Retail was in the middle of an omnichannel revolution when COVID-19 came into play to achieve 10 years of growth in six weeks.1 Customers reacted quickly to the changing environment by changing their shopping behavior – so retailers had to decipher the new landscape of loyalty.
The biggest change so far? Technology plays the dominant role not only in customer acquisition, but also in customer support and loyalty.
“Retail loyalty has always been a function of three things: price, product range, and convenience,” said Chris Walton, founder and CEO of Third Haus, a retail consultancy. “That hasn’t changed. But what has changed is that technology is now an element in each of these dimensions, changing the way consumers think about their experience with a brand and the data that retailers access can to optimize that experience. “
Few retailers see themselves as technology companies. Still, retailers need to embrace many of the hallmarks of a technology company to deliver a customer experience that will delight and retain customers over the long term. Here’s a look at how new technologies intersect with traditional dimensions of loyalty in the dynamic retail landscape:
Price consistency across all channels
Product prices, promotions, and pricing have a strong impact on loyalty as they determine the first customer expectations. It is for this reason that pricing should be planned so carefully and carefully – if you meet these expectations, you will build confidence. And if you don’t, you weaken it. In fact, a research study from Syracuse found that Price ads on websites that contain competitor prices are more likely to drive purchases and loyalty.2
However, large retailers are more likely to use dynamic pricing – their prices change based on the store or the customer’s geographic location.3rd It’s a risky move because we know consumers are comparing prices. In fact, almost 70% of online shoppers According to a study by MarketingTrack, compare prices on Amazon.com before making a purchase. Add to this the increased use of third-party shopping apps like Shipt and Instacart, and these inconsistencies can affect a retailer’s customer experience.
“Retailers who are consistent in pricing have a real-time understanding of all the options offered to their customers in both the digital and physical worlds,” said Walton. “A successful omnichannel experience is one where customers see the same options – pricing, range, convenience – whether they’re shopping in-store, online, or from a third party.”
Product range and recommendations that customers don’t see anywhere else
While consistent pricing is important to brand perception, it can be difficult to compete on price alone. It is for this reason that so many retail experts rely on product exclusivity and personalized recommendations as powerful levers to attract customers.4th
Exclusivity is an effective tool for customer loyalty. Exclusive timing drives urgency, and exclusive merchandising and partnerships ensure customers choose your retail brand over another. For example, Target regularly works with celebrities and design studios on unique product collections.5 and popular e-commerce brand Universal Standard has partnered with brands like Adidas6th and Erdem.7th Exclusivity can also increase conversions: 33% of retailers surveyed in Digital Commerce 360’s 2021 Performance and Conversion Report said that exclusive products are very important for optimizing their conversions.8th
But while merchandising retailers may have relied a little more on guts than analytics in the past, advances in retail technology have shifted that balance, allowing retailers to make intuitive decisions that are backed by data. Retailers can use this type of intelligence to curate and segment selections of goods for hyperlocalization and hyperpersonalization, as well as understanding consumer needs and responding in innovative and meaningful ways.9
We see this technology both in store and online. In the stores, retailers like Morrisons were able to use a digital fulfillment platform like Blue Yonder to improve the stock forecast and replenishment at almost 500 stores, thus reducing the shelf gaps in the stores by up to 30%.10 There are now online e-commerce stores like Skafos11 use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to assess customer preferences and personalize the shopping experience based on intent. Retailers can use technology to accelerate product discovery and up- and cross-sell complementary products.
The new meaning of comfort
In the past, convenience was related to the location of the store – was it easy to pop by on the way home? – or one-click shopping on an e-commerce site. But today the concept of convenience has gotten much broader, taking into account several factors of the customer experience including:
Online shopping experiences provide brands with a great opportunity to expand and diversify their customer base and achieve cost savings and efficiency in delivery to customers, said Sagar Rajgopal, chief operating officer at Ubiquity, a BPO specializing in retail CX. However, the postponement can also come with challenges, such as higher volumes of customer inquiries, longer customer service wait times, and the need to need more customer service reps to fill the gap, he explained.
Recent consumer research by Kustomer found that 79% of consumers are frustrated if they cannot contact customer service on their preferred platform and 81% of consumers would abandon a purchase because of a poor service experience.12th Offering sensitive and responsive service options across multiple channels are becoming increasingly important comfort factors.
“If you want to increase loyalty, customers need to feel like you value their voice,” added Rajgopal. “By opening communication channels like phone, chat, email, social media and in-app, your customers feel empowered because they can communicate with you how and when they want. If you make it difficult for them to reach you, that could reduce maintenance costs, but it could cost you customers. “
“The most important question we get from ecommerce customers is, ‘Where is my order?’ Agents and automated systems need to be able to provide answers, which can be difficult due to a lack of visibility from your third-party partners, “said Rajgopal. “The more insight your customers and agents have into the delivery process, the better. And that usually requires integrated technology tools. “
Technology as a lever for pricing, choice and convenience
At first glance, the complexity of integrating technology into each level of the consumer lifecycle may seem overwhelming. But as retailers recognize the potential cost savings and conversion opportunities that can come from investing in technology and support for the customer experience, the best way forward becomes obvious: pricing, choice, and convenience will remain the main pillars of customer loyalty in retail. Retailers who use technology to optimize these three things will be most successful.
Learn more about using technology to improve your brand’s customer experience.
- McKinsey & Company. (nd). The acceleration. McKinsey quarterly. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/five-fifty-the-quickening
- Jones, G. (2020 August 25). How does pricing affect customer loyalty? Intuitive MintLife. https://mint.intuit.com/blog/updates/how-does-pricing-affect-customer-loyalty/
- “Dynamic product prices and costs based on location via zip code or IP recognition”, Optimum7, https://www.optimum7.com/blog/programming-2/location-based-pricing.html
- Amaro, S. (2021 April 13). Retailers are innovating and luring customers back into physical stores. CNBC.
- “Target’s Latest Designer Collaboration Sheds Light on the Future of Fashion,” Vogue Magazine, https://www.vogue.com/slideshow/target-designer-dress-collaboration-christopher-john-rogers-rixo-alexis
- “Together we fit perfectly”, Adidas, https://www.adidas.com/us/universalstandard
- “Erdem and Universal Standard team up for a groundbreaking denim collaboration,” Vogue Magazine, https://www.vogue.com/slideshow/erdem-universal-standard-collaboration-launch
- “The Shopper Speaks: Getting Customers to Convert: 10 Hidden Insights That Deserve Attention,” Digital Commerce 360, https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2021/03/09/the-shopper-speaks-getting-customers-to-convert-10-hidden-findings-that-deserve-attention/
- “Merchandising of the Future”, Accenture, https://www.accenture.com/_acnmedia/PDF-73/Accenture-Merchandising-of-the-Future.pdf
- “Artificial intelligence for retail in 2021: 12 practical use cases”, SPD parliamentary group, https://spd.group/artificial-intelligence/ai-for-retail/
- “Guide shoppers to quickly find the products they want,” Skafos.ai, https://www.skafos.ai/
- “Consumers love live chat, but businesses don’t use it. Here’s why,” Kustomer, https://www.kustomer.com/blog/live-chat-for-business/