Is Customer Experience the Last Hope for Brick-and-Mortar Retailers?
I have been watching The Great Retail Apocalypse of 2017 quite closely lately. Not only because I provide service for a number of retail companies, but also because I own a small retail franchise that my wife runs. And, let me tell you, it’s a frightening time for retail; stores are closing, profits are down, and it is more and more difficult to get lift from our direct marketing programs.
DISCOUNTS DON’T DELIVER
While the article linked above makes some fantastic points about why retail has it hard, I think they miss an important point about why spend is shifting. Retail has spent the past decade or so using discounts to generate sales instead of focusing on the customer experience, and it’s coming back to haunt us now. I get it, discounts are a very compelling way to generate sales—they have an intrinsic incentive to act quickly lest the consumer miss out—but they are both temporary and costly to the overall customer value.
The only true differentiation a retailer has left, and the only long-term path to value, is the customer experience. Without it, you have very little loyalty from the customer and if the experience is poor, they don’t come back. Companies with a “good” or “excellent” customer experience grow, while those without struggle to maintain any real growth. Yet retailers tend to be content focusing on the short-term over the longer-term effort; this is all spelled out in the “State of the Customer Experience” infographic from Temkin.