Retro’s back: CX lessons from the past to the future


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Any serious CX professional recognizes the need to evolve alongside their customers, which is why making the effort to get to know buyers as individuals is so important… even if, in some cases, you return to where you were before.

Customer journeys are rarely linear. They go in cycles. Preferences come and go, demands change, and marketing trends rise and fall.

Just look at the data. Research from Emarsys shows that nearly a quarter of shoppers would like to recapture the shopping experiences of the 1990s. A fifth (19%) would even like to return to the experiences they associate with the 1980s.

For marketers and CX professionals this sounds like a step backwards, but for customers, these decades represent some of the best experiences they’ve ever had. For them, this is about real-world interactions, face-to-face advice, and a ‘try before you buy’ mentality. It’s about recapturing a personal experience which has been lost in so much of digital retail.

Nostalgia is a powerful emotion; something that informs more buying decisions than you might think. The last few years have seen a retro revival, with 60% of Americans now buying vintage and second hand. Thanks to digital marketplaces like The RealReal, Vinted and eBay, this type of vintage shopping is much more than a niche market, it’s a $160 billion industry.

So what can marketers and customer experience professionals learn from this trend? How can we look to the past to improve the customer experiences of today and tomorrow?

After years of pandemic restrictions, consumers are craving the ‘good old days’ of personal, one-to-one service more than ever. They want to feel recognized as individuals by the brands they engage with — and this goes far beyond physical stores. This personalized approach should follow them online, keeping pace even as they bounce between different channels.

That’s a difficult ask. Right now, consumers engage with more content, across more channels and more devices than ever before. And yet, they don’t want to be bombarded by brands. According to recent Emarsys research, one in ten US consumers have abandoned a purchase because they feel overloaded with content, options and marketing materials. That represents millions of lost sales every year – not because of too little marketing… but because of too much.

With 20% of US consumers agreeing that they miss the “simpler times” where they weren’t exposed 24/7 to brands across different mediums, a personalized approach is more important than ever. Rather than bombarding customers with content across every channel, we need to do a better job of meeting them at the right places at the right time – and with the right messages.

For CX professionals, that means ensuring that a great, tailored experience is available across all platforms. While marketers focus on the content, CX professionals need to be shaping the experience around the individual engaging with their brand, demonstrating more agility and consistency than ever before.

You can only do this by basing your entire approach, across all customer-facing teams, on a centralized set of data that captures that particular customer in their entirety. Not only does this help to guarantee consistency, but it also proves to consumers that they’re being valued, rewarded and recognized – all vital elements in customer retention.

A personalized omnichannel experience is no longer a nice-to-have, but a framework that consumers have freedom to navigate at their leisure, with tailored engagement built around them. To achieve that framework, brands need to get customer obsessed, and CX professionals are perfectly placed to lead the charge.

Customer obsession is what allows brands to take once-in-a-while shoppers and turn them into lifelong loyalists. As CX professionals, and as marketers, our priority should be to understand our customers, develop a strategy based on that understanding, and deliver experiences everyday that live up to those strategies. When the customer is at the center of your leadership, strategy, and operations, you’re better positioned to drive the kind of omnichannel customer engagement that delivers tangible growth and revenue.

Customers don’t really want to return to the 80s or 90s, they just want good, personal experiences. They’re dreaming of a time when shopping was enjoyable, simple and fun, and it’s our job to make that dream into a reality.

Sara Richter
I’m a dynamic and creative marketing leader with 15+ years experience in high growth, fast paced Martech organizations. I’m passionate about building revenue oriented marketing teams that act as a trusted partner to the sales organization and creating provocative, differentiated messaging. I’m a strong leader and mentor adept at managing programs, people, budgets as well as external agencies. An excellent communicator to both internal and external audiences, I’m equally at home building go-to-market strategies and delivering measurable business results.


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