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The Role of Technology in Top Tier Customer Experience

David Fuller-Watts, CEO of Mallcomm, explains how digital technology is helping retailers to elevate the customer experience
in-store and online.

The Role of Technology in Top Tier Customer Experience 1

As retailers continue to respond to changes in consumer behaviour and an uncertain economic climate, the need to improve the customer experience has intensified. To differentiate in a competitive and challenging market, creating a memorable experience is essential and technology has a vital role to play.
With more shoppers spending time in the digital world, the customer journey now begins long before they physically enter a store. This is fuelling the need for more effective omni-channel strategies. Consistency is key to this approach, ensuring the customer experience across multiple channels meets changing needs and expectations.

Streamlining journeys
Customers expect the purchasing journey to be quick, simple and stress free. The same principle applies to the returns process. With online retail significantly increasing the number of returns, creating more efficiency is essential.
Technology, including artificial intelligence (AI) is already being used to tackle rising returns and costs. Automated fulfilment processes, virtual fitting rooms and tailored size advice are just some of the initiatives being deployed across the retail industry.
At the same time, many retailers are proactively encouraging shoppers to bring their items back to store to reduce costs. This approach doesn’t, however, remove the need for technology. Digitisation can streamline the in-store returns process making it far quicker and simpler for customers. The use of digital touch-screens is just one example and for larger shopping centres, there is the potential to adopt a similar strategy, providing shoppers with more flexibility.
By using a digital platform, retailers can centralise the returns process for their customers, enabling shoppers to select a preferred time for bringing back their items. This will help them to avoid the queues at peak periods, removing stress and freeing up time for browsing and shopping.

Keeping connected
Another benefit of an omni-channel strategy is that it can help retailers to build stronger connections with their customers. By creating memorable experiences both on and offline, retailers can boost engagement and loyalty.
In-store product demonstrations, personal styling, events or offers, can all help to encourage customers back into physical shops and incentivise sales. But to maximise the effectiveness of this strategy, the online experience must match up.
Customers now demand relevant and accurate information at their fingertips. Adopting new technology can meet this need by bringing the information that matters the most into one place. This means that retailers’ latest news, including details of special offers and in-store events, can be communicated to them through a single source and tailored to customer demographics.
This provides a more bespoke experience that extends beyond the purchase of goods or services. Customers also have more opportunities to engage with the brand and long term, this technology can help to foster a greater sense of community across both physical and digital spaces.
Centralising information though digital technology can improve the experience in other ways too. It enables customers to directly communicate with retailers, helping them to receive a swifter response to any queries. At shopping centres, multiple applications can be brought onto one platform, providing shoppers with information that helps them to plan their visit more effectively, including car parking capacity.

A step ahead
Continuously improving the customer experience goes hand in hand with data monitoring, collection and analysis. There is a vast range of technology that can be adopted to understand a customer’s behaviour, their needs and expectations, helping retailers to create more tailored services and experiences that build loyalty.
Artificial intelligence can be used to identify key trends and enable retailers to respond accordingly such as adapting marketing, merchandising, supply chains and promotions.
Digital technology can also be adopted to create bespoke, online feedback forms, polls and surveys that analyse customer feedback and sales data, ensuring retailers get a clearer picture of customer satisfaction as well as the impact of experiential retail initiatives and marketing campaigns.

People first
Improving the customer experience relies on people and ensuring retail staff are happy and motivated. After the challenges of the past two years, engaging workers has become more important than ever before. Technology will never replace good people skills, but it can help to make their jobs easier.
In shopping centres for example, digitising operational processes such as maintenance or cleaning requests, keeps retail tenants productive, saving their time and streamlining management.
Digital tools can also be used as part of wider employee recognition strategies, enabling managers to offer online awards that acknowledge excellence and offering the ability to share an employee’s achievements with the wider team or retail community.

Standing out
As customer expectations continue to rise so does the need for more memorable experiences in retail. In response, technology is evolving bringing with it a vast range of digital tools that can be used to meet the changing needs of shoppers. From improving connections and communication through to more forensic analysis of trends and behaviours, technology is playing a crucial role in ensuring retailers can differentiate, boost loyalty and increase sales.