5 Key Challenges Facing Retailers Today – And How to Solve Them
While the “customer is always right” mantra has held true for quite some time, the amount of power wielded by consumers has never been higher than it is right now.
Customers are no longer forced to choose between just a couple of options when looking to purchase new luxury goods. Today, they have dozens. Maybe even hundreds.
Not only has the number of retailers expanded exponentially in recent years, but so has the information available to customers. This means savvy shoppers tend to spend a lot of time researching their purchases – and consider the entire customer experience while doing so – before committing.
The amount of choice people enjoy today has also led to a waning of brand loyalty, with customers switching between retailers and online/in-store channels from purchase to purchase, depending which best serves their needs at the time.
Luxury retailers are not immune to this trend either, as even wealthy customers now tend to shop around for the best option. This decline in brand loyalty customers presents a unique retailing problem, as retailers try to find new and innovative way to appeal to buyers – both existing and potential.
However, success was never born out of shying away from a challenge, and there are methods retailers can employ to create new opportunities to build brand loyalty among their customers. The information age is a door which swings both ways – there’s more data available to customers, but this means there more available about them, too.
With the right know-how and tools, retailers can come up with new and innovative ways to keep shoppers coming back for more.
Top Retailing Problems & Challenges Today
#1: Consumers are Choosing Multichannel Buying Experiences
With more complete e-retail experiences available, and shipping times greatly reduced, it is little wonder around 96% of Americans utilize online shopping in one way or another.
However, those same Americans spend about 65% of their total shopping budget in traditional brick-and-mortar locations.
In other words, while almost everyone is shopping online, they are making more purchases in-store.
Customers are moving seamlessly between online and offline experiences, and are open to retailers who can best facilitate these transitions. The explosion in mobile retail means in-store research and showrooming – the practice of viewing a product in-store only to make the purchase online – are now more common than ever.
On the other side of the coin, online orders can be delivered to a local store – often for free – further closing the divide between online and offline retail.
The solution here is to focus on creating a second-to-none customer experience across all channels. Customers are looking for retailers they can trust to deliver exceptional service time and again.
The right customer data can help them, creating an omnichannel customer experience which allows consumers to interact wherever and however they wish by incorporating real-time feedback across channels and devices – engaging the customer wherever they may be.
#2: Customers Expect a Seamless Experience
When transitioning between online and in-store experiences, customers not only want the same products to be available, they also want their experience to be seamless.
This means, if they are a regular online customer, they want to be treated like a regular customer when they visit a brick-and-mortar location. If they made an online purchase earlier in the day, the in-store systems should already have a record of it.
If retailers can create this type of fluid online/offline experience for their customers, they can cease pitting their channels against one another. Centralized customer data can help retailers build a seamless, fluid experience – beginning with an easily-accessible customer profile.
Loyalty programs can help, by collecting relevant information and putting it to use. A retailer can use its loyalty program to not only reward customers, but deliver relevant content and integrate data across all interaction points – including online interactions, in-store sales, and home service technicians – creating an integrated, omnichannel customer experience.
#3: To Attract Customer Loyalty, Retailers Need an Experience Which Stands Out
Customer experience is the biggest contributor towards brand loyalty, with a negative experience being the most significant factor in affecting a customer’s likelihood to make a repeat visit.
Don’t forget, most customers also serve people in their own working lives, meaning when they are on the other side of the counter, they want to feel important.
While promotions and offers can certainly contribute towards helping customers feel like they are special, the real key to an outstanding experience is personalization.
Getting to know customers from their previous purchases and interests can help retailers drive loyalty. These insights can be gleaned from data, or even a simple conversation. The size of the business will no doubt inform which of these methods is more convenient, but nobody should be too big for a quick chat with a regular customer.
Personalized content and offers can be delivered via the customers’ preferred contact method – even a personalized email subject line can make a world of difference – anticipating their wants and needs, and guiding them down the sales funnel towards their next purchase.
#4: A Siloed Marketing Infrastructure Makes It Expensive and Unwieldy to get Your Message Across.
Modern marketing makes it necessary for businesses to engage with their customers across many different channels. From SMS, to email and social media, multi-channel communications are essential to engagement which, in turn, drives the creation of the perfect customer experience.
However, with so many separate channels, it’s not uncommon for customer data to become siloed. If all the moving parts of a marketing department are not communicating efficiently and working together, customers can become overwhelmed with conflicting or repeat messages.
This bombardment of marketing communications can easily have the opposite of the intended effect and drive customers to competitors with a clearer and more congruent message.
The right technology and communication procedures can ensure all arms of a marketing team are on the same page. Having a clear strategy will ensure all channels are working together instead of against one another – saving time and money.
#5: So Many Technologies Exist to Drive Marketing and Sales, but They Don’t Seem to Work Together
While the amount of data gathered by businesses keeps growing at an alarming rate, the number of staff available to analyze it is staying more-or-less the same.
What’s important, then, is making sure all this data is being used in the correct way and not contributing towards the data silo problem.
This means finding a technology solution which can handle the huge amount of data being generated and ensure it is focused in a direction which best benefits – rather than overwhelms – marketing efforts.
The data scientist approach to marketing is only going to become more prevalent as time goes on so when creating a truly unified omnichannel service.
Only in the combining of streamlined un-siloed data science, seamless cross-channel customer service and marketing, and authentic personalization, can retailers expect to create buyer experiences which can combat the fickle nature of the modern consumer.
Get the balance right, however, and retailers can foster brand loyalty in an increasingly disloyal world.