“Mastery of the customer experience is a challenge with many facets. Retailers are overwhelmed by the complexity of data, technology and understanding of the customer journey,” said Paige O’Neill, Chief Marketing Officer at SDL. “Our latest research indicates that North American retailers are acutely aware of their technological shortfalls when it comes to creating a seamless, personalized customer experience across multiple channels.”
The online survey, which was sent to more than 225 senior marketers at North American retail companies with annual revenues of more than $100M, revealed some key findings.
Customer experience importance on the rise
Increasingly, companies understand the importance of delivering a superior customer experience (CX). The combination of intense competition, more demanding customers, and an increasing range of channels, mean that organizations have to continually improve the service they offer to consumers if they are to retain business – regardless of the sector they’re in. In fact, the vast majority (80 percent) of retailers surveyed are increasing their customer experience budgets, and one in three is planning a significant increase of more than 10 percent from their current level. In addition:
• Among the respondent organizations, none plan to reduce their CX commitment in 2015.
• Nearly half of retailers strongly agree with the statement “our customer experience is our brand” – a remarkable figure that balloons to over 80 percent when those who simply “agree” are included.
Customer experience is the path to higher profit
While many retailers view CX as a tool for higher conversion and retention, they don’t necessarily see the connection to acquisition. This is an important disconnect, and one that creates a competitive advantage for those focused on content and social marketing. When asked about the ways they can differentiate themselves and attract new customers, retailers were varied in their responses.
• Despite the realities of commoditization and competition, most retailers point to product offerings (54 percent) and price (45 percent) as their primary methods for attracting new customers.
• For 45 percent of retailers, content is a tool to grow their audience, often in tandem with social reach.
• Omni-channel retailing is cited by 22 percent of marketers. This reflects the challenges in creating a truly seamless experience, but also highlights that it can be a powerful differentiator for those that achieve it.
Integration is lacking across customer experience technologies
Realizing that they must create consistent and engaging experiences across a multitude of online and offline touch points to compete in today's business environment, many organizations are attempting to establish true integration across systems and technologies.
• The research shows that North American retailer brands appreciate the need for technology integration, with 97 percent citing integration of CX technology as “important” or “essential” to their growth.
• Yet only 40 percent describe their relevant systems as integrated and cross-functional, revealing a significant gap between the industry today, and where it needs to go.
• Only two percent have no plan for integrating their technologies at all.
Mobile customer experience is an untapped resource
Mobile commerce is among the fastest growing segments in retail, as smartphones and tablets play bigger roles in the shopping journey. More and more brands are taking mobile commerce by storm, offering both mobile applications and mobile-optimized sites to their customers. The research reveals that mobile has been a dominant priority for retailers across 2013 and 2014, and that investment has paid off.
• More than 50 percent now say they have a strong understanding of the mobile user experience.
• However, only a third of retail marketers (35 percent) believe they can differentiate using mobile.
The challenge is for retailers to move beyond usability in mobile and advance to more sophisticated merchandising. An increasing percentage of buyers are mobile-only, especially in younger demographics, and their numbers are growing quickly. This presents a challenge in creating an experience that’s simple enough for the small screen, but involves the consumer with the brand and opens up opportunities for continued shopping and loyalty.
To learn more about how retailers are addressing the strategic and tactical use of customer experience, view the SDL webinar. The complete results of The Retailer’s Imperative: A Strategic Approach to Customer Experience study can also be found here and you can read more on our blog.