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2020 vision: predicting the future of retail CX

It's likely to be another challenging year for retail, but CTO Dan Hartveld has three predictions that will help you strategise for CX success in 2020.

At a time when the retail industry is in a state of flux, the only prediction anyone can make with any level of confidence is that there’s more change to come. From the need to reassess retail roles in the light of tech developments to the ongoing battle for footfall, what's required is clarity of vision to build robust strategies with the stability to withstand whatever the next 12 months may bring.

So, with the caveat that 2020 vision only truly exists in hindsight, here are three predictions that focus on what will be essential for retail CX success this year:

Emotional intelligence and tech skills will become key requirements for retail roles

Retailers can’t expect to provide context-specific, personalised customer experiences matched to their individual needs if they don’t have the right store associates, equipped with the right tech-enabled skills and customer-focused sensibilities.

Research by data management professionals Segment demonstrates the value of personalisation in-store – 40% of shoppers said they had bought something more expensive than they intended because of a personalised recommendation from a retailer, and 44% said they would become a repeat buyer after one-on-one engagement with people who know what they’re talking about. The quality of this kind of customer experience depends entirely on store associates with the ability to apply both product knowledge and emotional intelligence to their specific circumstances.

High street shopping is in the hands of front-line staff. They need - and deserve - the technology that can transform the industry as a whole and their jobs in particular. This year, successful retailers will be taking all the necessary steps to elevate, recognise and reward retail roles to make sure they attract and keep high-calibre store associates with the capability to energise the in-store experience.

Retailers will begin to take stock management and fulfilment issues seriously by finally committing to online ordering in-store and single stock view

By now it should be obvious that online ordering in-store is the very least that retailers should offer their customers. But, despite the fact that it has been shown to increase revenue by 1-3% and secondary purchases by up to 35%, some retailers have yet to commit to even this most basic service. The third annual 2019 NICE inContact Customer Experience (CX) Transformation Benchmark showed that seamless digital-first omnichannel experiences are vital to positive customer experiences. A massive 93% want seamless omnichannel experiences, but they’re finding switching between channels to be increasingly unsatisfactory – 73% rated companies as doing a poor job in 2019, up from 67% in 2018.

There’s a strong case for improved business operations, as well - a study by retail business process experts Martec International revealed that inventory inefficiencies can lead to safety stock margins being 20% higher than necessary. Knowing where all of your stock is for ‘my store’, other stores and online, and making that available to all touchpoints (staff tablets, tills, website, mobile applications etc) in a single feed can make a measurable difference to stock management efficiency.

The next 12 months will see retailers finally realising that they won’t be competitive unless they make connected retail central to their strategy.

Experiences that surprise and delight will bring customers in store

Retailers are now consistently turning to the in-store experience to drive footfall and ensure they make every square foot of their real estate work for them.

Getting the hygiene factors right and removing any channel-based obstacles to purchase frees up time and resource to develop the truly innovative, more ‘theatrical’ side of retail – the ‘energy in the room’ craved by those who want a reason to visit a physical store. From interactive, instagrammable pop-up experiences to dedicated in-store spaces for one-to-one consultations, retailers will spend the year upgrading what happens in their stores so that they’re better placed to surprise and delight their customers - and keep them coming back for more.

2020 is likely to be another challenging year for retail, but if these predictions become a reality, the industry will undoubtedly be in better shape for store associates, customers and businesses.

Red Ant CTO Dan Hartveld
Dan Hartveld, 15th January 2020

This article first appeared on MyCustomer.

CTO Dan Hartveld focuses on the 3 things that will be essential for a successful customer experience strategy this year

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