Trends July 23, 2020 by Yulia Nazarenko

Retail Customer Experience in 2020

Specifics, trends, and some instant magic.

What makes us buy a product right away, without that “sorry, I’m just looking” excuse and a row of abandoned carts behind? Before you bring up the 4 P’s of marketing, remember the last purchases you made. No doubt that Product, Price, Place and Promotion played their role, but there’s a kind of magic that pulls you into that very store and turns your pockets inside out.

Retail professionals call it customer experience, and invest fortunes in research, branding and technology to make it as rich and immersive as possible. Call it magic, call it true—in this blog post we’ll figure everything out!

What Is Customer Experience in Retail?

Retail customer experience, or CX, can be defined as the process of interaction between a customer and a retail brand. These interactions take place both online and offline, and the exact split between channels depends on how digitalized a particular business is.

Any type of CX is composed of several touchpoints or steps. By guiding your prospects gently through this journey, you make them feel valued, and ensure that the experience will last for a long time, becoming a recurring cycle rather than a single one.

Some examples of outcomes from crafting a seamless retail CX are:

Positive effects of seamless customer experience on retail metrics

Not to mention that in the long run, it contributes to overall customer loyalty, cutting churn rates and acquisition costs and boosting customers’ lifetime value. In the best-case scenario, this also leads to advocacy and word of mouth, a great source of motivated free traffic.

It’s no surprise that in a recent Frost & Sullivan survey, 85% of business owners claimed that enhancing customer experience was one of the top-rated drivers for commercial success, followed by leveraging compliance and improving business productivity.

So, what are the touchpoints and how to make a difference? CX is composed of interactions at every stage of the buying cycle: awareness, consideration, purchase, retention and advocacy, and therefore include marketing communications, actual visits and post-purchase activities.

There is also a more focused approach which limits CX to the interactions that take place in-store or on the website. That sounds reasonable, because people who are already visiting your website or store are halfway to making a purchase.

By converting them, you leverage acquisition costs and build future relationships. On the other hand, failing at this point is like having a leaking bucket: lots of effort and investment with minimum profit.

Retail Customer Experience in 2020: Trends and Issues

All the trends for the rest of 2020 will obviously be influenced by the COVID outbreak. The lockdown played the devil with offline retail, which is not likely to return to pre-pandemic levels in the next five years. Ecommerce, on the other hand, is growing faster than ever, which shows a great shift in the way people shop. 

We came up with three main CX trends which are worth considering when planning for rest of the year and budgeting for 2021.

Contactless Offline Interactions

Driven by customers’ needs and concerns, ecommerce and offline retail biggies have been developing a range of cashier-less concepts, starting from curbside pickups and finishing with smart carts and touchless kiosks.

One recent innovation was introduced by Amazon. Their “Dash Cart” handles the checkout process, eliminating checkout lines and making the whole shopping experience totally contactless. One more example is 7-Eleven, which introduced voice-activated fuel purchases using Siri shortcuts in their mobile app

The smartest thing about such innovations is not only making the experience touchless, but also the fact that it’s linked to loyalty programs: both Amazon smart carts and 7-Eleven payments are activated through the apps with membership. Apart from safer transactions, their customers get extra rewards and discounts.

Sales Shifting Online

Before the pandemic, crafting a seamless offline and online experience was at the heart of retail strategies, especially when it came to apparel and beauty products. In these categories, trying things on is the main part of the consideration stage, and we witnessed lots of shifting from online to offline and back.

For instance, 79% of US shoppers purchased new beauty products in-store even if they discovered and evaluated them online. The reasons were that they didn’t want to pay for shipping or wait for delivery, And what they really wanted was to touch the product before buying. This behavior can be observed in other eсommerce categories too.

Many eсommerce retailers started to develop offline channels, pop-up stores, and brick-and-mortar stores to invest in their online presence. But at the beginning of 2020, we faced radical changes. In April alone, eight out of ten consumers searched for a product online and 74% made a purchase.

Due to this huge swing, Zara is closing up 1,200 of its offline stores in hopes of boosting their online share, and Microsoft is permanently shutting down most of its physical stores except four key “experience centers” and the flagship shop in Redmond.

So, what are the key takeaways here? Grow your online share and try to recreate the offline experience as much as you can, especially when it comes to trying on and comparing items. For instance, take a look at augmented reality (AR) solutions for retail: this could be a major asset to give your customers close-up details of a product or enable them to try on makeup or shoes.

Mobile-First Strategy Is More Vital Than Ever

Going online looks like a half measure if we consider mobile share growth. According to The Next Web, in April 2020, 76% of consumers aged between 16 and 64 confessed they were spending more time with their smartphones or mobile phones compared to pre-pandemic days, and 51% said they made at least one mobile purchase. And this trend is not likely to taper off; the lockdown has skyrocketed the already-growing mobile audience numbers.

Optimizing for mobiles or banking on mobile apps is actually a matter of choice. Some eсommerce brands don’t bother creating standalone apps because their websites are perfectly optimized. One such example is the Glossier beauty brand: their website has billing and tons of visual content but loads quickly and is easy to navigate and take action.

Now that consumers from older generations are finding online shopping to be the new norm, such basic things as mobile-optimized fonts and buttons, legible calls to action and easy navigation are becoming crucial.

We also mentioned the speed first because even a one-second load time delay can drastically impact mobile conversions. According to Google, it can result in up to a 20% drop.

But every cloud has a silver lining: if a slow mobile experience can draw potential customers away, a fast one will help to keep and convert them.

All the trends above show a tremendous shift to digital: in-store or online, we are moving towards the era of do-it-yourself shopping with minimum effort. Let’s take a closer look at eсommerce now, because it looks like the promised land for retailers who plan to boost sales or grow their client base.

3 Tips for Building CX in Ecommerce

The main quirk of the online retail experience is that there is minimum human assistance throughout the customer’s journey. But human assistance doesn’t mean a human touch: you can always make the online experience as comfy and personal as possible. Grab some tips!

#1 Personalize Whenever You Can

When it comes to retail, personalization means offering the right product at the right time. In most cases, this means listening to your customers’ specific needs, collecting and analyzing data, and keeping track of all the interactions.

The more your business looks like a 5-star hotel with concierge service, the better! By suggesting relevant offers and staying in the context of your customer, you make them feel valued, which leads to trust and loyalty. It’s been proved by statistics: 80% of consumers are more likely to buy from brands which offer a personalized experience.

To start with, decide where you want to put the personalization, which data you’ll need, and which tools you’ll use to create the experience. This could be:

  • “You might like…” and “Others also purchased…” tips on the website;
  • Emails or push notifications with items on sale that a customer recently browsed;
  • Blog posts or in-app tips on how to choose a product the client is interested in;
  • Streamlining search results according to the customer’s previous behavior or providing the option to upload an image and search for similar items.

# 2 Invest in High-Quality Content

The most relevant and timely offers are a key priority, but the way you present them matters too. Poor quality images don’t add value and can even confuse customers; that’s why many apparel ecommerce businesses use 360 videos or even AR options to show the products in the best light.

One more reason for mastering video content marketing is an information consumption trend we’ve been witnessing these years: people prefer to watch a video rather than read text. According to Cisco, videos will cover 82% of internet traffic worldwide by 2022. But keep in mind another trend: due to short attention spans and on-the-go mobile usage, your videos should be no more than 30 seconds long.

Consider producing video content that will help on all the stages of the sales funnel. Here are some examples:

Types of video for each stage of the sales funnel

Take Care of Web Performance ← The Magic Is Here!

The more content you have, the more complex your system gets and the more difficult it is to serve a quality shopping experience. Poor web performance leads to slow page loads, higher bounce rates, and churned customers who won’t come back because they got tired waiting for your catalog to load.

Accelerating websites enhances customer experience instantly and naturally. The first step to take is visual content optimization, as on an average website, images can take up to 38.5% of total page weight. In ecommerce, it’s easily over 70%.

So, if you plan to grab this low hanging fruit, make sure that:

  • You consider each individual shopper’s context: device, browser, network, etc.
  • You implement next-generation image formats;
  • All the images are properly compressed;
  • Mobile responsive images are in place;
  • You take advantage of a lazy loading method.

If you don’t want to spend your time on these infrastructural adjustments, you can use a ready-to-integrate solution like Uploadcare. Its Adaptive Delivery tool analyzes each user’s location, bandwidth, device and browser type, and automatically tunes image formats and quality levels to match. This highly personalized technology is possible thanks to an end-to-end cloud content delivery network composed of 288K nodes around the globe.

The faster your website is, the more items its visitors will see per shopping session, which increases conversion and successful transaction rates.

Key Takeaways

Enhancing customer experience in retail is a top strategy to crash the market. Long-evolving information consumption trends, impacted by the recent crisis, suggest a massive shift to online, so digital interactions should be personalized, rich in visual content, and optimized in terms of web performance.

Take care of every step your customers make, and enjoy long-lasting relationships while Uploadcare keeps your website fast and efficient.

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