators for consumers. In today’s digital world, however, the customer experience is equally, if not more, important.

A positive customer experience is imperative to the success of any company. According to American Express, 68% of customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience. Therefore, to ensure consumer satisfaction – and brand loyalty in the long run – retailers must find new ways to meet and exceed customer demands.

Today, many retailers are embracing the power of technology to better understand consumer expectations and stay ahead of the competition. Brands like Under Armour, ULTA Beauty, and The Entertainer are relying on data to anticipate customer needs, provide unique product recommendations, and establish a more convenient shopping experience.

Anticipate Customer Needs

The most successful companies are the ones that truly understand their customers. Instead of attempting to blindly set new design trends, retailers should place consumer needs at the forefront of every decision. By using analytics, retailers are able to predict customer demand and develop products that fulfill those requirements.

As stated in a white paper by IDC, “disruptors are finding ways to create retail experiences that lure customers to find and buy products and services they didn’t even know they needed.” Further, “retailers need to focus on driving rapid innovation to fuel growth, and…they need to apply a test-and-learn approach that starts with design thinking and is supported by iterative development.”

Under Armour is one example of a retailer that is implementing new software to redefine its business strategies. With the objective of anticipating changes in product supply and demand, the retailer enlisted the help of SAP. Through SAP’s HANA platform, Under Armour collects data in real time to analyze customer workout habits. The retailer interprets data gathered from wearable technology devices and previous purchases to understand consumers and make sure it is developing the right products to fulfill customer needs. Because of its use of predictive analytics, Under Armour is able to stay ahead of industry demand and create revolutionary products that boost muscle performance, absorb moisture, and keep athletes cool – delivering an enhanced customer experience.

Deliver Unique Product Recommendations

In today’s competitive market, retailers need to do whatever they can to gain new customers, while keeping the current ones. While e-commerce is making it easier for consumers to search for and find any product online, there are ways that retailers can improve the likelihood of repeat customers. One method is to create a unique, personalized shopping experience by building a comprehensive customer history.

Results from a Forrester survey indicate that 61% of consumers value the ability to ask a sales associate for product recommendations. It is crucial that retailers provide their employees with information specific for every customer. To deliver a truly personalized shopping experience, associates need to know a customer’s shopping history, including their preferences, sizes and tastes.

In today’s connected world, a comprehensive understanding of a customer’s likes and dislikes is expected—and brands like ULTA Beauty are establishing solutions using that knowledge.

ULTA Beauty carries more than 20,000 products, all of which have different ingredients, features and benefits. While consumers are often overwhelmed by the surplus of options, associates are expected to know the products and the client in order to offer personalized recommendations. ULTA Beauty’s Clienteling app allows associates to use comprehensive data collected through prior purchases to execute a cosmetic consultation and provide a seamless shopping experience. This type of service is a key driver in their growth, as the company recently noted in their positive earnings report.

Create Convenient Shopping Experience

Omnichannel shopping experiences are becoming commonplace in today’s digital landscape. Retailers are using new channels to reach customers in more efficient and effective ways. To truly stand out amongst their competitors, retailers need to focus on the growing online customer base and make shopping as convenient as possible.

According to Forrester, combined online and web-influenced retail sales are expected to reach $1.8 trillion by 2017. Today, many consumers find e-commerce more convenient than shopping in traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Better prices, online payment, and easy deliveries are just a few of the reasons why consumers appreciate the convenience of online shopping. As retailers are adopting online strategies, some are investing in unique offerings to elevate the customer experience.

Retailers like The Entertainer are using data to establish new services, taking their customer experience to the next level. The Entertainer – the UK’s largest independent toy retailer – is using analytics to monitor company inventory and offer 30-minute click and collect, and 90-minute delivery options. Due to its firm grasp on product data, The Entertainer is able to update its online catalog and offer products that are available and will be delivered on time – resulting in a convenient, easy-to-use service that has led to a 42%  increase in online sales.

The Road Ahead

Today, the power of data is unprecedented. As these retail examples illustrate, customer analytics can completely transform the way a retailer operates. With in-memory databases and a digital core, retail executives have access to a 360-degree view of the customer. They no longer need to agonize over the unknown, because they can collect both historical and live data to digitally transform their business operations. While a positive customer experience is important to many businesses, the most successful retailers are the ones that employ data to redefine processes and deliver superior customer experiences.

Lori Mitchell-Keller, is the SAP Global Manager of Consumer Industries

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