Customer Experience Predictions for Retailers in 2018

Steve Brockway

January 15, 2018

2017 has seen retail customer experience (CX) pushed to the forefront of the business agenda. No longer an addendum, CX is now on the agenda for directors and board members of retail brands. While traditional retailers are staying afloat, the competition from digital natives is mounting. 2018 will mean new CX strategies for retailers as they look to differentiate through customer experience. So what is in store for this coming year? Our Chief Research Officer, Steve Brockway, shares some of his retail customer experience predictions for 2018.

Democratising data at a local level

While digital brands have an advantage over traditional retailers because they operate through a single, online channel – making the collection, analysis and use of data for personalisation easier – it’s important that traditional retailers learn how to collect and use data to improve the customer experience at a local level. This will be key if retailers are to compete against the behemoths in what is an increasingly digital environment.

To do this, retailers should harness the power of the data that they hold. Not only will these technologies enable a holistic view of the customer, but also – by combining customer feedback with wider datasets to make feedback more actionable – the democratisation of data to local customer-facing stakeholders. And this is where the true benefit will be felt by traditional retailers. By sharing actionable feedback with customer-facing stakeholders – from central senior managers to shop floor workers – retailers will empower their local teams to ‘listen and act’ immediately, enabling the improvement of customer experience at a local level. For example, feedback with date, customer persona.

Stretching the limits of personalisation

In 2018 we’ll see big market players further invest in technology to enable enhanced personalisation for communication purposes, as well as to determine the best course of action for customer issues.

While retailers will still be focused on using data to create moments of customer delight during the purchase journey, they will be equally as motivated to maintain high performing websites, remembering previous purchases and customer behaviour. This will ensure that customers don’t abandon purchases or worse still, brands. Think ‘Spotify for groceries’, where previous interactions are documented and used to create an intuitive experience – such as suggesting products based on previous orders or baskets.

Balancing technology with the human touch

2017 was certainly the year of the chatbot, and for most retailers, this has worked well and has proved that, for the most part, customers have no issue interacting with machines as long as their queries are answered in a timely and reasonable manner.

Yet, as customers become savvier to the use of chatbots and proactively seek out alternative customer service channels, the key challenge for retailers will be deciding when to escalate a machine response to a human one. Amazon is particularly good at this. The company guides in-bound, online customer queries through a series of automated pre-questions, which then recommend the best route to contact Amazon – be it via a live chat, email, or calling an agent – ensuring that customers are guided to the best contact channel to resolve their query. In 2018, this is what other retailers should be focusing on.

The future is: mobile ethnography

We expect mobile ethnography to start to make it’s mark in 2018 as it is a particularly interesting area for generating deep customer insight around customer experiences. The one device everyone now has with them day and night is their mobile which provides researchers with an opportunity to gain rich insight into your customers.

We now have a capability to enable customers to keep video diaries of their experiences captured real time in the place they are and who with. We can recruit customers and give them missions to share their feedback whenever and wherever they interact with a brand, sharing how they interact with a product or service’ when they are using it, and who they are with.

The outcome is much richer feedback into your customers’ experiences revealing new insights that traditional question/answer surveys cannot achieve. Talk to maru/edr about how you can gain a more holistic view of your customer experiences in 2018.

Steve Brockway is Chief Research Officer at Maru/edr providing innovative thought leadership and research excellence to Maru/edr clients and researchers.