3 Steps to a First Class Customer Experience
This article was originally written for The Guardian where it was published on April 7, 2015.
The retail industry is undergoing major disruption due to the fast growth in e-commerce and its subsequent impact on shopper behavior. Shoppers today can research, purchase and share information anytime and anywhere from their mobile devices, and they may or may not set foot in a traditional bricks-and-mortar store while doing so. We call these new online and mobile shoppers, “everywhere consumers”.
So far, to accommodate these everywhere consumers, bricks-and-mortar retailers and brands have adopted “omnichannel” strategies in an attempt to allow customers to easily research and buy from them online or in-store. However, early attempts at omnichannel have only scratched the surface of what’s possible to present a unified brand. Most provide an online storefront for e-commerce or m-commerce (mobile commerce), and many have now evolved to ensure pricing, promotion and return policies are unified across online and physical retail.
Omnipresence vs. Omnichannel
It’s time for brands to drop their omnichannel efforts, and instead focus on omnipresence strategies. So what does omnipresence actually mean? It’s about focusing on the entire customer journey, not just buying. It’s about making your brand relevant and available for consumers where and when they seek solutions for their needs.
For instance, a brand that sells innovative home lighting might focus on Pinterest, Houzz, home decor websites and other places where consumers might look for products and inspiration in that area. That same brand could also offer in-store marketing that helps customers find the right products and tools to achieve the look they’d imagined. The brand could also offer post-purchase instructional videos and online guides for how to properly install and use products.
Omnipresence strategies involve understanding customers’ behaviors and needs across three phases of their journey with a brand:
The pre-purchase phase is where shoppers are researching brands, products and retailers. Smart retailers and brands are investing time and money into understanding what shoppers do before they purchase. How? By studying shopper behavior out-of-store and in-store. They are ensuring online and in-store resources are available to help guide shoppers toward their brand.These resources include targeted advertising, buyers’ guides, in-store displays, in-store interactive digital displays, mobile apps, reviews and testimonials by consumers and influencers.
Too often, this phase is ignored or not tightly tied to what shoppers are seeking and feeling during this phase (ie confused, overwhelmed with choices, delighted, surprised, etc.).
When a shopper has narrowed their decision to a small group of products or retailers, they decide to purchase. This phase is often called the ‘zero moment of truth’, and it’s where shoppers often switch brands. Smart brands and retailers invest here, to ensure online and retail customer experiences are powerful, and allow for attraction, education, interaction, support and purchasing.
This is the battleground in bricks-and-mortar retail today. Smart brands are investing money, not only to understand the path to purchase inside stores and the various interactions along the way, but also to improve these interactions to provide a more positive experience for the consumer. They are investing in interactive digital displays in store, as well as mobile apps, which allow shoppers to understand their choices and products.
Many brands and retailers view the purchase as complete once the sale has been completed. This is a failure on their part. The post-purchase phase represents a tremendous opportunity to enhance the customer’s experience of how the brand, products and services are delivered, installed and used, and any real or perceived defects are effectively dealt with.
Dealing with “buyers’ remorse”, or leveraging “buyers’ joy” is a critical part of how the brand helps the customer along their journey. As an example, an often-overlooked part of the customers’ journey is helping the customer properly install or use the purchased product or service. Successful brands are creating online resources such as instructional videos, guides, online chat forums and free telephone numbers. Some are even monitoring their social channels to give immediate advice or answer questions so that buyers get assistance whenever or wherever it is needed.
Omnipresence brands are investing to understand the customer journey across the three phases, and then improving the customer experience. These customer experiences, especially in bricks-and-mortar, are key points that can allow brands to compete against online-only merchants around the world. To succeed in retail, expand beyond omnichannel thinking, and ensure your brand is present and valuable at all stages of the customer journey.
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