Master Customer Experience in the New Age of Retail

But our ideas around what constitutes a high level customer experience have changed in recent years. In the pre-internet days, it generally meant attentive sales people available to help with in store requests. But in today’s connected world, it’s more often associated with quick page loads, easily navigable sites and rich media.

As we look to the future, the customer experience is morphing yet again, and it’s becoming increasingly challenging for retailers to ensure it remains high quality. The customer journey is now a multi-platform ride that includes website interactions via smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops -- sometimes throughout one single purchase. This means more flexibility for consumers, but it also produces a more complicated experience for retailers to manage. For many retailers, their existing CMS systems do not enable efficient management and delivery of assets across different channels and devices and frequently assets are held in siloed systems for each channel. This further complicates the management process for retailers as they seek to create and deliver multichannel campaigns.

As the trend continues to shift from in store purchases to online shopping, the customer experience must evolve as well. With consumers becoming increasingly connected and dependent on their mobile devices, retailers across the globe must respond with revamped websites and new mobile offerings if they hope to attract new customers and keep brand loyalists satisfied.

Read on for six areas retailers should consider as they look to tackle the new world of customer experience.

Bring Commerce to Content Pages

By enabling purchasing directly on the content page, retailers provide the ability to buy right at the point of inspiration, without requiring customers to click through to the traditional checkout page. Providing buying power at this point capitalizes on interest and excitement about a product instantly and reduces the risk of losing customers due to a time-consuming or complicated checkout process. This means a smoother, more enjoyable purchasing experience for the user, and higher conversion rates and increased revenue for the retailer.

Mastering Multichannel

Today’s online purchases rarely stem from one interaction. Instead, most are the result of several website visits via various platforms. We live in a connected, device-saturated world, and consumers are utilizing multiple avenues to research and purchase items whenever time allows. For the consumer, this means greater flexibility and versatility. For the retailer, it means increased challenges with managing content delivery across multiple channels and devices.

Adaptive design solutions, using dynamic imaging technology, help retailers effectively address these challenges by resizing content on the fly and automating and streamlining the resizing process. This helps designers address the multichannel challenge and ensure that the site performs well across multiple devices.

Another element to consider is that different devices are more conducive to different environments or times of day and usage varies based on factors like network bandwidth and screen type. The goal for retailers, no matter the circumstances, is ensuring the fast delivery of high-quality content. Adaptive design caters to this as well, optimizing engagement across device types and platforms.

Understanding Mobile

Building on the last point, it’s important for retailers to not only understand how their viewers interact on different devices, but to know that experiences vary depending on platform. Mobile’s varied format, screen size and bandwidth means retailers must work to deliver an experience customized to those circumstances. Images, for example, should be treated differently with mobile, where there is less screen real estate and additional information must be stripped away to make the image the central focal point of the page. Navigation should also be treated differently, as there is less space for buttons and most page movement is dictated by the user’s thumb.

Valuable Video

For online retailers, videos provide the ability to present products in a completely new, interactive manner. Instead of traditional static images, video allows consumers to watch products in motion and understand how certain parts function, move and deliver benefits. This offers a whole new layer of understanding for customers trying to compare products and decide on purchases. Clothing retailers, for example, can use video to demonstrate not only how certain items fit, but also how fabric falls and moves with the wearer. This additional dimension can make all the difference in convincing a hesitant buyer to make a purchase.

Merchandise Your List Page

The list page allows customers to quickly browse a selection of products that fall into a specific category. List pages are a key stop on the consumer purchasing journey, and enhancing them with merchandising options helps deliver a more positive buying experience, versus simply providing a static list of products.

Merchandising can be improved in several ways. Incorporating roundels, for example, draws the shopper’s eye to new items or special offers and helps them zero in on the items they want to investigate further. Showing alternative views upon mouse-over gives the page interactivity and engages browsers, while delivering more content to view. Include color swatches underneath product images to show all available color options. Not showing these could cost you customers if a particular color is preferred. This opens up new buying avenues for customers and improves sales for the retailer.

Make the Product Page Pop

Once users move past the list page to delve into a specific product, they are well on their way to purchasing. Converting them to a sale at this stage means providing great imagery and interaction capabilities, available with the incorporation of rich media. This includes zoom, 3D imaging, product views from various angles, movement, etc. The online shopper doesn’t have the luxury of touching or physically interacting with products, but the goal of enhanced product pages is to provide the next best thing and make viewers feel like they have a solid understanding of the product and its specific details.

There’s no arguing that the world of retail has changed dramatically in recent years -- and it’s still in flux. However, the importance of delivering a top-level customer experience has not changed. With the plethora of competition out there today, ensuring your customers have an optimum experience is more important than ever. The nature of how to achieve this may be changing, but by focusing on improving website usability and engagement across platforms, retailers can easily adapt and prosper in the new age of retail.

Title image by XRoig /