A recurring theme for 2022 has been the growing importance of integrating UX and CX. Many of our clients approach us with the desire to create a more unified experience for their customers, knowing that a better experience can lead to a sustainable competitive advantage. While this goal and its related challenges exist in most any industry, we’d like to take some time in this article to focus specifically on the Retail Sector.
Similar to many industries, experience in retail is becoming increasingly reliant on digital channels and tools. Good UX matters more than ever. However, especially for certain types of products and price levels, in-person conversation and shopping remain very important parts of the retail customer journey. A consistent omni-channel presence is critical to success, as are engaged and empowered employees. Traditional methods of measuring success include NPS; however, new metrics should also be monitored to reflect cross-channel performance. Read on to learn more about key considerations for Retail businesses who endeavor to improve their experience.
START AT THE BEGINNING: THE JOB TO BE DONE
Phase 5 completed a foundational study earlier this year with a large national retailer seeking business growth opportunities in a consumer market defined by a particular life stage. We mapped the journeys for their key customer segments, and identified the jobs to be done along those journeys. Our research generated a list of over 25 high level “jobs” (with lots of detail underneath each one). In the ideation sessions that followed with the organization’s leaders, it became clear that, to seize the greatest opportunities, UX and CX needed to be considered together.
The reason for melding UX and CX was to grapple with certain "jobs" that were strong opportunities, meaning they were very important, but consumers were quite unsatisfied with the existing ways of dealing with them. Some of these jobs, it seemed at first, were too far afield of our client’s business. How could a retailer help with the deep emotional needs of that particularly critical life stage?
But when we plotted these jobs on the journey map and considered how the customer would be interacting with the brand at that point in time, we were able to generate innovative solutions within the business to address those needs, often by leveraging digital support during a critical point in the customer experience.
Consider, for another example, a furniture retailer whose customer’s “job” is to make a new sofa fit with their existing interior design. The retailer who offers customers a personalized floor planning app on mobile and/or on an in-store tablet will have an edge over its competitors. In our experience, finding solutions to jobs to be done that combine UX and CX thinking are a recipe for competitive advantage.
THE IMPORTANCE OF GOOD UX
Online sales growth has exploded over the last few years. In fact, data from the US Department of Commerce Retail Indicator Division shows an increase in online sales from $602B in 2019 to $870B in 2021 (+45%). Obviously the pandemic forced a change in consumer behavior that accelerated digital channel adoption, but at the same time, many innovative solutions were developed and honed. “Digital channels” mean much more than just having an e-commerce enabled website.
Digital supported shopping can take many forms, such as purchasing from a desktop, or from a mobile device; purchasing from a website, or from a social media ad; purchasing online after researching in-person, or in-person after researching online. Then there are “return” versions for each of those same scenarios. The variety of options for a customer to interact with a retailer makes it challenging to create and consistently deliver an excellent User Experience.
One example of a retailer who has created a renowned digital user experience to support its customers is Warby Parker. Customers can browse and virtually “try on” glasses at home (for as long as they want), take selfies to solicit opinions from friends and family, order up to 5 frames for home delivery, and then return any or all frames with their “hassle-free” policy. Warby Parker also offers physical locations to serve customers, with many of those stores offering eye exams. The entire experience is customer-directed and seamless. It’s even possible for a service person in-store to pull up the frames a customer was trying on at home, and then use that as a jumping off point to recommend additional suitable frames that are available in that location on that day. This intersection of CX and UX helps the customer make a buying decision they can be confident in.
Research can help organizations identify what is most important to their specific customers, and therefore where (or in which types of experiences) to invest precious limited resources. Research can also help to map the customer journey to show where there may be gaps or inconsistencies to be addressed in terms of existing UX elements, overall customer experience, or at points where the two collide.
UNIFYING THE OMNI-CHANNEL EXPERIENCE
While it’s true that the use of digital channels has increased rapidly, the in-person experience isn’t going away. According to this CNBC article, store openings were on track to exceed store closures in 2021, and according to Forbes, “bricks and mortar are here to stay”.
If you’re in retail, you already know this. The need to be not only present and functional, but also intelligent and connected across mobile, desktop, in-store and call centre channels is key to business survival. And even as each individual platform continues to adapt and evolve for a better UX, it can be challenging to continue to deliver a consistent customer experience that represents your brand in a meaningful way. It’s no easy task to anticipate all use case scenarios (e.g. when someone will use their mobile phone vs. a desktop computer to interact with your brand), and it’s yet another layer of problem solving to make a small screen interface do what a large screen interface (or a human) does.
Canadian based retailer Frank & Oak does a good job of leveraging multiple channels to create a customer experience that is not only positive, but engaging. As told by squareup.com, Frank & Oak customers can use digital channels to shop, but also to book appointments online with stylists. They can choose to order online, or go in-store to pick up (and/or try on). As well, if a specific item isn’t available at a location they’re physically standing in, digital tools are used on the spot to order it and deliver it to the customer’s home by the next day. It’s a great example of various tools and services coming together to create a great overall experience.
When it comes to holistic experience management, Phase 5 Partner Arnie Guha recommends starting with a thorough understanding of the customer, first quantitatively through segments, and then more elaborately through personas. Ask the question, “For whom are we creating the experience?” With those important insights, a journey map can be created which includes key interactions and touchpoints, considering the predominant channel(s) at each of these points, and once again, shedding light on where and how to prioritize resources across the business.
THE ROLE OF EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE
As the digital aspect of customer experience grows, so does the importance of getting the less frequent in-person interactions just right. Machines don’t often make mistakes and databases can instantly put relevant information at our fingertips, so it would not be unreasonable to suggest that customer service expectations have risen, and the pressure on employees to perform has grown.
As we have noted in previous articles, collapsing any organizational silos between User Experience management and Customer Experience management is a very important step towards creating a unified experience overall. However, the importance of Employee Experience (EX) is more often overlooked. On more than one occasion, we have observed EX being assigned to the HR team to manage in isolation.
Through customer journey mapping, an organization can more easily see where customer systems and employee systems overlap, identifying key touchpoints where EX and UX overlap. These points can provide excellent starting points for further research with employees themselves, about their observations, pain points, and any barriers they perceive. Understanding and addressing these elements can improve the Employee Experience, and by association, improve the Customer Experience as well.
MEASURING SUCCESS: BEYOND NPS
So how can you tell if your actions are yielding results? Measure (and monitor) what matters, of course.
While Net Promoter Score (NPS) has been a mainstay of performance measurement in retail experience for many years, consider expanding the experience metrics included in your plan. As Phase 5 VP CX Sam Fiorino explains in “What Are the X-perience Metrics?”, a well-designed and managed experience measurement program should consider targeted segments, moments of truth along the customer journey, action-ability, data collection capabilities, and business strategy.
Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), Customer Effort Score (CES), or actual Referrals are other relevant examples. As described by Qualtrics, Customer Effort Score asks a question like, “How easy was it to deal with our company today?”, and offers simple options from “easy” to “difficult”. To calculate the score and get a quick read on the experience, subtract the “difficult” percentage from the “easy” percentage.
At Phase 5, we have also developed the Customer360 Index. It uses key drivers of customer centricity (including Customer Service, Digital Experience, Innovation) to generate a score that can be indexed to that of other organizations in the industry.
As the retail landscape continues to shift, the challenge to deliver a unified brand experience grows. However using research to fully understand your customers and their jobs to be done, map their journey, and address pain points and barriers (to both customers and employees) can provide the competitive edge needed to survive and thrive. Assessing the experience across channels using quantifiable KPIs is also key to ensuring continuous improvement as digital platforms evolve and customer expectations change.
Contact us to discuss how Phase 5 can support you in your journey to customer centricity.