By Mary Ann O’Brien, CEO of OBI Creative
Prioritizing customer experience in retail is crucial to ensure positive interactions at every stage in the customer’s journey, from the initial engagement with your brand to the final touchpoint.
In 2024 and beyond, brands will continue to leverage more and more data for tailoring all experiences, delivering more personalized recommendations that enhance the overall customer journey and make things easier and more convenient for the consumer. As we all gear up for the start of a new year, it’s imperative that retailers embrace the latest customer experience trends. In this article, I’ll dive into some cutting-edge customer experience trends reshaping the retail landscape, highlight the importance of a strong brand story, and back it all up through examples of how innovative businesses are thriving by adopting these strategies.
Hyper-Personalization: The Power of Data
Retailers and brands are no longer shooting in the dark when it comes to understanding their customers’ preferences. Why? Because they don’t have to. Advanced data analytics and AI (artificial intelligence) enable businesses to hyper-personalize customer experiences.
Take Amazon, for instance, which leverages its vast customer data reservoir to recommend relevant products to customers based on their browsing and purchasing history. Such personalized recommendations boost conversion rates and make shoppers feel like they have their very own personal shopper.
Seamless Omni-Channel Experiences
Omni-channel excellence is the name of the game, and in my opinion, Warby Parker has perfected it. This eyewear retailer offers a seamless experience across its website, brick-and-mortar stores, and virtual try-on app. Shoppers can browse frames online, virtually try them on, and then visit a store for a physical fitting. Whether you call, click or come in, the experience is seamless and aligned to their brand. This approach not only captivates customers but also drives sales across channels, and generally sends a message that they care, and value, their customers’ time.
The pandemic expedited the rise of contactless shopping, and it’s here to stay. Retailers like Target offer contactless payments, making in-store checkout safer and more efficient. Moreover, curbside pickup options have become a staple, providing ease, convenience, and peace of mind to shoppers.
Businesses that continue to refine contactless shopping options in the name of ease and convenience for the customer are sure to be on the winning side of the customer balance sheet.
Master Your Story And Share It: Authenticity Is Key
Storytelling in 2024 will continue to be about forging emotional connections. Brands that prioritize genuine, transparent communication will stand out in a crowded market. The best brands strive to tell compelling stories that align with consumers’ values, fostering trust and credibility through authentic interactions. In a world bombarded with messages, a great brand story is your ticket to breaking through the noise and truly connecting with customers.
Embrace Sustainable And Ethical Practices
Consumers are demanding eco-conscious and ethical practices from the brands they support. Patagonia stands as a shining example of a company that champions sustainability. They repair, reuse, and recycle their products, pledging a portion of their sales to environmental causes. This shift is influencing customer experience, leading to innovations like package-less packaging, edible packaging, and the use of paper-pulp materials.
By aligning their brand values with environmental values, they not only retain their eco-conscious customer base but also attract new shoppers who value ethical practices and are looking for brands that care about the same things they do. This is what we call true blue brand alignment.
Retailers are diving headfirst into immersive technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). IKEA, for instance, offers an AR app that allows customers to virtually place furniture in their homes before making a purchase. By enhancing the shopping experience, they not only reduce returns but also create an engaging, memorable customer journey – and the data associated — that extends well beyond the holiday season.
Voice Commerce And Conversational AI
Voice-activated devices have become ubiquitous in households, and savvy retailers are taking advantage of this trend. Google partnered with various retailers, allowing users to make purchases using voice commands. This innovative approach not only simplifies the shopping process but also keeps customers engaged and loyal because voice commerce makes it easier for the customer. Providing an easy experience is paramount to the customer.
Exceptional Customer Support
Customer support remains a cornerstone of exceptional customer experience. Access, ease and convenience are key. Zappos, a long-time favorite of mine when it comes to great customer experience, is known for its extraordinary service, offering 24/7 customer support and a 365-day return policy. They have set the standard that a lot of other brands aspire to deliver. They know what customers want, and they deliver it consistently.
To dominate and thrive in the ever-competitive retail landscape, we all must harness the power of technology to deliver an improved customer experience. From hyper-personalization to immersive technologies, companies like Amazon, Warby Parker, Target, Patagonia and so many others are setting the bar high.
These companies invest in customer-centric market research. They believe in being customer-led. By adopting and adapting strategies like theirs, retailers can not only meet but also exceed customer expectations, ensuring long-term success, increased loyalty and increased brand value.
About the author
Mary Ann O’Brien (www.maryannobrien.com) is the founder and CEO of OBI Creative and the author of Ask & Deliver: Discover The Heart Of Your Business By Listening To The Voice Of Your Customers. Recognized as an esteemed branding and marketing thought leader, she has worked with renowned global brands – Intel, Microsoft, Sony, Lenovo, and others – to shape their strategic direction, enhance their brand positioning, and elevate their customer experience. O’Brien has authored Voice of the Customer surveys that have served as the foundation for numerous business success stories. She received a national Integrity Award from the Better Business Bureau and was recently inducted into the Omaha Business Hall of Fame. Her company, OBI Creative, is a 2023 Inc. 5000 honoree.
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