Retail and distribution companies are constantly searching for new and improved ways to get customers the right products and services in line with evolving expectations.
Customers now want to be able to interact with retailers, manage transactions, and track purchases across a range of convenient channels. Moreover, consumers increasingly judge every brand by the benchmark of the world’s most prominent innovators, like Amazon, placing even the smallest retailers and distributors under pressure to innovate.
In a world where 74% of customers say they purchase based on experience alone, retailers rely on the latest CX solutions to deliver the speed, convenience, and personalisation their clients need. Let’s explore the evolving state of CX in retail and distribution.
The Potential for CX in Retail and Distribution
Over the last couple of years, the retail landscape has experienced some rapid changes, largely by the challenges of the pandemic. Digitisation has evolved at an incredible rate, prompting more distributors to offer a wider range of online and offline purchasing experiences.
Today’s retailers must be aligned and empowered to deliver truly omnichannel buying journeys to their customers, whether they’re serving huge companies, individual consumers, or specific niche groups. According to Forrester, consumers are fundamentally drawn toward brands capable of offering comfort, convenience, and happiness. This is perhaps even more true since the pandemic, as today’s clients are tired of dealing with uncertainty and stress.
By examining, auditing, and optimising the CX strategy, retailers and distribution companies can achieve significant benefits, including:
- Improved productivity and efficiency: Increasingly, retail companies are discovering that excellent customer experiences are the entire organisation’s responsibility. The right CX solutions help to create a single view of the customer while unifying and aligning workforces to work more efficiently together, even in a distributed hybrid work environment. Workforce optimisation tools can align sales, support, and marketing teams, while CRM offerings provide a better insight into the complete customer journey, boosting team efficiency.
- Data-driven business operations: To stay ahead of the evolving expectations of today’s customers, retailers and distributors need access to extensive data. Brands need to be able to track and synchronise inventory insights across multiple channels, monitor the progress of a supply chain and order fulfilment strategies and more. CX solutions can also provide more of the data required to enhance business operations, offering insights into what it takes to drive customer loyalty and how customers move through the buyer journey. IDC predicts by 2024, 30% of Fortune 2000 companies will be integrating tools to access better data.
- True omnichannel experiences: As mentioned above, while customers are increasingly expecting digital solutions for retail and distribution, they’re not impressed by e-commerce opportunities on their own. Instead, today’s clients want to be able to access experiences across a range of channels, from online shopping to mobile customer service and in-person interactions. The right CCaaS solutions need to be in place to maintain a consistent brand experience across all channels.
Trends Driving CX in the Retail and Distribution
As consumers expect a more comprehensive range of more convenient purchasing and customer service options in the retail world, companies are evolving drastically. Integration and cloud-based alignment are happening faster than ever. According to IDC, by 2025, 75% of retailers will be integrating order and inventory data tools with fulfilment, customer satisfaction and other tools. Gartner also forecasts by 2023, a quarter of organisations will have aligned their CX, sales, marketing, and customer service teams into the same segment.
Many of the biggest trends in the retail and distribution world are driven by this demand for more aligned, synchronised CX solutions across various platforms. Some of the most significant opportunities emerging in the industry right now include:
- Next-level omnichannel: As mentioned above, customers are already used to being able to shop online and offline. However, they’re also looking for companies to provide service and purchasing experiences in a range of new environments too. Video chat is becoming more common among B2B companies as part of the sales and service environment, while a live-stream video is helping companies to sell more and support customers on social media. There’s even potential for XR to join the omnichannel retail experience, with VR tools for onboarding and AR for specialist training.
- Self-service: The rise of self-service is a common trend in all industries. It’s becoming widespread in the retail and distribution space, where customers are getting used to manage more of the transaction process alone. Today’s retail and distribution teams need to consider everything from chatbots and intelligent IVR systems to FAQs and customer portals where users can track orders in real-time. Self-service will both empower consumers and improve team productivity.
- AI and automation: Intelligent tools are rapidly becoming critical in empowering and enabling the modern retail team. AI can help companies make better decisions about serving their customers with intelligent insights into the customer journey. Automation tools can also take over several transactional conversations, like renewals and subscription discussions, to help customer service agents focus on more complex concerns.
- Employee Experience: As companies learn it’s impossible to delight customers without first having informed and engaged employees, the demand for “Total Experience strategies” is increasing. Companies need to start thinking about how they empower their team members to do their best work through access to the right tools. Workforce management tools can help to boost engagement, while CCaaS environments and cloud tools pave the way for hybrid working. There’s also the option to explore self-service solutions for team members to help them find information about customers and orders fast.
The Challenges to Overcome in the Retail and Distribution Space
For companies investing in CX solutions for retail and distribution, the focus will be on offering the most consistent, unified, and relevant experiences across multiple channels. However, at the same time, these businesses will need to remain compliant with regulations and privacy concerns. An end-to-end solution will need to allow teams to collect data about customers carefully without harming compliance.
Retail companies will need to be agile, innovative, and tuned into the latest CX tools if they hope to impress the evolving customers of today.