The extent to which retail stores recover once consumers become fully used to post-pandemic routines may well depend on the shopping experiences they offer online or in person.
Despite the reopening of the US business fronts, e-commerce is still seeing a surge in sales. To maintain retail success in 2021, retailers need to keep optimizing their digital experience.
A new study of consumers in the US and UK by customer experience management company Sitel Group shows that the majority of shoppers today view customer experience as one of the most important factors in purchasing decisions.
The results show that to survive in a post-Covid world, retailers will need to make new investments in CX tools that enable instant customer loyalty in order to generate high sales in 2021.
Sitel Group announced in May that most brands are seeing the benefits of customer loyalty. But identifying the fundamental drivers of customer loyalty and acting accordingly can be a complex task. If not done correctly, it can lead to reputational damage and negative perceptions among consumers.
The report found that a third of consumers were considering leaving a brand, while another 65 percent dropped out of sellers because of a poor customer experience. Sitel Group’s white paper, “Driving Customer Loyalty: Perception, Effort and Action,” analyzed how product and service providers create loyalty and the key considerations consumers value.
Understanding what consumers value can be even more complex in a post-Covid economy, as the pandemic has forced them to adjust how they interact with brands.
This is how you promote loyalty
Despite the changes in communication, almost all respondents (97 percent) believe that retailers are working to deliver a positive customer experience. But only 43 percent of all respondents think these efforts make a noticeable difference, which means 57 percent of customers believe brands need to do more to meet their expectations.
“As we move into a post-pandemic environment, increased competition for customer loyalty will create more emphasis on CX,” said Martin Wilkinson-Brown, CMO, Sitel Group.
“The whitepaper on Driving Customer Loyalty 2021 confirms the importance of positive customer experiences and the connection with customer loyalty. While our research shows that customers trust brands to work to deliver positive experiences, unless consumers put it into action, efforts are to improve. CX will fall flat, “he explained.
For those curious about how to build customer loyalty, 42 percent of consumers found that the brand was good value for money as the main factor. This assessment applies to all ages and populations in the US and the UK.
Additionally, the attributes that customers are most closely associated with a brand’s commitment to a positive customer experience are:
- Helpful and friendly staff (69 percent)
- Quickly answering questions (53 percent)
- An easy-to-use website (51 percent)
Across all industries, regions, and genders, the Goals need to ensure they commit to a top-notch CX that is geared towards building customer loyalty.
Determined consumer reaction
One of the most surprising discoveries from the Sitel Group’s latest report is the insatiable divorce of consumers from their former popular brands. Earlier this year, according to Wilkinson-Brown, over a third of consumers admitted they were considering leaving a brand because of a poor customer experience.
“The majority of this group have taken steps to sever ties with a brand, and many have even posted a negative review to discourage prospective customers from doing business with them. These are scary stats for retailers looking to bounce back in the highly competitive post-Covid-19 era. “Market,” he told the CRM buyer.
Interestingly, unfriendly staff (25 percent) and slow service (21 percent) were the top reasons consumers consider abandoning a brand. Conversely, helpful staff is overwhelmingly the most important trait consumers think of a brand’s engagement for a positive CX (69 percent).
“Brand loyalty depends on knowledgeable and friendly staff – whether in-store or through various customer support channels – ready to help buyers,” he said.
One of the most widespread demands from consumers is for more access to chat functions. However, e-tailers are often slow to respond or ignore this service entirely.
Self-service technologies like chatbots, messaging, and live chat aren’t necessarily new concepts for retailers, noted Wilkinson-Brown. Sitel’s survey found that these tools are a key component of CX, with two in five respondents – along with nearly half of millennials – agreeing.
“These tools provide the ability to resolve problems quickly and effectively without switching to another channel. Retailers need to improve their websites or apps to become a portal where they can find the information and answers they need, and chat -Options are now an important part of doing this effectively, “said Wilkinson-Brown.
CX determines stamina
Brands need to consider one of the biggest trends in consumer reaction, suggested Shelly Socol, co-founder and CEO of One Rockwell. This extends your entire customer experience in terms of operations and customer service.
“Users now expect live chat on all websites and free shipping / returns on all purchases. They want their experience to be streamlined and as simple as possible. That doesn’t mean they absolutely won’t make a purchase without them, but they do Consumers expect it now, they don’t want your missing offer to result in lost sales, “she told the CRM buyer.
Another part of consumer stamina is “branding”. Brands need to be honest and transparent about something, whether it’s donating proceeds to charities or converting their business to sustainability.
“Consumers want to be part of something ‘good’ – and when they feel like they are shopping online, they are more likely to click the Buy Now button,” added Socol.
According to Sitel’s Wilkinson-Brown, consumers no longer do business with brands simply because they like their products or services.
“Today’s buyers are more aware and demand an improvement in the customer experience in return for their business and long-term loyalty. To stay successful, retailers need to invest in building strong customer relationships, and that starts with creating great shopping experiences, ”he told the CRM buyer.
A clear majority of respondents (90 percent) said they would pay more for an identical product if it was accompanied by a better customer experience. So it is clear that consumers put their money where their mouths are. They expect brands to do the same, he added.
Along with the traditional need for friendly staff and simple websites, it’s interesting to see some new facets of CX gain momentum for consumers, he noted. For example, consumers are demanding that brands get involved in social causes.
More than one in four consumers (27 percent) say they are more likely to buy from companies that support causes that are important to them, and it is evident that corporate social responsibility efforts continue to play a large role in buying and branding the Consumers will play loyalty decisions, Wilkinson-Brown said.
“The pursuit of great CX should be a breeze for merchants in the competitive retail space after Covid. Why do so many customers give their CX experiences poor marks?” he interjected.
What consumers want
Based on the survey, customers want brands to hire and train helpful employees, ensure quick responses to customer service questions, and offer an easy-to-navigate website. These indispensable attributes lay the foundation for a great CX that fosters long-term loyalty, he replied.
“However, there are also more technical functions that move up to the top of the CX must-have lists, especially for younger generations of buyers. From live chat support (40 percent) to technology investments (29 percent) to strong social media (22 percent), retail buyers expect retailers to adopt new tools and take a digital-first approach to CX, ”he said Wilkinson-Brown.
In short, customers believe brands need to do more to meet their expectations. A bad CX damages customer loyalty. A significant 65 percent have already split up after a bad experience.
Today’s consumers want the best value for money, with 42 percent citing this as the most important factor in brand loyalty.
“The pandemic has also shown retailers that the future of shopping doesn’t just lie in e-commerce. It’s about the merging of digital and brick-and-mortar experiences as shoppers look for the simple and secure aspects of e-commerce with the instant gratification of brick and mortar stores, “noted Wilkinson-Brown.
The pandemic forced retailers to innovate at an unprecedented pace, and 2021 promises to be another year of transition and change. Companies that rise to the challenge and make company-wide change will gain the agility and intelligence to help their brands weather the uncertainties of the moment, noted Durk Stelter, Linc chief revenue officer.
“By combining the power of AI with human insights, retailers can guide customers through increasing complexity, nurture strong customer relationships and gain lasting loyalty while delivering a great customer experience,” he told the CRM buyer.
The total volume of online customer service interactions has increased significantly. It should stabilize at a higher level than in the time before the pandemic, Stelter predicted.