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improve post-lockdown customer experience

Redefining Customer Experience in Post-Lockdown Era

Since 2020, things have changed, and customers around the globe anticipate the moment they get to return to normal shopping.

Except there might not be such a thing as “normal shopping” anymore.

Once the novelty of shopping in person again wears off, customers might be applying a more critical eye to the experience they’re getting.

A report from August 2020 surveyed shoppers who chose to physically visit a store. For many, this wasn’t the experience they hoped for:

  • 47% of shoppers were distraught they had to wait in a queue.
  • 26% couldn’t try on any items due to closed fitting rooms.
  • 35% found it less convenient than prior to COVID-19.
  • 28% were nervous to be shopping in-store.

As the behavior of consumers changes, so too must retailers themselves. In this article, we will outline the most critical strategies to improve customer experience post-lockdown.

As Morag Cuddeford-Jones puts it in her article for the Chartered Institute of Marketing, “(these) strategies are not new, but they are ones that the majority of store chains have pushed far down their list of priorities until now.”

Optimize your waiting experience

It goes without saying but consumers dislike having their time wasted. This, of course, includes standing in line — something that has become an ever-present part of shopping.

As the abovementioned poll showed, waiting in a queue was the top cause for a negative in-store shopping experience. For 47% of shoppers, this was the thing they remembered the most about their experience — and not in a positive way.

The reports indicate that customers will probably give even less benefit of the doubt once the lockdown is completely lifted.

Another 2020 survey even suggests that up to 68% of people abandon a queue at one time or another.

Optimization of the waiting experience stands atop three pillars:

1. Make the check-in process simple via self-service and remote sign-in. Post-lockdown, safety will be a major concern: over 50% of respondents consider safety measures important or very important in retail.

“I only enter a space if I know that it is clean and hygienic. I thoroughly research their social media before going. If they have made it clear that they maintain hygiene and sanitisation at their physical space, I then make an active choice to go.”

Touchless check-in options, such as QR-based check-in and queue management, make it possible for customers to check into queues without worrying about health risks.

2. Provide wait time estimations and clear guidance. With a digital waitlist monitor, customers can see how far along they are in a queue. They also get helpful guidance when it’s their turn: the number of the reception desk, plus a picture and full name of the person who’s going to serve them.

3. Communicate with customers every step of the way. SMS-based two-way communication allows you to inform customers of any changes, delays, cancellations and postponements. Moreover, you get to ask for feedback and instantly receive it.

Focus on individual customers

The conventional retail wisdom suggests that as foot traffic goes down, the value of each visit rises.

As a result of a prolonged lockdown, consumers’ attitude towards brands will change. Or, as the report by Accenture puts it, “The erosion of confidence will make trust way more important than ever before.”

Post-lockdown, the familiar will be more valuable. Risk will be less tolerable to consumers, so it’s time to shine for the established brands.

A piece of advice that the Accenture’s report gives is to run an end-to-end customer experience audit.

That is, you must understand what it’s like to buy from you:

  • How are general inquiries handled? Is support as high-quality and responsive as you claim?

  • How easy it is to buy a product, abandon your cart, file a complaint, etc.?

  • What is the general consensus about your business on social media and review platforms?

By focusing on individual experiences, you can better understand what it takes to convert and retain a one-time consumer.

Bring the in-store experience online

One of the main casualties of the lockdown period is casual store browsing. Even when the lockdown is lifted, many consumers will be hesitant to wander into retail stores unless they really have to.

To put it more bluntly, the in-store experience might not be as enjoyable to consumers as before.

The logical thing is to focus on bringing the in-store experience online.

We’ve seen examples of businesses and entrepreneurs shifting to digital space as soon as lockdown began. For instance, there were fitness instructors and yoga coaches who offered video lessons.

Even horse-riding can be taught via online coaching nowadays!

The same goes for educational projects, many of which shifted to video calls, chats and other means of remote learning.

In our pre-COVID overview of CX trends for 2020, we placed emphasis on the rise of smart stores: businesses leveraging VR and AR technologies to improve the experience of customers.

This same concept could be applied to their web presence, too.

Improve customer relationships across multiple channels

The need for clear and transparent communication is hard to overstate.

Consider this: companies with a focus on omni-channel customer service retain an average of 89% of their customers, as compared to 33% for companies without such customer service.

It’s not enough to just provide omni-channel communication — it needs to be consistent, too.

Accenture found that 89% of customers get frustrated because they need to repeat their issues to multiple representatives. Moreover, 87% of customers think brands need to provide a more consistent experience.

Omni-channel communication is a way for businesses to achieve excellent customer service and provide consistent customer experiences. It used to be important pre-2020, but its role will keep on growing even when coronavirus becomes just a footnote at the end of a history book.

Online shopping & contactless delivery

In her Forbes article, Blake Morgan argues in favor of contactless service:

“Consumers plan to be cautious, even when the spread of the virus subsides—with substantial implications for economic and social recovery. Currently, 37% of consumers prefer to satisfy their core needs while staying indoors — including working, virtually socializing, consuming media, and making essential retail purchases.”

Curbside pickup is a type of delivery when a customer is waiting in a parking lot for their order to be loaded into their car. It’s entirely contactless, which is the reason it exploded in popularity in 2020.

When the coronavirus outbreak became not the matter of “if” but “when”, click-and-collect and curbside pickup orders jumped 87% between late February and March 29.

Again, the point is to provide customers with the sense of safety. Katerina Bogatireva, the owner of the Precycle bulk grocery store, says that customers have reacted positively to her business:

“A lot of customers have been extremely appreciative, because it makes them feel really safe not going inside the store and touching everything other people have touched. I think it gives them peace of mind.”

If you want to learn more about contactless delivery and curbside pickup, follow our useful guide.

Leverage customer data to personalize experiences

As the shopping arena shifts to online, businesses need to realize that their competitors, too, are only a click away. The key is to distinguish yourself by offering a truly personalized experience

This means:

1. Curated messaging.

Your customers need to receive relevant and timely messages. The goal is to make it as genuine as possible, so it’s best to edit your automated templates to cater for individual consumers.

Also, don’t forget to use positive, empowering language focused on customers.

2. Targeted offers.

This speaks for itself: once again, you must concentrate on individual customers and their specific wants. But you can do this only if you…

3. Learn your customer’s needs and preferences.

Get a better understanding of their consumers and leverage these insights to attract, convert and retain more customers.

Understand your customers’ intent and context.

Intent is what the shopper wants at this moment. In general terms, are they browsing or are they buying? On a narrower scale, are they aware of what kind of product or service they need?

Context is what shapes these decisions and wants.

4. Anticipate questions and needs.

Provide valuable information to cut down on the research time of your customers. Whether it’s product reviews, tutorials, knowledge bases or something else, you want to push customers closer to purchase.

82% of smartphone users say they consult their phones on purchases they’re about to make in a store. The stages they go through could be categorized as awareness, then consideration, and finally, decision.

As we’ve said before, pay attention to opinions on social media and review platforms. This is the major source of confidence in your brand, and they impact each of the three stages of making a purchase.

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Vaccine or no vaccine, the consequences of COVID-19 will be with us for the observable future.

But instead of treating it with a gloom-and-doom attitude, we have to accept the cards we’ve been dealt. 2021 and beyond is a great opportunity for businesses to stand apart from the rest and show everyone their worth.

Our list of customer experience strategies is by no means exhaustive, but it provides a nice foundation for the bigger CX approach.

Are your customers demanding smoother, faster, smarter service? Do you think your business can do better? Get into contact with us, and we’ll help you realize your potential.

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