Over the last decade, we’ve seen a substantial rise in popularity towards online shopping–making an Amazon Prime membership seem like a given in today’s world. “Free” two-day shipping and zero required interaction with real humans? That’s music to many people’s ears. Right?
But what happens when consumers have questions, and the FAQ section of your site or the AI-empowered chatbot isn’t enough? At some point or another, your path to purchase will require the assistance of a human being. As a whole, the “new normal” for customer journeys means that there is no one starting or ending point; rather, it’s a windy, fluid path to purchase. Whether someone starts online,in-store, or somewhere in-between–it’s all one journey, and it’s up to you whether or not they stay on it.
The following three strategies offer a look at how to better prepare and deliver a holistic customer journey experience, that not only embraces the fact that people still need people, but they demand it.
1. Human connectivity still matters
According to recent consumer research, People [Still] Need People, of the 1,000 respondents we connected with, almost 45 percent said that having the ability to speak with someone during their final decision to purchase was critical. While this isn’t something that might be explicitly stated by consumers, it’s important to understand expectations and meet demands to keep them as loyal customers. And, while consumers do want the ability to shop at the click of a button, they also crave a complete omnichannel experience that offers them the ability to connect with a real person when they need that option.
Despite recent closures and downsizing by big name retail giants, including Sears and Sports Authority, consumers are still attracted to in-store visits and personal connections with brands–it’s just a matter of affording them that opportunity. In fact, according to the National Retail Federation’s November 2018 Economic Data & Trends Retail Report, nearly 80 percent of retail sales are traced back to in-store purchases.
By adopting a “start anywhere, end anywhere” approach, you empower consumers with the ability to choose different engagement methods, such as scheduling a brick-and-mortar appointment online, over the phone or video chat. This not only gives them various ways to reach you, but it opens a door to bring them back into the store on their terms. Nearly 65 percent of millennial respondents (age 18-35) schedule an in-person appointment at a brick-and-mortar location–outside of healthcare–one to two times per year: Consumers are asking to come see you, but it’s up to you to answer. Are you ready for them?
2. Create surprise and delight that will live beyond a single point of purchase
The surprise and delight strategy must be something that your company knows inside and out. But here’s the thing–surprise and delight is not about giving away free “stuff.” It’s about the sum of the experience.
Over 63 percent of millennial respondents expect businesses to have personalized insights, such as previous history with representatives (25.2%), questions they’ve asked previously, and reasons for meeting (63.1%). Moreover, almost 28 percent of millennial respondents expect personalized insights related to their shopping or service history. When it comes to delivering a customer’s wants and needs, you must connect insights from all past engagements they’ve had with you. A true surprise and delight is one that is tailored, authentic and matters to the individual you are giving it to. This information not only enables you to deliver what they expect, but to proactively deliver ideas for their future with you (e.g. providing items, experiences or services for them to purchase given their history).
No matter if you’re a single, family-run shop, or global fortune 500 enterprise – human-to-human interactions still matter, and positive ones make all of the difference when moving beyond a single point of purchase to keep consumers connected and loyal to your brand.
3. Keep them engaged and coming back for more
Overall, it’s imperative for brands to assess all the engagement touchpoints they offer, and ensure they work together like a well-oiled machine – when and how consumers are ready to use them. But, once consumers do reach out, note that point of contact and analyze it to see if it’s a pattern for preference. Understanding a consumer’s preference for communication is key. Not only can you then communicate with them how they prefer, but it enables you to deliver deeply personalized experiences that add value each time. Remember, a one-size-fits-all approach to the customer journey simply won’t cut it.
Providing consumers with a seamless, dynamic and tailored experience between digital and physical worlds will drive trust and loyalty. Done successfully, you’ll keep customers coming back for more and thus, drive top and bottom line.