Radical changes took place in 2021 retail sales models, with traditional in-store retailers adopting digital apps and clienteling to offer a hybrid in-store and digital presence. Already-online retailers raced to embrace complex technologies to deliver omnichannel digital experiences. Customer experience can’t mean more to brands, and the human touch of ‘in-store’ assistants is a growing trend to support digital technologies for a hybrid sales process. Sarah Friswell, CEO at Red Ant, discusses what 2022 may hold for retailers to deliver for consumers’ needs and offers some tips to deliver CX that builds loyalty and impacts the bottom line.
This year, retail organizations scrambled to invest in tech to link offline to online and add new business capabilities. But it’s no longer enough to engage with customers – moving forwards, it’s critical to utilize tech to understand your customer data and position the customer as central to all channels. This means prioritizing data integration and enabling customers to shop whenever and wherever they choose.
At Red Ant, we work with our customers to deliver a dynamic, omnichannel digital customer experience that is based on a clear customer data strategy. Customers’ increasing social and environmental awareness adds a new element of complexity to secure a sale. In 2022, retailers will need a strong sense of purpose, community and ethical responsibility to identify with their customers. This means those brands who create an emotional link between their customers and the business will be the ones to reap the most rewards.
Omnichannel must be the key mission for retail customer experience in 2022; to connect up all channels to the customer. Retailers that have already evolved to do this will reap the benefits of customer loyalty and boost revenue, while those sitting on the fence will struggle to compete and impress their customers.
Data integration is vital
In order for a retailer to offer exceptional, seamless customer experiences, data integration, harmonization, and intelligent management must form an intrinsic part of their CX strategy. Integrating legacy, third party and new systems will enable an end-to-end omnichannel solution. Retail decision-makers should know they can typically use their existing infrastructure to launch omnichannel services, from clienteling to order management, workflow, and fulfilment. It doesn’t pay to put integration off, as customer demands will only increase, making it even harder to meet their needs.
Diversity & inclusion
Retailers’ workforce dynamics will continue to evolve, with diversity and inclusion as a core objective for recruitment and culture-building strategies. All retail businesses will have added responsibility to adopt people policies that are fair, transparent, and supportive. Parity of these people policies and employee empathy will be determining factors for suppliers and vendors. The role of the store associate will continue to be elevated as they grow into their roles as tech-enabled shopping companions, whether they’re in store or doing a virtual consultation.
It will be increasingly important in 2022 for retailers to have a strong business purpose. This should tie in digital innovation and intelligent data management, in delivering truly personalized information which is delivered via customers’ preferred channels and part of an omnichannel strategy. To position themselves for success, retailers will need to implement a robust, data-driven technology solution that provides actionable insight across all customer channels to facilitate remarkable customer experiences.
How to handle the conscious consumer
As we enter 2022, retailers’ values will matter more and more to consumers, making the difference between customers choosing them and a competitor. The conscious consumer, concerned with sustainability, diversity and responsible business practices, is looking for increasing engagement with retailers via tools like messaging services and in-store clienteling, for a human dialogue to reassure them and answer their queries. They are increasingly concerned with the social impact of the products they buy, from production to disposal. In-store tech and associates will be a big part of satisfying their requests and making sales. Retailers need to be at one with their customers and ensure that their values chime with them as individuals, therefore supporting them with real-time customer service from properly-equipped store associates will be critical.
Key 2022 retail tech trends
It’s worth being aware of some innovations that are becoming increasingly critical for the shopping experience:
- Personalization of customer experience and shopping by appointment. The store associate knows the customer, hand holds them through the shopping experience and owns the relationship, online, in-store and beyond. Retail brands face challenges to truly personalize their stores, due to rapidly changing consumer needs.
- Click and collect/BOPAK will become an intrinsic part of the seamless shopping experience to enable customers to pick up purchases at their convenience. Therefore, stock management and inventory will become even more essential to efficient store operations, especially when there are challenges to the supply chain.
- Virtual consultations as an extension of clienteling. Customers are choosing to shop on their own terms, and that can be from the armchair, the car or literally anywhere. Retailers will need to ensure their virtual services are able to integrate both new and existing customer data – simply offering a top-layer video call with no data behind it will not be enough.
The chasm of customer service standards has widened, and organizations that have embraced digital technologies to add new capabilities have raised the bar for traditional retailers. It’s easy to predict that this digital revolution in retail will step up a gear next year, but retailers must remember that a robust CX strategy and keeping consistent quality customer experience is more important than just ‘tacking on’ innovation. Managing customer data and having an omnichannel experience will ensure the experience really delivers. And becoming a trusted companion to your customers, guiding them through the process in a personalized and relevant way will convert shoppers into loyal buyers.
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2022 will see retailers further investing in tech to get closer to their customers, to connect online to offline and add further channels. To those retailers who feel left behind, it’s never too late to make a start and real differences can be achieved within a matter of months – so make 2022 your year!
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