With consumer prices beginning to plateau, retailers are beginning to feel cautiously optimistic over their future revenue streams. However, the index remains up 3.2 percent from a year ago, and with federal student loans now due for the first time in over three years, this makes a recipe for wallet-conscious shoppers.
Now, shoppers are cutting back on costs in efforts to weather the economic storm. They're splurging less and opting for cheaper alternatives, which sometimes turns them away from the retailers they usually rely on. As such, to maintain revenue while consumers are watching their wallets, retailers must do everything they can to inspire customer loyalty.
When customers are loyal, a retailer is less likely to lose discount-chasing shoppers to a competitor. Because customer retention costs much less than new customer acquisition, inspiring loyalty is more important than ever. Retailers should first look internally at their stores and staff to provide the best service and build relationships with existing customers. To do so, retailers should make shopping easy, provide standout customer service, and unify every channel that customers shop across.
An Easy Shopping Journey
Providing the most convenient shopping experience inspires customers to return to a brand, especially if they have a time crunch and need somewhere reliable to turn. For example, a shopper may be on a last-minute search for a woodsy-scented candle ahead of a gift exchange that night. A clear, well-labeled and organized display of candles allows the shopper to identify and meet their need in quick succession. Now, the next time they have a last-minute purchase to make, that store will be top of mind.
Standout Customer Service
Well-trained employees who are prepared and educated on store operations make all the difference for customers because their needs can now be met with precision and care. Resources like portals with standard operating procedures and messaging help equip employees to prioritize customer needs. For example, with access to protocol at employees’ fingertips, an associate can quickly communicate to the previously mentioned candle shopper that the candle assortment has been moved across the store.
Customer service also goes beyond face-to-face interaction. Employees should also be prepared to accommodate online requests with quick efficiency, which will lend to customer confidence in that retailer and a higher likelihood they will return for their next shopping need.
Unified Retail Channels
As time has passed and technology has advanced, shopping has begun to reflect an abundance of different processes. The shopping journey in the eyes of the customer, no matter if it's online, in person, curbside or a mix of all, should accurately represent the retailer across all channels.
Let’s put it this way: if you were to make a friend who presents differently in different situations, you're likely to rule them out as unreliable and inauthentic. The same can be said for a retailer. Employees need to have organized task management resources in front of them for all customer-facing processes, which will then ensure the retailer is represented well and accurately across the board.
Loyalty Takes Time
Inflation unfortunately will not magically dissipate; it will take time for the CPI to rein back in and for consumers to feel comfortable stretching their wallets again. With that, 2024 figures to be another tough year for retail. Therefore, customer loyalty really is more important than ever.
Gary Stonell is senior vice president of sales and operations at Opterus, the leading provider of cost-effective, cloud store communications and task management solutions.
Gary Stonell, SVP of Sales and Operations, Opterus, has 20 years of sales management and business development experience in CPG and SaaS. Beginning his career in CPG, he worked for Kraft Foods, Philips Electronics, then SunRype Products fostering partnerships with retailers and managing various aspects of the sales and marketing processes. More recently at Sysomos/Meltwater, a SaaS based Social Media content management platform, Gary led the Enterprise sales team responsible for managing existing clients and new logo acquisition. The key to his success has been a meaningful focus on building business relationships with collaborative solution based partnerships.