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UX Consultancy Guide for Clients

23 ways to improve retail customer experience (CX) — complete guide 2021 /w examples

Customer Experience
December 9, 2020
December 11, 2020
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Mario Stipetic

Product design lead

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UX Consultancy Guide for Clients

Improving customer experience can be a challenging task as it requires several key elements:

  • multiple internal departments coordination and effort 
  • highly skilled and educated professionals
  • working CX system
  • customer-first company culture

This article breaks down the 15 most common points to take into account.

The article includes the following chapters:

Retail customer experience (CX) strategy
1. Develop a retail customer-first culture
2. Understand your customer with persona
3. Empathize with the customer with journeys maps
4. Set CX (in-store and online) measuring system
5. Personalize the experience

Internal team CX improvements
6. Set and communicate your retail brand values
7. Focus on innovation
8. Build trust
9. Avoid black patterns

In-store retail CX improvements
10. Improve in-store retail digital transformation
11. Leverage new technologies
12. Remove in-store friction
13. Improve in-store Omnichannel
14. Your brand unique in-store pain points
15. Your brand in-store unique opportunities
16. In-store Knowledge and Support

Ecommerce retail CX improvements
17. Leverage eCommerce Covid-19 “new normal”
18. Add pickup in-store option
19. Be sure that the delivery company performs well
20. Include customer feedback on your product pages
21. Your webshop unique pain points
22. Your webshop unique opportunities
23. eCommerce knowledge and Support

To summarize

Retail customer experience (CX) strategy

1. Develop a retail customer-first culture

Transforming your retail brand culture to a customer-centric is one of the most challenging things to do. 

The leadership starts with the customer, and then works backward, not the other way around.

McKinsey&Company research shows that customer-centric journeys lead to higher revenue and happier customers.

Customer Centric journeys, McKinsey research:

Consumers can now cherry-pick the providers and choose the best experience. 

By starting from the customer, with a bottom-up approach, your entire team can unlock the true potential of your brand.

Example: Amazon same-day delivery

Amazon identified that problem and solve it by building an incredible fulfillment system that supports one-day shipping.

To create the system major improvements to the fulfillment centers were needed. Amazon implemented:

  • robots to carry the merchandise to the staff
  • flight control system controlled and directed the robots
  • gamification system was developed where staff were encouraged to fulfill their roles quicker
  • Prime subscription where customers would get the same-day delivery for free

As a result, The customer segment that previously went to in-store shopping was able to use Amazon same-day delivery with the same result.

Same day delivery increased customer experience and sales and set new delivery standards.

2. Understand your customer with persona

“Company - customer gap” phase is commonly known in the business world. Brands create a gap when they focus more on profit, subjective ideas of what is good for the customer or the competition, and not on the actual customer. 

A persona can help us bridge the gap by revealing key characteristics of your one ore several key customer segments.

Persona will map out the desires, values, knowledge, goals, frustrations, motivations, demographics, income, social status, and other vital pieces of information.

Persona information should include all vital pieces of information to guide all your marketing and sales efforts.

With the proper persona, your staff will be able to empathize better with the customer and in the end, make decisions that are grounded in reality. 

To understand more how to build a persona with actionable insights take a look at our persona article here.

Example: SuperSuper agency detailed persona posters and web page

For a client, SuperSuper research created a detailed persona web page and posters.

With a dedicated persona web page, every client's employee can easily access the persona data at any time.

SuperSuper agency covered the following persona topics in detail:

  • A day in the life

  • Problems
  • Obstacles
  • Objective

  • Orientation
  • Questions
  • Channels
  • Tools
  • Social media

The detailed actionable insight gives your brand a chance to use the persona in their day-to-day marketing and design activities.

3. Empathize with the customer with journeys maps

A journey map will enhance your customer purchase journey empathy. 

A journey map can span through one day, several days, months, or years.

For example, to buy a car, the customer can:

  1. Follow auto industry news and trends
  2. Get the family to agree
  3. Narrow down the car-buying choices
  4. Follow auto brands social channels
  5. Join the brand Facebook group
  6. Check what his peers buy
  7. Choose a car to buy
  8. Read the insurance and other legal information
  9. Get a loan from the bank
  10. Purchase the car

Getting all those things mapped out across time means that you can identify and explore the most common journey, discover touchpoints opportunities, and pain points.

For example, SuperSuper agency performed auto dealership sale research for the client

We mapped out the customer journey of one European car dealership.

We found out one unexpected but logical pain-point. After the car purchase, the customer was worried about when the car would arrive.

The customer called the dealership but they did not know the exact date or even week when the car will be delivered. 

The customer felt anxious and abandoned during the delivery waiting time.

To solve this, the dealership brand invested more effort into a system that would inform the customer precisely and alleviate the waiting anxiety in collaboration with a car manufacturer.

SuperSuper also discovered that the waiting time is an opportunity to prepare the customer for the car delivery, explain more about the car, and enhance loyalty.

4. Set CX (in-store and online) measuring system

Without measuring, you and your team will rely on subjective feelings of how things are progressing. 

Feelings tend to switch from day to day without an exact reference point but metrics give you objective data to analyze and act.

Example: metrics

To solve this, your brand can define customer experience KPIs:

In-store CX KPI

  • average consumer shopping time
  • average revenue per store
  • average time to find a product instore
  • time waiting in lines
  • NPS

Online CX KPIs example:

  • Cart abandonment rate
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Average order value
  • CSAT (customer
  • CES (Customer effort score)
  • NPS (Net promoter score)
  • Conversion Rate

5. Personalize the experience 

When faced with the overload of marketing messages, customers start to ignore them. 

As the marketing market is slowly moving towards digital means your brand needs to embrace personalization opportunities.

Chances are that the customer will first see your brand on social networks or Youtube than in real life or TV.

Statistics reveal that 85% of customers are more likely to purchase when offered a personalized experience.

But, there is a lot of confusion when it comes to what personalization really is.

When imagining personalization people usually imagine a product that has a specific custom selected set of features, for example, you can personalize the color of your shoes.

But, you can personalize the experience along the whole customer journey and not just at the product level.

For example, you can make a personalized blog post, a blog post that teaches how to make espresso properly aimed at-home coffee drinkers.

Then you can personalize your product description to include every single question that your marketing persona type would ask.

The key to personalization is to gather as much information you can and then join multiple data sources to get a full-picture customer view.

The place where you store your customer data in CRM, for example, Salesforce or Hubspot. 

With CRM and other personalization tools, your team can perform various advanced marketing, sales, reporting, and analytics tasks.

Personalization tools:

When your data is joined you can link every marketing interaction to key conversion points and identify patterns to optimize the customer journey.

Example: Amazon personalization

Amazon strives towards complete personalization where online and offline shopping data is used by Amazon to streamline the experience and recommend further products.

Amazon uses digital checkout with mobile phone and new palm readers in their brick and mortar stores.

Amazon understands that the data they got from online and offline usage is crucial to further serving the customer and driving the improved experience.

Internal team CX improvements

6. Set and communicate your retail brand values

Values are fundamental beliefs that shape your customer’s attitude towards your brand. Your customers relate with your brand not only because of products but because of values. 

The customer sees your brands just as any relationship with other people; do you hang out with people who don’t share your core values? I guess not much. 

The same kind of pattern our biological brain is wired; to find shared values with somebody and ultimately build trust can apply to your brand marketing.

Every brand already has values; here are some examples:

  • Inclusive mindset
  • Ethic-first
  • Multiethnicity
  • Equal gender opportunities
  • Passion
  • Technology oriented
  • Trends oriented
  • Conservative
  • Innovation oriented
  • Human rights
  • Animal rights
  • Sustainability
  • Ecology
  • Etc.

Values Example: Nike ads

Nike, the best model in the marketing industry, a brand built its foundation on values, started a culture-changing campaign - “Believe in something”.

The ad shows Football player Kaepernick that got expelled from the NFL because of his anti-racial statement.

The Nike campaign was controversial at first, but as younger people started to adopt its value, it changed the whole culture and built extreme loyalty to the brand.

By standing up to racial inequality Nike attracted like-minded customers that share the same values.

7. Focus on innovation

With innovation, your brand can withstand the test of time and grow your market share. 

When you think of innovation, people usually think of one grand invention, like the light bulb. In reality, a light bulb is just a product of myriad innovations that precede it. 

Brands innovate in small steps, like how your cashier communicates with the customers or how you stack products on a shelf.

Example 1: Dominos pizza square corrugated boxes innovation

For example, Dominos pizza invented the square corrugated boxes we use today all over the world.

Earlier, rare pizza shops that delivered pizza attempted to deliver pizzas in simple cardboard boxes that often became wet from the pizza moisture. 

The Dominos CEO tried several ways of keeping the pizzas hot and crispy at the same time.

Corrugated boxes with small openings proved to be the most straightforward and most cost-effective way to do so.

And everything started with the customer - to enjoy pizza with quality similar to the one ordered in the restaurant.

8. Build trust

Trust is the foundation of your relationship with the customer. 

But, what exactly is trust? Trust seems like an abstract concept. 

If we try to define it, the definition can go something like: trust is defined as having confidence, faith, or hope in someone. 

The trust relationship goes both ways; your customers need to have trust in your brand, and you need to have trust in your customer. 

You trust customers to:

  • repeat the purchase
  • spread good word of mouth

And the customer has trust that your brand will:

  • Offer a fair quality/price. 
  • Be there if he wants to return the product
  • That he will not wait for ages in the waiting lines
  • That he can return the product for free within one month
  • etc

Trust takes years to gain and can be lost in a few instances where trust went out of balance.

Trust example

For example, Elon Musk promised to deliver full driving capabilities and a fleet of self-driving cars by 2020 but ultimately failed to deliver the results.

That shattered some of his reputations and left some people wondering.

It is challenging to innovate; but, it is better not to promise the results if you are not sure your team can fulfil.

With only a few failed promises, customers will lose trust eventually.

Fortunately, Elon Musk did follow up on the majority of his promises ;)

9. Avoid black patterns

Leading brands will compete to differentiate with ethical values, not with shortsighted dark patterns. 

For example, a common practice for a lot of retailers is to advertise a huge discount percentage only to find out that the percentage applies to an irrelevant portion of the products.

In the digital world that also applies to a common dark pattern tactic “Hurry up, only one product left”.

Having top-down management with a short term goal of increasing specific metrics will push the management to use any tactic to reach the target.

Starting from the customer and then working backward will give your team a stable north star to navigate. 

Dark patterns example include:

  • Misleading sales percentage (on certain items)
  • False discounts
  • Important product/service drawbacks mentioned only in fine letter
  • Intrusive flashy banners 
  • Selling products that do not work knowingly
  • False urgency
  • Hard to cancel the order
  • Undisclosed charges right before the purchase
  • Etc.

In-store retail CX improvements

10. Improve in-store retail digital transformation 

When seeing a retail store now and 30 years ago, the store looks almost the same.

Most of the in-store interior design and shopping patterns remained the same.

That's because the majority of the advancement made is in the digital space in the form of data processing - beyond the visible physical reality.

Digital brought experience improvements like:

  • contactless payment
  • product QR code
  • credit cards
  • inventory management systems
  • Point of sales systems
  • Tracking systems
  • Gift cards
  • Security system
  • AI monitor
  • and others.

Digital will continue to push new experience improvements by leveraging new technologies.

Example: Target mobile wallet

In 2017, Target launched a mobile wallet app where payment and checkout are much faster and more convenient. This enhanced the speed and customer experience.

11. Leverage new technologies

The possibilities of new technologies offer a great chance to enhance the experience and remove in-store shopping friction. 

Every innovation should start from the customer, so be sure to map out the customer journey and decide where to invest your limited resources.

Example: new technology in retail

Several new retail technology trends are emerging that offer your brand a chance to innovate.
Augmented reality AR

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in-store cashierless checkout and in-store analytics

AI personalized product recommendations

Robotics - faster fulfilment

12. Remove in-store friction

By removing in-store friction, you will delight your customers and increase loyalty. 

The best retail brands are obsessed with eliminating friction their customers face.

Friction examples are:

  • fasten up cashier queue waiting time
  • Make line waiting more comfortable
  • Easier in-store product searchability
  • And others

You can easily identify friction by conducting: 

  • qualitative interview 
  • Qualitative and quantitative survey
  • In-store analytics
  • And other

We can help you with planning, building, and performing both survey and qualitative interviews - so contact us here.

Example: Dominos queue

Dominos implemented a queue display system where customers' names are displayed when their order is ready. 

That simple change brought the customer experience of waiting to a new level. 

Remember, customers do not buy the product only; customers buy the whole experience.

13. Improve in-store Omnichannel

If to you, omnichannel seems like an elusive holy grail of retail - then you are not alone. 

Imagine having customer activity on social networks, online stores, brick and mortar stores, and various brand events seamlessly integrated.

That means, that if a customer orders offline, the order shows in the brand mobile and web app. Customer service also knows who he is and what he ordered. Marketing is sending him emails with specific products that complement his orders.

How do brands connect, manage, track, and measure all that? The truth is, currently, it is very challenging.

On the current market, we hardly could find any brand that has a fully omnichannel experience.

Today's retail stores usually have a quality multi-channel presence, where every channel is on its own. For example, Facebook page, in-store, and online shop customer activities are independent of each other.

Used by the market leaders, several omnichannel tools make omnichannel possible:

1. CRM, ex.

2. Communication platform, ex.

3. Operations management: ex.

4. Social media management: ex.

5. Helpdesk support: ex.

By uniting the customer data of different channels into a single unified view, the customer will have a more consistent experience during the marketing funnel experience -- acquisition, shopping, and after-the-sale.

Having a proper omnichannel system is a foundation for further personalization efforts.

Example: Starbucks reward program

Starbucks offers rewards and various loyalty coupons for its in-store customers if they sign up and use the Starbucks mobile app. 

This way, they know who the customer is. 

With the data, Starbucks can track the customer and understand how to enhance the customer experience even further.

14. Identify your unique in-store pain points

Usually, it is not the one big hurdle that makes your customer switch to a competitor. 

It is a series of small bad experiences that force the customer to stop buying or switch to another service, detract his friends from buying, and evangelize the competition.

Example: SuperSuper research

Supersuper agency detects pain points by using customer journey mapping, customer research, and quantitative journey analytics.

For example, Supersuper found that one European grocery retail store had long queues that irritated customers. That caused almost 25% of customers to reluctantly visit the shop and affected around 10% of revenue.

15. Identify your unique in-store opportunities

By listening and mapping out the customer journey, your team will discover surprising in-store opportunities and insights.

Every store and brand is unique; there is no general formula to tell you which improvements might be the best fit for your store and your customers.

Your brand can identify in-store opportunities points by:

  • mapping out the customer journey
  • performing qualitative testing
  • journey qualitative analytics

Example: SuperSuper research

For example, one European car dealership asked us to do broad research on how we can improve customer experience.

After qualitative interviews with in-store buyers, we found out the customers are mostly just browsing and deciding on a car brand a few months before purchase.

Usually, the dealership staff would only answer the customer questions and the customer would walk out of the dealership.

As the potential customer shows heavy intent of buying a car we recommended that the dealership ask the potential customer would he join the email list and follow car dealership social accounts and ask for basic information about his preferences.

This way the dealership was able to send personalized emails, nurture the lead, and keep the customer informed on the latest news and offerings in the coming months.

16. Make sure your customer have proper in-store guidance and Support

As you personally ask for advice from people you trust, the customer expects your brand help to be available prior, during, and after purchase.

You can educate your staff to:

  • how to be kind and friendly
  • to have detailed knowledge about the products they sell
  • to know how to sell
  • to empathize better with the customers

Your store managers can also hire mystery shoppers to test how your staff handles the customer’s questions when the management is not around.

For example, in-store CAS and NPS

Your brand can track important metrics like CAS and NPS for each of the stores monthly.

Ecommerce retail CX improvements

17. Leverage eCommerce Covid-19 “new normal”

Covid Crisis has advanced eCommerce growth for one decade in just two months - to be more exact, 27% of growth in two months. At the same time, online grocery shopping grew for six years in just six months.

Every retail brand is now looking to enhance its eCommerce presence - for a reason.

Customers are avoiding crowded in-store shopping because of the Covid virus.

The chances are that “new normal” culture will stay even after Covid, with every generation now fully educated of how viruses can spread indoors.

Example: Fashion retailers

The fashion retailers did leverage their eCommerce presence, with free returns promise, which kept them alive during the crisis.

18. Add pickup in-store option

Pickup in the store allows the comfort of online ordering with ease of pickup in-store.

In some cases, if the customer doesn't want to wait for the delivery, pickup in-store is the fastest way to get the product with the least amount of energy invested.

Example: Pickup in-store

Zara offer pickup in-store as option during mobile checkout.

19. Be sure that the delivery company performs well

Low-quality delivery companies can lower webshop reputation, customer trust, and sales.

Even if you outsource the delivery, the customer sees the delivery company as your brand extension, not as a separate company. 

If the customer has a bad customer experience with one or several deliveries, he will just stop ordering.

Example: delivery pain points

For example, Supersuper agency researched one case where specific customer segments were not happy with the delivery company.

The delivery company delivered the package to a local post office instead of door delivery, and this made the customer completely abandon the client's online shop.

20. Include customer feedback on your product pages

Implementing feedback can sound counterintuitive; you might get bad reviews and do not have control over the feedback.

Both reasons pale in comparison to the benefit that customer feedback brings to your online shop.

The feedback your customer makes is a great way to understand your customer better. Some things that customers care about usually comes as a complete surprise.

Customer product feedback also builds:

  • community trust
  • collaboration
  • transparency 
  • A chance for your customers to help each other

Example: Asos product feedback

Asos implemented customer feedback in their mobile app.

The customer feedback improved Asos customer experience in many ways:
- build trust
- build a sense of community
- customer reads useful feedback
- customer can see is this product for him/her

21. Identify your webshop unique pain points

A common saying goes - “The devil is in the details”. Tiny customer pain points might not be visible to your team initially, but with time, they will decrease your customer trust.

Your brand can identify online shop pain points by:

  • mapping out the customer journey
  • performing qualitative testing
  • journey qualitative analytics

A customer journey map combined with qualitative testing is especially important for pain points identification.

Example: Pain points example 

SuperSuper research found that small details like intrusive banners can distract the customer and increase the churn rates and lower the customer experience.

After watching hundreds of individual Hotjar interaction recordings on multiple websites and eCommerce, users ignore the sidebar popup - and especially fullscreen, either they close it in seconds or leave it open while struggling to read the content.

If 1% of users click on the popup, you make it harder to read for 99% of the people.

There is a middle ground where it is advisable to show the popup unobtrusively on the desktop right-hand side but after 75% of the page reading.

To solve this challenge, text links inside articles and carefully positioned buttons provide much better conversion rates while maintaining a good user experience.

22. Identify your webshop unique opportunities

With the online customer journey mapped out, your brand should understand hidden opportunities to improve and innovate.

Your brand can identify online shop opportunities points by:

  • mapping out the customer journey
  • performing qualitative testing
  • journey qualitative analytics

Example: customer journey opportunity

23. You customer should have all the information he needs

The customer, especially with longer journeys that spans through weeks or months, feels lost and needs information and guidance. 

Google measured that standard eCommerce journey purchase touchpoints can range from 50 to 500.

For example, your customer will: 

  1. explore the competition
  2. watch various video guides
  3. watch independent reviews
  4. click on a few ads
  5. ask their peers
  6. see posts on social networks
  7. see available places to buy
  8. see the delivery date
  9. check terms of purchase
  10. and finally, complete the buying process

The whole journey is unique, and for now, cannot be tracked altogether.

We (SuperSuper)noticed that customers usually strive to have more in-depth knowledge about the upcoming purchase - even for smaller purchases.

Your brand can support the customer with:

  • various text guides 
  • honest reviews
  • video tutorials
  • and other means to educate the customer

Leading brands understand the need for customer support throughout the buying cycle, especially after purchase, which is crucial for building trust and loyalty.

Example: Decathlon online knowledge base

Decathlon, a sports equipment retail brand, has extensive video coverage of its products, where customers can quickly look at the product features and usage.

To summarize

The real battle for the market share isn't with the competition; it is internal. 

Reconsideration, introspection on strengths and weaknesses, and empathy for the customer will make a difference. The customer will always choose a brand that offers less friction and bigger value.

To succeed in the customer experience space your brand needs to adapt to the customer-centric culture where the real north guiding star is your customer. 

With that in mind, your brand should be self-confident that in the long run, with true customer-centric culture, progress and growth will come.

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Mario Stipetic

Product design lead

Mario has worked for New York and San Francisco-based startups and large corporate companies such as ZTE. He specialize in product design solutions.

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