Whether they are shopping online or in-store, customer experience is critical to retailer success, a new study finds.
TimeTrade, a customer engagement solutions provider, released their Retail Industry Executive Survey, revealing that customer experience, not price, is the No. 1 way to stop "showrooming" — when customers visit a store to check out a product then ultimately buy online at a lower price — and boost sales.
Although experts predict that online shopping will grow exponentially, the survey found that the majority of revenues still come from in-store sales and will continue to do so for the next 12 months. But as on-the-go and in-store mobile purchases double over the next year, retailers will have to focus on leveraging online, mobile and physical channels to influence purchases.
Of the more than 60 major retailers surveyed, 68 percent said the best way to drive sales is to improve the in-store experience or make it easier for customers to find what they are looking for. Instead of focusing on price, retailers are more successful when they focus on enhancing the customer experience, the survey revealed.
"Showrooming and price matching are real challenges, but they're causing retailers to lose focus of what really matters," said Gary Ambrosino, President of TimeTrade, in a statement. "Whether a customer actually buys or just browses — in-store or elsewhere — hinges on a retailer’s ability to make that customer feel valued, give them undivided personal attention, and quickly connect them with the very best resource to help them find what they need, when, where and how they need it."
As retailers struggle to crack the customer experience code, those surveyed said the following are the key expectations customers would want retailers to have met:
- A truly personalized experience. According to the study, 60 percent of respondents said that the No. 1 thing missing in retail is a more personalized customer experience. To provide better service and a valuable, personalized buying experience, retailers should know about their customers before they even enter the store.
- Smart service reps. Retail associates are key to impacting sales. Of the retailers surveyed, 80 percent said sales increase by 25 to 50 percent when customers are assisted by product experts. As the role of retail associates evolves, retailers are reinventing job descriptions, being more selective in the hiring process and are overhauling training programs to better meet customer expectations.
- Fast service. Customers have less time and patience, but also have more purchasing options than ever before. This means they can easily walk away if customer service is not speedy. More than two-thirds of retailers surveyed said customers expect service in five minutes or less before abandoning the purchase and shopping elsewhere.