Customer expectations in the retail industry were already changing even before the pandemic. Several surveys confirmed that empowerment is a highly valued characteristic of retail CX, with most customers preferring self-service. 2 in 3 US consumers want self-service when shopping, while nearly 50% of younger shoppers prefer self-checkout. Another survey found that self-service was central to improving experiences during peak periods, like the holiday season. 66% of shoppers preferred self-service over interacting with a retail sales associate, with 53% choosing self-checkout.
And the pandemic took self-service CX to a whole new level. Not only did self-checkout emerge as the default normal when shopping in physical stores, but customers also flocked to online portals and knowledge centres to research, purchase, and maintain their products through self-service.
There are plenty of use cases retailers should explore when implementing self-service – these include:
- Looking up the nearest retail outlet location through mobile
- Self-service and self-checkout kiosks in high footfall locations
- Personalised recommendations an easy checkout for popular products
- The option to automate purchases and delivery through subscriptions
- Self-service order management, including order tracking, cancellation, return, and refunds
- Self-service account management, including changing of account details and contact information
- Self-service product trials using augmented reality and virtual reality
As you can see, the ambit of self-service CX in retail spans numerous technologies and strategic approaches, all working together to deliver a cohesive, engaging, and convenient experience.
What are the Benefits of Self-Service in Retail?
Self-service in retail has a number of benefits to offer to both customers and retailers alike. In the context of the pandemic, it enables low-touch processes, which could transform the in-person shopping experience in the long term. It would also bring about exponential improvements in CX, as shoppers would gain from personalised recommendations, faster checkout, and more flexible delivery options. Finally, post-purchase self-service could go a long way in boosting brand loyalty. Remember, in a digital world, customers are likely to pick up the phone and reach out to a live agent only when all other options are exhausted. Self-service minimises the chances of reaching this level of frustration and enabling speedy resolution of common issues.
Roadmap for Self-Service Implementation in Retail
To successfully implement retail self-service and bring about sufficient adoption, retailers must follow a structured roadmap:
- Collect omni-channel analytics to understand true customer intent
- Leverage analytics insights for CX personalisation at the right touchpoint, be it during research, in-store shopping, or online
- Incorporate multiple options across the purchase journey (choice of the shipping channel, scheduled delivery dates, multiple shipments to multiple addresses, etc.) to empower the customer and reduce requests for order modifications that would be otherwise routed to a contact centre.
- Build a robust knowledge base, complete with community involvement from shoppers for self-resolution of issues
- Monitor all self-service channels regularly and leverage the insights to increase investments in high-demand channels and deprioritise those with low engagement
- Integrate self-service with non-purchase aspects of the customer experience including loyalty program management, referrals, etc.