The world is starting to return to something approximating normal as covid becomes part of the background noise of ordinary life. Consequently, it’s time to take stock of the behaviours and customer experience trends that have left an enduring mark on the retail industry. In this article, we are peeking through the eyes of your customers to reveal where your attention should focus to satisfy the customer expectations of post-covid shoppers.
But first, why is customer experience so important?
One report by SAS found that brands that delivered a good customer experience during the pandemic would attract more sales - 61% of customers said they would spend more on them. But if you fell short even once, a third of the customers would abandon you.
In more comforting news, another report predicts that consumers will pay a 16% price premium for a great customer experience and more convenience. Additionally, 65% of U.S. customers find a positive brand experience to be more important than great advertising. In short, it pays richly to have a good customer experience.
With that in mind, here are four common customer expectations to meet in the post-covid retail environment.
Customer Expectation #1: I want to shop anywhere and at any time
Convenience has almost always been a priority for consumers. But when store closures sent the majority of shoppers online, that desire grew. Now, having experienced the convenience of online shopping and associated perks, customers are coming back to the store expecting a seamless omnichannel experience. Retail operators must adjust their strategies to digitise, adapt and integrate online-offline behaviours.
A quick refresher: omnichannel enables retailers to transact across multiple channels – websites, apps, marketplaces, social channels and brick-and-mortar. More than that, omnichannel allows you to deliver a consistent brand experience and build relationships everywhere you sell. This article is a good starting point for creating an effective omnichannel eCommerce strategy. Or to learn more about creating an engaging and relevant customer experience in the retail industry, download our free ebook, Building The Foundations Of Great Customer Experience.
Customer Expectation #2: I want to buy from retailers I trust and respect
When deciding what brands they like and support, 86% of consumers say authenticity is important. Furthermore, 70% of consumers want to know what the brands they support are doing to address social and environmental issues, while 46% pay close attention to a brand’s social responsibility efforts when they buy a product.
These customer expectations become even more critical during times of upheaval when a positive interaction with a company can trigger an immediate sense of trust and loyalty. Meeting these needs with empathy, care and concern will build an enduring relationship with a customer experiencing uncertainty. This may mean reaching out with support not more marketing, prioritising employees and the wider community, and staying true to your company vision and values.
Customer Expectation #3: I want it fast
Consumers gravitate to brands offering fast, transparent shipping. Once, 5-7 business days felt like a reasonable window of time to wait for a delivery. Today a week is almost intolerable.
Shipping carriers were maxed out during the pandemic and retailers struggled to make on-time deliveries. This forced retailers to examine their order fulfilment processes and find opportunities to shorten the click-to-customer cycle. As retail supply chains accelerate, so too do customer expectations around delivery windows.
A 2021 study found that approximately 31% of Australian consumers said they tend to shop with brands with fast delivery, while 57% said that if the delivery or pick-up of goods took longer than two days, they would look elsewhere.
For retailers the opportunity to turn fulfilment into a competitive advantage is clear. In addition, prioritising and automating fulfilment will serve to fight rising costs and protect profit margins.
Customer Expectation #4: I want delivery to be safe
Another top priority for companies and consumers is public safety. While the immediacy of safety concerns will drop, the option to choose should not. To put customers at ease and increase satisfaction, brands must be building safety into the customer experience - across products, services and processes.
Strategies such as contactless deliveries and click-and-collect allow customers to choose from zero friction, safe delivery modes. (Read our T2 case study) to see how they deployed click-and-collect with NetSuite.)
If you haven’t already, now is the time to invest in data, technology, and systems that will meet consumer expectations through exceptional customer experiences.
See how Elizabeth Machines ramped up their customer experience with NetSuite and Annexa. Click here to check out their story.
Annexa is a leading NetSuite partner with extensive experience designing and implementing comprehensive and customised business systems, including payroll solutions, financial management, warehouse management and ecommerce solutions.