Margarita Karvouniaris, Marketing Manager for Game South Africa, looks at the evolving retail landscape and how consumers are highly tech-savvy, placing increasing demands on brands and services. 

With that comes the critical importance of a truly meaningful, personalised customer experience for shoppers, which ultimately fuels the retail environment of the future. What can retailers do to meet and exceed the customer experiences that consumers demand?

1. Create integrated and personalised experiences and offers

Customers are looking for retailers that offer them an omni-channel experience that allows them to shop, browse and engage, where, when and how they want. They want brands to understand them on a human level and deliver an experience that meets their personal needs.

Retailers that understand this consumer behaviour and can adapt to it, will succeed. If you can grasp the kinds of issues that customers are grappling with on a human level and the daily struggles that they face, then you start to know what purchasing decisions they’re having to make, and you can create personalised experiences accordingly.

Accenture estimates that the potential upside for companies that integrate a smart strategy to personalise customers’ experiences is a hefty $2.95 trillion for the global retail industry.

Personalisation shouldn’t be just about trying to sell more products. Consumers are not naïve. An exceptional customer experience is more than just a tailored email or generic email with a percentage discount offer. Authentic personalisation of offers and experiences should be about improving your customer’s overall experience with your brand to build brand loyalty and affinity and ultimately repeat purchase.

Exceptional customer experience means truly understanding your customer’s buying habits (how much they buy, when they buy, where they buy and what they need) to create meaningful offers that suit their individual needs.

2. Create in-store experiences 

Experiential retail has changed the face of retail. The purpose of the bricks and mortar store has evolved beyond just a place for transactions, to a place that provides an experience for customers. Physical retailers are beginning to give their customers something they can’t get online through the creation of tactile, immersive experiences. Stores need to become the ‘theme park’ of the brand, the point of contact where the customer has fun and wants to return to.

Taking this one step further, combing the in-store experience with excellent mobile customer experience is the opportunity for retailers to truly stand out. According to Medium, 79% of brands will execute more experiential programmes this year, compared to last year. Are you looking at creating experiential retail experiences for your customers?

3. Ask and answer your customers. 

Peer to peer reviews still trump traditional advertising. Consumers want to know what their peers think and the retailer that supports this need by making it easy for consumers to find out wins.

This doesn’t negate the need for a clear marketing strategy but places emphasis on consumer engagement via social networks. Encourage your customer to talk to you, not just about you. Engage in active listening to meet the consumer at the coal face, answer their queries to learn from them. Encourage reviews on your products or customer experience. Encourage social sharing via consumer-generated content.

A recent report by Think With Google states ‘Of smartphone users, 82% consult their phones while they’re standing in a store deciding which product to buy. One in 10 of those end up buying a different product than they had planned,’ so the onus is on the retailer to ensure the consumer finds their answer on your store, offering or product easily.

We know that consumer-generated reviews have a higher penetration rate than that of standard advertising. According to the Shopper Experience Index report, “consumers lean heavily on visual content across social channels to observe trends, absorb the experiences and behaviours of others, and discover the products that people like them are using.”

So, where does that leave us as we edge towards 2020?

Creating customer experiences that allow consumers to find the information they need whether in-store or online will win. Retailers that listen to their consumers and engage with them meaningfully and authentically will win.

Retailers that offer authentic deals and experiences that truly deliver an excellent customer experience, will gain an edge in 2019 and beyond.