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Technology Is An Enabler, Not A Solution

08th September 2021

 Christophe Caïs
by Christophe Caïs, Founder and CEO at the Customer Experience Group
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This article was originally published on Forbes

The chaos of the pandemic forced retailers to quickly adapt to new public safety regulations — and a complex new customer with changing demands. Traditional brick-and-mortar stores shut for months, leaving brands with no choice but to move entirely online, facilitating a shopping experience focused primarily on delivering an exceptional customer experience (CX) to digitally savvy shoppers. 

With physical shopping negated, e-commerce appetite soared with a newfound predilection for digitally immersive experiences. Fast-forward to a year later and with aggressive vaccination campaigns running worldwide, retailers are preparing for a post-pandemic boom of extraordinary spending. 

The anticipated swath of consumers returning to physical stores begs the question: How can retailers provide experiences that supersede the ease, comfort and 24/7-accessibility of online shopping? Many believe it’s through a carefully amalgamated experience that blends the immersiveness of technology with the practicality of physical experiences. But even then, how can we reliably measure the success — or failure — of such innovative projects? 

Immersive technology 

Technology can be applied in-store in various ways: for experiential purposes, an appeal to mobile users, to make shoppers feel safe during the pandemic, promote online presence or increase convenience.

For example, Burberry, one of our clients, decided to target Shenzhen’s love of social media, gaming and luxury retail to make an engaging, interactive experience. Users can interact through the WeChat app to book appointments, learn more about products, share their own content and accumulate a virtual social currency that can gradually hatch and evolve into an animal character on the shopper’s mobile screen. As they move around the store, the experience becomes fun, gamified and rewards customers for engagement. 

Backend tools, such as clienteling apps, instant messaging, net promoter score (NPS) and distance selling, are designed to help store teams deliver exceptional shopping experiences. By providing real-time information, accessibility and organization, these tools should achieve impressive results. However, the first challenge lies in the implementation strategy.

Deployment of tools 

Buying a gym membership does not result in weight loss and muscle gain — showing up and doing the work with the correct technique does. Brands often implement expensive tools with grand expectations, yet fail to achieve desired results for the same, simple reasons: failure to analyze the client’s and team’s real needs, not involving end-users (frontline staff and customers) in decision making and planning, introducing new tools without warning, lack of practice or preparation, and poor management of expectations. 

For new tools to work — digital or otherwise — the following steps must be adhered to: 

  1. Clearly define the challenge
  2. Assemble a multidisciplinary team to account for every viewpoint
  3. Identify the root-cause
  4. Ideate, brainstorm and propose solutions 
  5. Test solution on a small scale sample with people open to change
  6. Welcome feedback and adjust if needs be
  7. Record and communicate short-term wins and benefits 
  8. Deploy new tools
  9. Ensure consistent monetisation and how it is helping the team

Often teams will experience detractors, non-believers and anti-change personnel, so providing a consistent "why" will help keep focus on the mission’s purpose. Building a multi-disciplined team allows each department’s challenges to be accounted for and ensures consistent communication lines. Acknowledging feedback and deciding how to tackle any possible setbacks is crucial, and remember: Change is daunting and feels overwhelming when suddenly imposed without warning. Preparation, communication and inclusivity are imperative to success. 

Measuring success 

Measuring results will determine if the project is working and whether to continue and can ensure the expensive tools deployed are money well spent. Businesses often believe they can validate their CX efforts and conclude success via the infamous NPS metric, which asks one simple question: "How likely is it that you would recommend [organization/product/service] to a friend or colleague?"

The NPS has placed CX at the top of many CEO’s agendas. It offers a quick and easy way to make CX efforts visible to many within the company, capture data and allow for an effective way to reconnect with unhappy clients (providing they answered the survey). And, to a certain point, it is also benchmarkable. In retail, however, NPS mostly captures transactional customers, deeming the NPS invalid for most of the non-transactional customers. There is no need to convert a customer in the hotel industry, for example, as the decision to purchase often happens before the experience. There is only a 10% average conversion rate in retail, so how do you capture the reality of the other 90% non-buying customers?

On average, an unhappy customer won’t complete a purchase, subsequently failing to participate in the survey. When only transactional customers answer, scores reflect highly, resulting in false representations of the CX mission. My agency found that 87% of clients are "ambassadors" — but just how realistic is this portrayal? With only a single question to analyze, NPS neglects to discover the "why" behind the result, making it difficult for team members to decipher next steps, relying on inference rather than facts. 

A better way

If you’re not utilizing technology to streamline or immersify your customer’s shopping experience in 2021, you may see yourself losing to your competitors. However, implementing extravagant tools without adequate preparation or analytics might result in even more catastrophic consequences. Technological aids can be invaluable to businesses and team members when enforced correctly, but failing to do so can overwhelm staff, confuse customers, provide inaccurate results, cause significant financial loss and eventually deter customers from returning due to a disorganized experience.

Best practices to ensure success:

• Do not rely on a single metric to measure your CX mission. Options include NPS, CSAT (customer satisfaction) surveys, CES (customer effort score) questionnaires and customer churn rates.
• The retail business potential lies in the 90% of non-buying customers, so be sure to measure their experience using alternative methodologies to understand their journey and how to improve it. 
• NPS is a lag indicator; don’t forget to implement lead indicators, too. 
• Complement your CX mission with qualitative, in-depth evaluations to allow your teams the granularity to improve their skills and competencies.
• Analyze and evaluate customer and employee feedback.
• Employ data analytics to see how your NPS and other metrics are interacting with each other.