To stay competitive and create the optimal customer experience, retailers need to invest in more than technology; in-store execution and efficient processes are equally essential. According to our RIS/Cognizant 2015 Shopper Experience Study, merchants are missing the opportunity to connect with store shoppers, just when they most need to convert them into loyal customers.
Understanding the source of shopper dissatisfaction is the first step to addressing it and improving store-level execution. Therefore, we suggest retailers focus on the following:
Product availability. Out-of-stocks are a top shopper frustratation. The old adage “you cannot sell from an empty shelf” remains true, particularly in the digital era. Stores continue to face challenges with their receiving practices, markdown management and planogram execution, all of which directly correlate with missing items and holes on the shelf. In fact, 50% of shoppers who encounter a stock-out will visit another store to find the item; the irony is that in 25% of the cases, the item is in the store, according to the GMA, but has not been placed on the shelf due to inadequate shelf replacement processes.
Botched in-store pickup of online purchases. In-store pickup is growing in popularity among consumers, with 62% of respondents using this service. Yet retailers continue to stumble on execution: This year, 60% of respondents to our survey experienced service failures, up considerably from 2014’s tally of 49%. Shoppers point to problems with inconvenient pickup locations, long wait times and items not ready for pickup.
Inconsistent cross-channel fulfillment policies and training. As boundaries blur between traditional and online stores, customers expect fluid service and personalization. The cost of delivering a seamless customer experience is a modest investment in customer loyalty and advocacy. Some retailers are experiencing small gains based on that strategy. Kohl’s, for example, delivers mobile wallet integration with its loyalty program, which the company sees as a key competitive advantage. A WSJ blog reported that the integrated loyalty program has resulted in two extra trips to the store and an incremental spend of $80 per year.
Lack of personalization. It is well-known that consumers are more likely to be repeat customers if retailers provide them with targeted, personalized offers. However a majority of retailers fail to deliver on this one-to-one relationship effort. The CMO Council reported that more than 50% of U.S. and Canadian consumers have considered ending their loyalties to retailers that do not provide tailored, relevant offers, and 54% of respondents to our survey said they would respond to personalized services such as special access and token gifts. One in three respondents also said they wanted to see improvements in store associates’ customer service skills. (For more information, see “Personalizing the Store Experience.”)
Ineffective store associates. Shoppers’ two most requested store improvements have nothing to do with technology, according to our survey: They want more knowledgeable associates, as well as the ability for associates to match prices. The importance of price matching soared from 21% in 2012 to 44% in 2015. The majority of store customers are prepared to make a purchase, and trained, equipped and empowered store associates who can properly engage customers will seal the deal.
Long checkout lines. A recent study illustrates that 33% of customers have abandoned the checkout line when forced to wait for more than five minutes. Furthermore, nearly 50% will actively avoid the retailer in the future if the wait was longer than five minutes. According to our 2014 Shopper’s Survey, customers said a bad experience at the checkout will negate what was up to that point a positive customer experience. This desire for efficiency has fueled the rise in self-checkout among large retailers. Shoppers told us that an inefficient checkout is worse than no self-checkout – and further supports the notion that technology is not the end game.
By attending to the details of in-store execution and processes, retailers can better connect with store shoppers and drive the conversion and engagement that leads to loyal customers.