‘Light bulb’ customer experience moments for premium retailers

We’re only a few weeks into the new calendar year and I’ve already lost count of the number of conference flyers that have landed on my desk alerting me to a list of “essential” and “must attend” events for the customer experience professional this year.

The sheer scale of content out there on customer experience is perplexing and many of the premium retailers we speak to don’t know where to start. However, often it’s the simplest of strategy tweaks discussed over a coffee that will start joining the dots for smaller premium retailers looking to improving their customer experience strategy.

I call these learning’s ‘light bulb moments’ – they are those discoveries that seem too obvious when you vocalise them for the first time but can have a huge impact on a business. So, at a time of the year when conference organisers are asking for your company credit card and your valuable time, I thought I’d do the hard work for you and sift through opinion, trends, articles and reports to give you what we think could be the biggest ‘light bulb’ moments for premium retailers this year.

Light bulb moment no. 1: Your customers are in charge

Not you, not your ‘Brand Strategist’, not your Financial Director insisting on ambitious ROI and not your Head of Product Design with a thing for rose gold and copper again this season – it’s your customer that is in charge.

My first light bulb moment is probably the most difficult and the hardest to implement. It’s about shifting the culture of your business away from siloed departments with exciting targets around traffic, ROI and cost-per-action to a customer-centric approach which puts the customer at the heart of what you do.

Your customers are going to dictate how much you sell and when you sell it. Customers in 2015 will expect big things from you – from almost immediate customer service feedback on social media and personalised loyalty schemes – to beautiful packaging that arrives next day (free of course) and speedy returns. Start seeing your customers as your boss and their expectations of you as a catalyst for innovation, change and excellence, rather than a constant struggle with demands. By doing that you’ve already shifted your own thought processes.

It’s not easy persuading everyone, but it makes decision making around strategy, product and marketing beautifully simple once done.

What’s right for your customer + what’s right for your business = #win

But how do you put them first…?

Light bulb moment no. 2 – it’s not rocket science (if it was, I’d totally work for NASA)

The truth is in the data and you already have access to everything you need right at your ecommerce fingertips. Your own transactional data is the key to unlocking the experience your customers want.

When was the last time you looked at your customer database and worked out who are your most profitable or valuable segments of customers? Do you know which people in your database only buy at sale time? Which products are the gateways to customer loyalty? If someone buys at Christmas time, is it even worth remarketing to them in January?

Once you’ve started to dig into your own data, you can then start asking your most important segments what experience they want from you and take a long hard look at your product strategy.

Honestly, it is that simple. Well, OK, there’s some database cleaning, maths, focus groups, surveys and excel spreadsheets involved, but that only takes a couple of weeks. Once that’s all done – it feels pretty simple.

Light bulb moment no. 3 – earn your place

Your brand is not how you define yourself to your customers, but what your customers say about you. In 2015, you need to earn your place in their hearts.

Accenture found that 92% of global consumers trust seemingly unstructured content (earned media) above all other forms of advertising. So “earned media” is going to be an even bigger watch word in 2015 and all premium retailers know how important it is to be meaningful to customers. Give your customers useful, interesting, meaningful content and engage with them in the spaces they want to communicate in and they will reward you by sharing and creating content right back at you.

In turn, shared and useful content kick starts any natural search, social and PR campaign, drives engagement, creates brand ambassadors and ultimately, drives sales.

Lightbulb moment no. 4 – technology will enable experiences, not be the experience

In order to ensure you’re building relevant retail experiences that exceed your customers’ expectations – you’ve got to ensure that those experiences are seamless. It’s been the ‘year of mobile’ for as long as I can remember and in the past five years I can also remember the year of Pinterest, Facebook advertising, wearable tech etc.

The minute you take a step back from a specific channel and focus on how your experience can be communicated via that channel and indeed, if your customers even want you to be communicating with them at all via that channel – you’re thinking along the right lines. Premium retailers in particular need to fight hard to resist getting side-tracked by the latest fad. Remember what your customers want from you and enable that experience.

Lightbulb moment no. 5 – redefine what success looks like

So all your light bulbs are brightly lit; you’ve broken down those digital marketing silos, you’ve put your customer at the heart of your business, you’ve dug into your transactional data and you’re creating useful content that neatly supports your wider digital strategy.

But how do you measure success?

Again, it seems simple, but the best way of checking if you are genuinely delivering a decent experience for your customers is to ask them. The Net Promoter Score is going to see a revival in 2015.

Here at Leapfrogg, we’re starting to talk to clients about using it as one of our central KPIs. The better you can understand how your customer sees you – and whether or not they would genuinely recommend you – the better gauge you’ll have on the future success of the business.  Lots of sales are lovely, but the best customer experience strategies use the data of the past to plan for the future and what better way of checking you’re heading in the right direction than by asking your customers if they would recommend you.

So how can smaller premium retailers compete with the big boys?

All this database investigation, culture-shifting and content creation takes lots of budget, right?

Actually, it’s not as much as you’d think. You are in a much better position than some of the industry giants. These are the reasons why:

1. By the virtue of your size, smaller premium retailers have the nimbleness to change direction and get excited about culture changes quickly
2. You have a smaller team, who already work together closely. What’s another couple of digital marketing silos broken down between friends? You could probably do it at lunchtime…
3. You already have an intimate relationship with your most loyal customers. Several of our clients know their best customers by name and how fabulous would it be for a loyal customer to be asked to participate in the success of a business that they already love?
4. Your team has to generate PR, natural search and social content on a shoe string anyway – how much easier (and cheaper) would it be to streamline your plans to one simple content strategy that cascades across all of your channels and get your customers involved?
5. You can feel liberated by the opportunity to focus on the most relevant channels for your customers and ensure you spend your budget getting your experience right over those priority channels
5. You don’t have the layers of bureaucracy that many of the more established premium retailers do, so ‘testing’ an NPS KPI for a couple of seasons doesn’t have to be agreed by layer upon layer of management – you can agree it over a lovely cuppa next to the coffee machine

Customer experience for smaller premium retailers. Done!

Image via remographic on Flickr.

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