In this series of posts on current trends in retailing, we’ll take a look at how best-in-class retailers are helping turn customers into loyal fans. Having worked with retailing experts on this topic, we believe there’s a lot to learn from looking beyond the travel industry and adapting similar techniques to ensure success in travel retailing. We’d love to hear your thoughts on it – so please feel free to comment.
Retail excellence is not easy to deliver, but to stand out from the competition, it pays to strive to achieve that sweet spot in retailing. A service that encompasses the three key elements of need, delight and human touch helps companies differentiate themselves in the eyes of customers. Within these elements are several factors that must come together at every stage of the customer journey in order to transform a retailer’s offer into what is referred to as ‘super serving’ – an exceptional service that goes above and beyond – the sweet spot!
At the heart of the customer journey, and vital for achieving delight and human touch, are innovation and conversation; these two necessities are closely aligned to ‘super serving.’ New technology can play a big part in this, for example, data capture techniques can lead to greater personalisation or make research easier for consumers, whilst ‘bots’ or Artificial Intelligence facilitate a frictionless experience by serving the customers’ needs wherever they are, such as on their phones or in the comfort of their own homes.
Simply meeting customers’ rational needs is not enough
Certain ‘needs’ are vital to every retail experience – rational, transactional elements such as information on the products/services offered and a good range of options, so the customer has plenty of valid choices to aid decision-making. As important as meeting customer needs are in overcoming potential pain points, other critical elements are often considered less. However, to reach the sweet spot, all three areas need to be addressed.
Human touch and delight are often overlooked, but are crucial to the achievement of super-serving. Problem-solving and coherent explanations can be enhanced by adding a human touch. Although not required to get the job done, exceptional personal service guidance and a level of emotional understanding contribute to this experience, especially as the value of human interaction is being challenged in an increasingly tech-dominated world. Delighting customers through entertainment, memorable experiences and luxury completes the trio and, by going above and beyond what is merely required of retailers, we create a service that stands out and is successful.
If a brand isn’t offering something exceptional, it’s unlikely consumers will take a second look. That’s why the sweet spot works from the beginning of each customer journey: there will be no consideration if a retailer cannot get the essential needs right, but the combination of meeting needs and promising delight with a caring human touch is what will set excellent retailers apart from the rest. Delight is the final piece of the puzzle, bringing entertainment and memorable experiences to consumers, and ensuring that all three areas are present throughout every stage of the customer journey.
After purchase, persistence is key – continually hitting the sweet spot between need and delight with a human touch will produce a loyalty-building experience. If repeat customers experience a consistent ‘above and beyond’ service every time, advocacy and conversation about this outstanding service are inevitable.
How one retailer is getting it right
Striving to achieve retail excellence, Gap is one example of a company that has managed to offer super-serving through its customer loyalty app, Gap+. As Gap already gives generous discounts, it didn’t want its loyalty scheme to affect this, so the app had to deliver more than just offers. The Gap+ app learns as you shop, building an individual customer profile that understands your style and gives you personalised style guides and offers while you’re instore (cleverly blending the convenience of tech with the instore human experience). Encompassing the personalisation of human touch with style guides and individual offers, combined with the app’s excellent features that replace friction with delight, the Gap+ app really hits the retail sweet spot for the retailer.
It is no longer enough to merely meet consumer needs. Although ‘need’ is an integral part of ‘super serving’, the sweet spot of retail excellence also requires factoring in opportunities for delight and the human touch. It is the consistent provision of all three that will assist consumers successfully through each stage of the buying process. In addition, the employment of innovation and opportunities for conversation throughout the customer journey is essential in transforming agents into retailers and converting customers into fans. We’ll be writing more about this in the coming weeks and for now you can find more info about retail excellence in our infographic here.