The needs of tomorrow must be identified today. What made a business stand out yesterday is now industry standard. How you remain competitive is unique to your business, but changes in expectations about retail practices are relevant to all. Here are five areas of business where customer expectations will be changing in the near future.
1. Competitive prices
One thorn in the side of retailers are customers who visit their location to physically see or try out a product they have the intention of buying online (for the cheapest price they can find). This phenomenon, facilitated by things such as Amazon barcode scanners, brings numerous costs to retailers. While some might see this as reason to cut the functions being taken advantage of, this is not the best solution. Being able to see and try out products is the key benefit of physical retail; to give that up would be foolish. Your business must find a way to sell at a competitive price, while also offering the traditional benefits of physical retail. Price matching has become a common response by many big-box retailers, with stores matching, or even undercutting, prices advertised by their competition.
2. Service speed
The growth of e-commerce has, and will continue to, change customer expectation in regard to the speed of transactions. Traditional retail had the benefit of being able to see a product and take it home the same day, but it’s losing that to ecommerce, with 66% of retailers planning to offer same-day delivery within 2 years. Improving in-store transaction speed is critical for retailers in every market, lest e-commerce completes a full takeover. One way to improve transaction speed is improving the flexibility of your checkout. Adding mobile payment to your POS not only cuts down on transaction times, but drives customers to spend and tip more, according to a study done by Square.
3. Integration of new tech
What is new today will be standard tomorrow. Your business must be intelligent in deciding what new retail tech will be a flash in the pan, and what will be here to stay. One success story is contactless card payments. The first flash transfer in Canada occurred in March 2013, and by 2016, the volume of contactless purchases had reached $67.1 billion. That represents 21% of Canadian POS transactions, a significant market share that cannot be ignored. Customers will expect contactless payment when they walk into your store. Be quick in identifying and implementing what the next technological innovation (and subsequently, expectation) will be.
4. Painless customer support
Whether you have a fully dedicated customer support department or just a help desk, customer support must improve alongside the rest of your business. A store might see massive growth, but if they don’t properly develop their customer service solutions to keep up, customers will end up unsatisfied. One way companies are improving customer support is offering help through social media. A returns desk is one facet of customer support that holds incredible importance. It can troubleshoot and evaluate product returns and find a better solution than returning the product, losing the customer, and paying to restock the product. Making sure you have an easy returns system is essential, 80% of shoppers are deterred from making purchases where returns are inconvenient. Customer support improvements aren’t specific to retail, but support expectations in other industries will soon become expectations of the retail industry.
5. Personalized service
The importance of customer experience cannot be understated. Future customers will expect not only a product, but an experience that is relevant to their needs. Doing a POTLOC survey is a good way to find out what your customers want. Another way of adapting your offering to their needs is to implement a retail CRM. Doing so will allow you to curate your store to match the wants of your customers. Perhaps one demographic visits the most often, but another spends the most while they’re there. Customer segmentation, developed with CRM data, increases both sales and customer loyalty.
By Everett Stamm