Remapping the Customer Experience

March 16, 2021

As featured on Forbes.com, Lynn Gonsior shares perspective on how retailers can rethink their customer journey map to align with today’s new consumer expectations to make every point of engagement count.

If anything has put the role of the physical store to the test, 2020 sure did – and it irreversibly changed. It accelerated retailers to integrate technology and data into their stores, empowering both shoppers and associates with mobile-activated experiences and expanding access to value-add services like in-store appointments and BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store). But experiences are now happening between channels, and the online business must match a strong brick-and-mortar presence (and vice versa) instead of siloing as channel-specific.

All this rapid change presents a significant challenge for brick-and-mortar retailers: Does your in-store experience match new consumer expectations? Let’s look at some new opportunities for remapping the customer journey.

Consideration

In the past, almost every customer journey map would center around an in-store experience. But as we know, that has changed. Today, most are a matrix of technologies and online channels that have enabled consideration outside the store. As a result, product experience has become a challenge for the buyer.

However, your digital presence gives you a wealth of customer data to listen to and service customers differently to make things easy and intuitive for them. Suppose they’re browsing on the website or through an email, lean hard on these systems of insight to give them a consultative selling experience that is custom and catered just for them. The beauty and fashion industries have pivoted to this well by offering virtual shopping experiences during the consideration phase to prepare them for the next stop on the map. Through services like virtual artists, they have empowered the consumer to browse with confidence.

Exploring & Engaging

Digital’s “swipe for new” responsiveness has set a new expectation for physical experiences. Build on the widespread digital-first entry point. Make their store experience more efficient, fun, and engaging.  Many retailers see success with offering appointments to connect the digital and physical experiences. Customers want to be in control of the time they spend. They expect that they will be met with the level of readiness in line with the money they are spending. For example, use their digital experience to direct their physical one in-store by preparing a fitting room when they come into the store (instead of making them hunt for all the pieces they found online).

Or take a cue from e-com best practices and recommend similar products, layers to an outfit, or bundled items to inspire them. A curated collection of complementary products can capture both browsers and eager shoppers. And if you have the data, this can be merchandised in-store and personalized for the customer when they arrive.

Everyone is looking for a little more inspiration these days, and if you have enough data, you can automate this with buyer personas and help the customer discover new or similar items just for them. Experiential retail, when combined with efficiency, is more important than ever.

Buying

Adopting technology and retailers’ investment in it has led more brands to lean into digital tools that empower the consumer to buy in the way that works best for them, such as curbside pick-up and BOPIS. We saw many retailers, like Target, introduce pre-trip shopping reservations to see whether there was a line outside their local store and digitally reserve their spot in line if there was.

As demand for scan-and-go and touchless transactions swell – and remain prominent consumer preferences – the role of mobile devices and related technology has never been more critical. More importantly will be creating a human-obsessed digital ecosystem using technology to deliver a higher-order brand experience that comes to life holistically, regardless of the channel or platform of engagement. Consumers will increasingly seek out brands whose technology helps them with their busy life in the new contactless era.

The customer journey and shopper expectations have been forever transformed, leading to more detailed and hyper-personalized customer service as the new standard. Every detail counts because the avenues that the customer connects with have changed exponentially, meaning the number of details has also expanded. But in the end, details create a more consultive selling experience and human-centered ecosystem – a better solution in the long-run.

This article appeared on Forbes.com published on March 14, 2021.