Annabel  Thorburn
Annabel Thorburn 10 April 2017

3 ways you can boost CX in times of uncertainty

Brexit, Trump, rising costs – 2016 was a tumultuous year for brands and retailers. And with the uncertainty set to continue throughout this year and beyond, many will be thinking carefully about whether – and where – to invest in order to protect their margin.

A key area of focus for brands and retailers will be on improving the customer experience. As costs increase and the battle for share of wallet becomes more intense, offering a superior customer experience will be a key differentiator.

But how can brands and retailers boost CX in these uncertain times? At eCommera, we recently brought together economist Alex Hamilton, consumer psychologist Kate Nightingale and futurologist Matt Gee to discuss the future of retail, including the significance of CX.  Here are three key takeaways from the discussion.

1) Avoid thinking in silos

A recent eCommera survey of 500 retailers from across Europe revealed that one of their top priorities for 2017 is how to use digital in-store. But how can brands and retailers use their in-store digital initiatives to actually improve the customer experience?

Our psychologist Kate cautioned against simply introducing digital innovations because they are the latest trends. Instead, she advised, 'Step back and ask yourself: am I just trying to catch up with the Amazons of this world, or am I actually going to create something that makes sense for my brand and my customers? Step back, analyse what you're about and only then think whether introducing an iPad in a store is really the best thing you can do.'

In this context, our futurologist Matt Gee also highlighted the danger of falling into channel-thinking, 'People don't think in channels; people think in terms of their relationships with brands'.

His advice? 'I think thinking holistically and not in a channel way is important, and then I think it's about having the right moments at the right points that resonate with your customers and work for your business.'

2) Take a test and learn approach

When it comes to improving customer experience, all of the participants were in agreement that taking a test and learn approach is vital.

Matt pointed out that there are plenty of potential opportunities for retailers that wouldn't require big investment or long lead times to implement – but organisations must take a risk and adopt a test and learn approach.

‘I don't think we're leveraging all the touch points that exist at the moment. If we look at spend on media, for example, why is that not being activated as a direct route into shopping online? Because there is technology that we're already carrying with us in our phones et cetera that enables that journey to happen. We're seeing the Amazon Echo rise in popularity, it's another touch point to transaction through voice. These are things that don't require us to create new infrastructures; we just need to create some level of interactivity on our brand experience and link engagement to transaction. I would encourage a test and learn approach to this.’

Take a holistic look at your customer journey and identify areas where you could use existing touch points to break down the barriers to transaction. Pilot, measure, refine and scale.

3) Don't get caught up with tech trends

Investment in tech should be based on careful analysis of your customer base and their journey, in order to identify how any new technologies could remove friction from that journey or increase motivation. Know your customer and put them at the centre of any discussion around new technologies.

For Matt, augmented reality is worth considering before virtual reality – but think carefully about your own brand and customers to decide what's right for you, rather than being distracted by the allure of the latest innovation.

‘We've heard a lot about virtual reality, mixed reality, augmented reality, and we were talking earlier about how virtual reality is interruptive as a platform in that you stop what you're doing, you put the headset on, you're in that environment. But that's not a natural behaviour that we're doing every day as we're going about our business. Augmented reality is actually giving us an enhanced version of what we're already doing, probably through a smartphone - we've seen Pokémon Go as an early example of that type of behaviour being something that people are engaging in.'

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