Delivering happiness – the new customer experience ideal
A lot of us are understandably experiencing emotional reactions to finally being able to see and engage with each other again, from visiting pubs and restaurants to going shopping. What shoppers want right now is to feel happy - with their visit, with their purchases and with their experience, wherever it happens.
Now that customers generally have access to non-essential stores on a worldwide scale, the behaviours they established over lockdown are being challenged by the return to relative normality. As I highlighted in ‘Post Pandemic customer experience – what shoppers want’, the idea that everything will simply return to pre-covid standards is unlikely to be fully realised, as each of us adapts to the level of social interaction we feel comfortable with within the remaining restrictions.
The only way to acknowledge and leverage these newly-established behaviours is to meet customers where they choose to engage. Once retailers have committed to putting customer choice at the heart of their strategy, with the accompanying investment in omnichannel processes across the business, the next step towards re-energising retail is to actually listen to what they have to say.
And leading analysts PwC have provided the insight to do just that – in their March 2021 Global Consumer Insights Survey, they asked more than 8,000 shoppers from around the world how they felt, which habits adopted during the pandemic they intended to keep, and which they were going to abandon once a little more freedom was within their grasp.
The queues that sprang up outside retailers including Primark and TK Maxx as soon as non-essential stores reopened hinted at some of the truths revealed in the report - shoppers crave a real-world experience, with 42% opting for in-store as their channel of choice. Broken down by product category, it’s clear that for some experiences, while online filled the gap when shops were closed, customers are happy to leave their laptops, tablets and mobiles at home for the opportunity to engage with an in-store advisor.
- 53% said they would shop more in-store for health and beauty products
- 54% chose in-store for homeware and DIY
- 51% would do more in-store shopping for fashion and footwear
But the effects of the pandemic will have a long-lasting impact on what customers expect from their in-store experience – while 65% of respondents reported that they are likely to visit a shopping mall or equivalent in the next six months, their key requirements for returning are:
- Increased health and safety measures, from controlled numbers in the physical store to protective screens and hand sanitising stations
- Being able to see and touch products
- Ability to quickly and conveniently navigate the store to find the products they’re interested in
- Knowledgeable and responsive store associates
- Access to the full product range
As Kingston University’s business and consumer expert Dr Patricia Harris puts it, ‘Some shoppers…find it easier and more convenient to go to a physical shop, look at/touch/try merchandise and talk to sales staff than to search for and compare products online. There are significant cognitive costs associated with online shopping – its scope and flexibility are appreciated by shoppers, but it can also be bewildering, leading to frustration, fatigue and a sense of reduced self-efficacy.’
It all comes down to one simple emotion. What shoppers want is to feel happy - with their visit, with their purchases and with their experience, wherever it happens. Delivering happiness depends on being able to offer the best of both worlds – the range, convenience and safety of shopping online coupled with the social, personalised, human experience of shopping in-store.
This article originally appeared in MyCustomer
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