Last Wednesday I attended the Uplift Virtual Summit by Insider, a series of keynotes on personalized e-commerce experiences with speakers from NASA, Prezi, and Loewe. We took to the virtual stage ourselves as well: Dennis De Cat, Growth Marketing expert and Managing Director of our sister company Upthrust, presented together with one of our clients, Torfs. He and the e-commerce Manager of the shoe brand, Karl Bosmans, discussed the set-up and results of a scalable growth process.
Another talk that particularly caught my eye was the one by Accenture’s Xavier Cardon, who talked about the current challenges in retail and e-commerce. He was asked about the recent questions they’ve received as a consulting firm. His answer? Customer experience, customer experience, and customer experience. Since my consultant colleagues and I fully recognize this demand amongst our own clients and the market in general, I’ll deep-dive further into this topic with a specific focus on customer retention and the retail industry.
Personalized experiences across all touch points
COVID-19 put a heavy focus on the acquisition of new customers in e-commerce. We’ve witnessed a rush of new online shoppers, which is of course a big opportunity for e-commerce. We tend to buy from companies offering personalized experiences, fast and secure delivery, seamless communication on all touch points, and VIP service to every single visitor.
In this acquisition phase, many companies still struggle, such as with delivering personalized experiences to individuals across channels and touch points. Customers are different, not only in their preferences for products and services, but also in the way they respond to marketing actions. Consider the experience of shoppers amidst coronavirus: they’re likely searching for hyper-specific items, such as loungewear or desks for the optimal work from home set-up. If brands fail to deliver a personalized experience in line with shoppers’ needs during this time, they’ll immediately lose sales to competitors that are more accurately and effectively leveraging behavior data to speak to the same shoppers.
A great example shared during this summit session: when someone leaves his basket with 3 specific products, you can check your data for similar baskets and clients, and estimate the probability this person likes certain other products, so you can suggest these tailored products.
Eminem put it in prophetic words back in 2002: “If you had one shot, one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it or just let it slip?”
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Check your LinkedIn inbox right now, I’m sure you have some terrible first impression examples staring back at you. However, there are many critical moments of truth in a customer journey.
Focus on customer retention (in retail)
Don’t lose sight of profitability. Acquiring is costly, the focus – especially during this pandemic – should be more on loyalty and retaining your customer. Keeping a happy customer is much easier and cheaper than acquiring a new one. My colleagues recently shared 3 key enablers for a successful long-term retention strategy. In short: do your best to take care of your loyal customers and decide what special services and resources you can provide to these valuable customers.
This pandemic was quite interesting for e-commerce, while it was a horror for retail. Many challenges weren't new, but were emphasized and accelerated by COVID-19. Physical retail often copes with an agility problem: high costs, the rise of pure players, brands that want to do direct-to-consumer, lack of tech investments, etc. Fellow retail experts recently published a full overview of the latest retail-related trends. Almost everything about traditional retail has been turned upside down in the past few months with the global pandemic. Yet, some have adapted rapidly to serve their client base:
- Amazon turned some of their Whole Foods markets into so-called dark stores. These are physical stores that are only open to employees who work to fulfill orders for delivery and pickup from other nearby stores. As Amazon says: "a temporary online-only store, focused exclusively on fulfilling grocery delivery orders." Amazon has seen such a large uptick in online grocery shopping that it has begun putting new customers on a waiting list so it can catch up with existing customer orders.
- Sainsbury's came up with a contactless shopping experience, offering a new and safe way for their customers to pay in its stores.
- In the world of hospitality, the renowned chef Alain Ducasse quickly launched "Ducasse Chez Moi" in April this year, a sophisticated home delivered contactless food service with the cult dishes of the star chef. Adapt or die, the 64-year-old chef must have thought.
- In a time when many people are struggling, offering customers flexibility on return policies and other terms and conditions can surprise and delight, and convince customers that your brand is a keeper. For example, Marriott paused points expiration for its loyalty program, as well as adjusting the hotel's cancellation policy to be more flexible during the pandemic.
- Customers right now are emotional and want to feel valued and heard by the brands they choose to engage and interact with. They want brands to reflect their own values and priorities, and may even want the ability to contribute to a greater cause. This is one reason that a socially conscious brand like Patagonia took off after the last recession. They gave customers good reasons to stick around even during tough times. But most important: be true to your brand and purpose. Purpose-based companies that show empathy will likely emerge as the leaders.
- Gone are the days of simple analog loyalty cards. Technology allows for greater flexibility, higher rates of engagement, and more precisely targeted loyalty offers. Old habits are broken during a recession, and new habits are established. For customers, apps offer convenience and ease-of-use. For companies, using technology simplifies delivery and provides the ability to change and update offers according to customer preference. Apps make it easy to experiment with different incentives and determine which ones entice your customers the most. A good loyalty app should have an engaging and intuitive interface. Careful attention to UX/UI design makes all the difference. A poorly designed app can lead your customers to seek rewards elsewhere.
- The biggest click-and-collect service for groceries in Belgium, Collect&Go by Colruyt, recorded demand peaks of up to 300% during the lockdown. To cope with this increase they launched a service where neighbors can pick up your online ordered groceries for you.
The most successful companies are the ones that make customer retention a priority – because they know that the customers they already have are the ones that facilitate growth and drive profitability making them a sustainable, thriving business.
Although all your customers are important, it may become necessary to make the decision to take care of these customers first. Because before you know it, your customer has left. And like Bill Withers said: “Ain’t no sunshine when she's gone.”
For more on e-commerce and how we can help you optimize your customer experiences, visit our dedicated page:
Sources: Forbes, Fool.com, Express, Deloitte, ClickZ, Columbia Business School, Harvard Business School, Forrester Consulting and Total Retail.