Consumers want the best of both worlds so don’t go hanging up closed signs on your brick-and-mortar stores just yet. The pandemic has accelerated many trends and certainly more consumers are comfortable with online shopping than ever before. However, JO GAINES says don’t go hanging a closed sign on your bricks and mortar store just yet. Customers want the very best of both worlds, raising the bar for retailers across the country. In fact, NZ Post’s e-commerce Spotlight reveals many of the digital shopping habits consumers were forced to adopt over the last two years will become a permanent trend for brand engagement ongoing, with online shopping for the first quarter of this year up 31 percent from 2021, and up 86 percent on the same quarter in 2020. Despite shoppers turning to online channels, the store will continue to play a critical role in discovery, browsing, and shopping. According to Salesforce’s Connected Shopper Report, 57 percent of shoppers have purchased a product online to conveniently pick-up in store when it suits them in the last year, 29 percent have researched a product online while in-store, and 25 percent have scanned a QR code to learn more about a product. The challenge for retailers is that whether it’s in-store or online, today’s shoppers expect every interaction with a brand to have a personal touch to it that recognises all of their interactions, preferences and interests, and makes them feel appreciated, unique, and understood. Here’s how: GOOD CUSTOMER EXPERIENCES BUILD TRUST Despite the increased cost of living pressures, customers haven’t been deterred from shopping with recent research from payment provider, Worldline, revealing Kiwi’s spent $2.9 billion on retail in April, up 4.1 percent from April 2021 and 15.4 percent from April 2019. While consumers are buying more, their desire for a connected shopping experience across online and in-store has left many reassessing established brand loyalties. According to the Salesforce Connected Customer Report, 61 percent of customers switched brands at least once in the last year seeking out better customer experiences, with half (51 percent) stating that it feels like sales, service, and marketing departments don’t share information with one another creating a fragmented experience. As shoppers challenge brands to deliver superior customer experiences, retailers are increasingly under pressure to stitch together online and offline interactions so that as customers switch between channels – such as email, social media, the website and in-store – every interaction seamlessly picks-up from where they left off. It’s increasingly important to make these frictionless connections in order to build trust with customers, with 71 percent of customers losing trust in a brand when there are inconsistencies across multiple touch points in an organisation. Furthermore, 48 percent lose trust when they receive communications that don’t match their interests. The Warehouse Group recognised its customers use multiple channels to engage with the brand and underwent a digital transformation with Salesforce so its customers could access customer support from any channel that they prefer. By doing so it has not only increased the efficiency of its digital support channels but also enabled its staff to deliver faster and more personalised customer experiences. CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS THE PRODUCT YOU SELL Today’s customers expect brands to understand them and deliver personalised experiences, with research revealing 88 percent of customers say the experience a company provides is just as important as its products on the shelf, jumping up from 80 percent in 2020. To get there requires a single view of all of your customer interactions across a business no matter what channel they choose to engage with your brand. The challenge is that retailers currently use at least 44 systems to manage customer experiences – meaning data lives in too many places to truly understand all of a customer’s interactions and preferences. To create a single view of customer data, retail marketers need to establish a change management strategy and leverage new technologies such as a Customer Data Platform, which brings together siloed information from across a business and creates a unified customer profile including customer interaction data, engagement data, and customer loyalty profiles. When retailers have this view of a customer they can drive stronger customer retention and acquisition by turning every shopping interaction into a meaningful and rewarding experience through personalised experiences. For example, sending customers product recommendations based on previous purchases, providing an exclusive preview of a new fashion release based on their interests, or texting them notifications when their favourite skincare product is back in stock. Additionally, by leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities retailers can ensure customers are always presented with relevant content and tailored search experiences. For example, retailers can use AI to automatically present shoppers with new product selections when they visit an online store or enable real-time cart analysis to deliver relevant deals, product bundles, and advertising based on what a customer is interested in. While 57 percent of customers are open to the use of AI to improve their experiences, it is a balancing act with 70 percent concerned about unethical use of AI given the consequences of data misuse including invasive marketing practices. In a world where consumers want both personalisation and privacy, retailers must only collect the personal information that they actually need and do so transparently so consumers feel like they are in safe hands. CUSTOMER LOYALTY PROGRAMMES ARE CRITICAL TO REPEAT CUSTOMERS RINGING YOUR DOOR BELL While it’s important to bring new customers into your business, existing and returning customers are the ones who keep businesses afloat. The challenge is that measuring the impact of these customers has become more complex given the growing number of disparate systems that exist within a business. This makes it difficult to truly understand your most valued customers and create experiences that encourage them to stay with you. By aggregating all of your customer data into a single platform, retailers can drive stronger customer retention strategies such as loyalty programmes that cater to a customer’s specific needs and provides them with exclusive and tailored rewards and offers. The most effective loyalty programmes of today are the ones that focus on experience, relevance, and personalisation at every touchpoint with a brand. For example, global retailer Cotton On is using Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud to support its Cotton On & Co Perks loyalty program, enabling it to better understand its customers and provide products and experiences tailored to their needs. By delivering these experiences, it’s transforming its customers into vocal brand advocates and driving even greater reach and influence. It isn’t just relevant experiences, shoppers are also increasingly loyal to brands that demonstrate their values by responding to and acting with society’s best interests in mind. Our research shows 90 percent of customers are influenced to shop with a brand based on its environmental practices, 86 percent on its actions on economic injustices, and 86 percent on its community involvement. Those that don’t run the risk of losing customers to other brands with 55 percent of customers switching brands because its values better align with theirs. We are entering an economy which will be hyper competitive, with consumers more values-driven and less trusting of brands. To succeed, it’s critical retailers engage customers with authentic and personalised experiences based on a single view that recognises them as unique and special. Jo Gaines is Area Vice President of Retail and Consumer Goods at Salesforce.