Don’t Just Digitize Your Organization: Transform It

Putting on Customer Shoes:
Finding the Right Fit

Amid a shortage of workers, high inflation, and an uncertain global economy, retailers have tough choices ahead. Where can expenses be reduced? How can customer retention be improved? What culture should be established to attract workers?

Topping these concerns is an even greater issue. This challenge centers on the way shoppers go through their buying experiences. Today, customers have increasingly higher expectations from retailers. Browsers crave a seamless experience that revolves around their needs. A slow response from a retailer could equate a lost transaction. They will spend their dollars at the place that makes them feel valued, special, and appreciated.

Consumer expectations have developed during the last years. Prior to the onset of the pandemic, shoppers were growing accustomed to digital channels. During the shutdowns of Covid-19, customers embraced technology and online interactions. Post-pandemic, 92% of consumers expect contact levels to remain the same or increase.

For retailers with multiple branches or global operations, implementing strategies to best serve customers is a multi-faceted task. The way a shopper is treated at every touchpoint is crucial. Yet how can a retailer adequately find out what customers feel as they go through a transaction? How can a retailer learn what a buyer thinks after they go home? When will a retailer know if they are truly customer-centric?

One technique to find out is to become the consumer. Executives accustomed to taking the 30,000-foot, high-level view of the organization can consider a new perspective. Adopting a ground-level view is typically an eye-opening exercise. By assuming the shoes of a customer, it becomes easier to spot a company’s strengths. In addition, executives will be able to identify opportunities for improvement.

Enhancing the customer experience can resolve matters related to the worker resignation, record-high inflationary times, and fluctuating markets. A customer-centric retailer will naturally address these issues. If consumers are happy, employees will be more satisfied. A loyal customer base may be willing to pay more for a brand they love. A growing client base can generate more revenue, creating a cushion against the ups and downs of the global environment.

Putting on the customer’s shoes starts with a walk around the store. It involves online research and website interactions. It concludes with reflections and observations post-sale. Here, a breakdown of where to go as a shopper, what to do at every step, and questions to ask to identify how to elevate service and increase profitability.

Grab the Shopping Cart

Upon entering the store, note the eye-catching features. Perhaps an associate extends a greeting and offers to help. Maybe a sale item is prominently displayed, along with a demonstration of its benefits. If no person is in the entry area, perhaps a kiosk with a video screen is set up. Customers can ask questions and talk to a live assistant on the monitor.

Move up and down aisles, noting what’s available on the shelves. Consider if the merchandise is the same or different than what is offered online. Look for how easy it is to find more information on products. Sales associates can offer insight. Customers might have access to headsets in the store that show how the items are used.

At the check-out, observe how interactions with customers are maximized. Review which items are on display near the transaction area. Note how associates address customers. Check if cash registers ask for a phone number or email address. A rewards program offered at the transaction point can be used to attract customers and gather pertinent information about them for future promotions.

When walking through a store, the following questions can spur on creativity and an open mind:

  • Do employees greet customers?
  • What items or displays are seen upon arrival?
  • How easy is it to find workers to answer a question?
  • Are there opportunities to create more in-store experiences?
  • Would shoppers be open to mini events, such as short classes or tutorials?
  • Would customers be interested in an opportunity to eat and drink while they shop?
  • Are there ways to deliver a virtual experience? Would customers want to put on headsets to learn more about a product or service?
  • How do associates at the check-out interact with customers?
  • Are there opportunities to create a more personalized experience? Could associates provide a concierge service, complete with recommendations and up-selling?

Turn on a Device

Most customers start their shopping journey before entering a brick-and-mortar shop. They may never set foot inside a retailer’s store—especially if the online shopping experience is seamless. Through digital channels, they look for reviews, check what others are buying, and watch for promotions and price cuts.

Begin this step with mobile, since most customers live their days attached to their phones. Open the retailer app or head to the website. Check if the text is easy to read. Notice if the font and formatting are clear on every page. Look at how products are presented, and how simple (or difficult) it is to search for an item.

Repeat this process for other devices, including tablets, laptops, and computers. Evaluate the effort involved with moving from one channel to another. If a profile is created on a phone, look to see if the same information is available when logging in from a computer. The same is true for items in a cart. Check if they stay in the cart and are available to purchase from any device.

Then head to any community pages, such as social media accounts or influencer sites. Watch videos that review items. Read through the comments listed about the products.

These questions can guide the search:

  • What is portrayed and highlighted in the mobile version?
  • Is it seamless to move from one device to another?
  • How easy is it to find products on the website?
  • Is live help available to guide the buying experience?
  • Are recommendations for other products listed before the transaction is carried out?
  • Is it simple for consumers to pick up where they left off when revising a site?

Keep in Touch

The customer experience includes the return process. It also covers other post-sale interactions. The way a customer is treated after the transaction takes place is important for building a relationship.

Consider the ways available to make a return. Head into a store to get money back for a purchased item. Look online to see if the process can be carried out via shipping and return labels. Call the available number and ask for assistance in making an exchange.

Use the following inquiries to initiate new ideas:

  • How long does a caller have to wait to receive help over the phone?
  • Are there ways to communicate with buyers post-sale?
  • Would customers appreciate a phone conversation or video chat about their experience?
  • Is it easy to sign up for a subscription to receive certain products periodically?
  • Are messages sent to the customer asking if they’d like to purchase items again?

Meeting and exceeding customer expectations is key to fostering relationships. Shoppers who feel confident that their voice is heard and that their needs are being met are more likely to purchase products again. When customers stay, revenue increases and makes it easier to improve worker and cultural conditions.

Gerard Szatvanyi

Author: Gerard Szatvanyi

As a founding member and CEO of OSF Digital, Gerry has more than 15 years of experience managing start-ups and medium-size IT businesses and driving them to peak performance. With background in Enterprise Applications, IT Services and Consultancy, Gerry's impressive client and business portfolio sets him in the new breed for global entrepreneurship.