November 15, 2016
The Customer Journey: It’s All About the Experience
By Mandy Hawkins
Shopping cycles have always revolved around the following process: identifying a need, becoming informed, and making the purchase. In the past, this was pretty much a product-driven process, and fulfillment of the need was only met in a brick-and-mortar setting.
Now it's all about the customer journey, which involves the same aspects, but is consumer-driven. Fulfillment can take place in a physical location, or through the wonder of ecommerce. Why is understanding the new customer journey so important? It's obvious that retailers who remain product focused will be forgotten to those who make the journey an experience for the customer. So how does the retailer go about accomplishing this?
Put the needs of the customer first
The product the customer buys is to meet needs such as comfort, durability, healthiness, value, and experience. In fact, 55% of customers are willing to pay more simply because of a better experience.
When the customer is in this phase, it is important for retailers to use collected data to offer proactive personalization: remembering that preferences goes a long way towards overall satisfaction.
Help customers become achievers
We live in a society of doers, box-checkers, and goal-reachers. Customers are using their mobile devices for almost every aspect of their organized lives. Consider this: 90% of customers are using their mobile devices to research while in-store. The reasons range from research to price comparisons. When the virtual experience blends seamlessly with the physical, the customer is able to efficiently reach their goals.
Raise the bar on convenience for higher customer satisfaction
Because 90% of brick-and-mortar shoppers are using their mobile devices in-store, free wi-fi only aids in a positive customer experience. Some stores are even offering charging stations for the battery-drained customers. (Combining in-store coffee and juice bars allow recharging on different levels.) Apps that recognize deals, remember personal preferences, organize rewards, and pick up where the in-store experience cannot create loyal customers. For instance, Target’s Cartwheel app allows customers to create shopping lists that even guide them to the aisle which their desired product is located.
Redefine check-out experiences to raise the bar
For example, an in-store customer may complete the sales cycle online. Bloomingdales equips their fitting rooms with tablets so that customers can conveniently order their desired clothing in a different size or color. Lowe’s equips their staff with mobile point-of-sale devices for even greater customer convenience. Long, frustrating lines, missing inventory, and outdated point of sales systems are all avoidable hazards in the customer’s journey. When eliminated, customers are likely to become loyal fans.
Remember that the sale is not the end
The customer journey is not a single event, with a set beginning and end. If retailers treat the sale as the final step, they lessen their chances of meeting their customers on the same road again. The next step in the journey involves building loyalty, which leads to customer advocacy. Again, personalization is key. When customers build relationships with retailers, they will continue to remember that retailer the next time they define their needs.