By Stuart Russell, Chief Strategy Officer, Planning-inc
A compelling hybrid customer experience (CX) has become table stakes as retailers battle to survive this tough economic climate. Gone are the days when customers just interacted with a brand via their physical store or ecommerce platform. Rather, customers today are weaving their online and offline shopping habits together, and so expect a seamless CX whether they’re shopping physically or virtually. In fact, the CMO Council recently found 71% of customers want a shopping experience which blends physical and digital channels.
Retailers must respond. Providing a frictionless hybrid shopping experience is key, making it easy for customers to find and purchase the right product, in the right context. Those that can meet, or even surpass, customer expectations, will be rewarded with higher retention rates, loyalty, and potentially even customer acquisition as word about great CX spreads quickly.
Powerful Hybrid CX Use Cases
Whenever retailers are looking to adopt a new CX strategy, there are a few pivotal use cases which tend to form the foundation. And, providing a seamless hybrid CX is no different.
A starting point for retailers might be offering Buy (or Reserve) Online, and Pickup In-Store or Buy Online, Return In-Store services. These services are the cornerstone of effective hybrid CX, as they make the pre-and-post-purchase experience easy for customers, creating a hybrid CX which can bolster loyalty and drive retention.
The next step is real-time stock checking. This enables consumers to access the products they want, when they want them, in the context they want. And, crucially, retailers can keep customers updated when stock is running low or the products they’ve shown interest in are available again. Communication around real-time stock availability builds trust in a brand, as well as being perceived as ‘helpful’ by the customer, which in turn strengthens relationships.
And finally, sharing personalised omnichannel offers and optimised product or category recommendations based on in-store and online behaviour is fundamental to driving cross- and upsell.
Let’s take e-receipts for example. After buying an item in-store, receiving an e-receipt which also recommends complementary items can convert an offline customer to a hybrid customer. Precise targeted recommendations increase the likelihood of further purchases, all whilst building relationships with customers that extend beyond being purely transactional.
So, what’s the secret sauce for enabling these seamless hybrid CX use cases? Fundamentally, it all comes back to having joined up, comprehensive customer data.
Joining the dots to create a 360-degree single customer view
A unified 360-degree single customer view is the foundation of a successful hybrid CX. Understanding how customers interact with your brand, in different contexts, and the factors influencing their purchasing decisions is key.
The right solution should connect customers’ historical behavioural and transactional data with in-moment activity, enabling retailers to unlock actionable insights capable of bolstering retention rates and increasing loyalty. Real-time activation then delivers cross-touchpoint experiences based on the full customer context through real-time activation.
But, in order to fully unlock the potential of this powerful asset retailers must also have the right people and processes in place. Technology alone isn’t the complete solution. Retailers must have the right people in place to leverage the data technology brings together. That means analysts to mine the data for insights, planners to turn this data into actionable insights, and campaign managers to then deliver personalised customer communications which drive brand engagement and awareness across different marketing channels. Without these people in place, the impact of technology is hindered.
The enabling factor of all this is process. Retailers must develop streamlined ways of transforming data into actionable insights for the entire business to leverage. That requires coordination. And, with many larger retailers working in silos, it makes the role of these processes even more important.
Don’t expect these three factors to fit hand in glove from the offset. It takes time to develop the right framework, find the right partners, and employ or train the right people for the right roles. It will then require consistent adjustment as the business adapts to changing customer needs. But that’s the point of joining the dots – it creates agile ways of working that are sustainable.
Once your customer data is unified, retailers can then implement effective hybrid CX use cases that truly align with customer expectations today.