Digitization is occurring at such a rapid pace that many industries are finding it hard to keep up with how quickly customers are adopting new technologies. The retail industry is no exception. The question retailers must face is how can they keep up with the trend of an ever-evolving technology landscape, while still providing customers with the personalized experiences they crave.
Conduent recently polled consumers with this very question in mind. The observations helped form “The State of Consumer Experience 2018,” a report that provides insight into what today’s consumers expect and how retailers can deliver.
Fast is the New Normal
With the adoption of emerging technology and a digital-first attitude, consumers expect their interactions with retailers to be seamless and immediate. Conduent found that 61 percent of consumers spend fewer than 10 minutes on any given channel (whether it's email, SMS, social media, chat with a virtual assistant, call center, etc.) when interacting with a retail brand, proving that time is of the essence when communicating with customers.
It seems retailers are adapting well to this demand, with 64 percent of customers surveyed finding a resolution to their issue within one step of contacting a retailer through their preferred channel, and another 16 percent of customers finding a resolution within two steps. The adoption of a consistent omnichannel strategy has helped retailers meet customer demands around immediacy.
However, there are still 38 percent of customers who say they're unable to contact retailers through their preferred channel because it's not offered yet. The industry must continue to commit to omnichannel and explore the various communication channel options if it wants to communicate with customers in channels they're already using.
Human Touch Opens Data-Driven Possibilities
Retailers are finding that several factors affect why consumers are limiting the data they share, including increased awareness around data security and wanting greater control of their data. This means brands are faced with delivering customized experiences without getting the data that's needed to build these truly personal encounters. Retail brands must instill confidence in their customers to gain this type of data.
The quickest way for retailers to gain trust is to use a dependable channel to open communication about customers’ data. Eighty-six percent of consumers said interacting within a store is their most trusted channel, followed by email, then call center. The common thread between these channels is that all three rely on human interaction. It stands then for retailers to continue to invest in person-to-person interactions to create the greatest levels of trust with customers to unlock the data they need. Once the data is in hand, it must be applied intelligently to build the best customer experience.
How to Give the Best Digital Experience
Retailers might find that the first two points discussed are at odds with each other. In other words, how can retailers best deliver a fast experience while still providing the human interaction customers crave?
Chatbots provide the best of both worlds, allowing retailers to humanize the digital movement. According to our report, trust in chatbots will continue to grow significantly over the next five years, to such an extent that 55 percent of consumers would trust chatbots to resolve an issue without the need for any intervention.
Retailers are noticing a strong correlation between the percentage of customers using chatbots and the percentage of customers who would welcome a human safety fallback. Forty-two percent of consumers would feel more relaxed speaking to a chatbot knowing human intervention is available, if required. Therefore, retailers should make sure they're deploying chatbot systems correctly and providing a human fallback to help match expectations in the digital world.
Chances are, most retail brands aren't delivering the best customer experience possible. For a brand to meet the demands of its customers (and be considered “digitally savvy”), the interactions need to address three key pillars: they must be individualized, immediate and intelligent. If a retailer doesn't fully embrace any one of these three points, the experience they deliver will fall flat. In fact, the survey found 86 percent of retailers are not developing an intelligent, individualized customer interaction strategy that targets immediate resolution.
There's a huge advantage for any retailer that does embrace these trends to create a better customer experience, ultimately resulting in increased brand loyalty. Retailers must find the perfect blend of technology and personalization if they truly want to differentiate themselves from the pack.
Sumesh Chawla is the vice president and general manager, retail, travel and logistics, and manufacturing at Conduent, a digital platforms and services solution.
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