How to Get Retail Customer Experience Right in a Digital-First Era

The importance of the retail customer experience has increased multifold over the pandemic, even at a time when a record number of retailers have had to shut down their physical stores. 

But this period has also set apart the cream of retail stores from their contemporaries, through their agility to provide a seamless retail customer experience online – finding ways to stay relevant even with a decrease in footfall, and adapting their existing strategy to be digital-first. 

Here’s how to create a comprehensive and effective digital-first retail customer experience that benefits your customers, as well as your business.

What is retail customer experience?

Retail customer experience is defined as the in-store and online experience provided by businesses across all customer touchpoints to improve customer satisfaction, retention, and revenue metrics like repeat purchases and ROI.

What makes a great customer experience in retail?

To offer a great retail experience, brands need to impart consistency across in-store and online touchpoints with the help of digital transformation and the right tech stack. What’s important is your commitment to iron out everything that adds complexities to the customer journey. This may include their shopping experience, ease of communication or reaching out to support, and closing the feedback loop, to name a few.

The core principles of a good retail customer experience

  • Social listening and REALLY listening! Go out of the way to hear out your customers across communication channels and pick up cues to be proactive in assisting them.
  • Rule out the disconnect between in-store and online retail experience with customer profiles built and updated with the right customer service software. This will unify their journey and establish consistency in the retail experience you offer.
  • Recommend the right products and services to customers with the assistance of tech stacks like CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) tools.
  • Keep customers engaged with your brand online with learnings from their in-store experience. Curate your brand content in keeping with your customer interests.
  • Ensure the creation of content collaterals and webpages that encourage customers to navigate through your products easily.


In the pandemic context, 52% of buyers have shifted to spending more online than in-store during 2020. Though many businesses scuttled to a digital-only strategy for the time being, the value and ease of purchase that customers saw in digital-first retail experiences have come as a blessing in disguise for most customers, and is a trend that is likely to only grow in popularity.

retail customer experience

How to improve customer experience in retail

While there are multiple moving parts to take care of when it comes to retail stores, let’s focus on how to build the foundation of a good retail experience for your customers:

    1. Empower employees with product and customer knowledge
    2. Enable customers to solve problems on their own
    3. Know your customers and their preferences
    4. Create a consistent customer journey across channels
    5. Deploy live-chat and chatbots for support and sales

#1 Empower employees with product and customer knowledge

The support and sales experience your reps offer is only as good as their awareness about your brand, products, and customers. Give them enough training resources to unify important aspects of your product offerings and customer problems that they can solve for. 

Product and culture training

Support agents are very influential in your customers’ perception of your brand or product, since they’re often the first point of contact between your company and customers. For customers, their experience with your support agents is what defines your company. That’s precisely why all customer-facing employees need sufficient training right from the word go.

  • It starts from onboarding: Give your new employees enough learning resources such as product briefs and walkthroughs, video tutorials, and escalation management training–before they get on support. Have them listen to calls and get a gist of what your customer base is like, and the recommended approach for various scenarios.
  • Culture comes first: The technical expertise of your support employees hardly matters if it’s not complemented by empathy and a sense of urgency. Retail companies are inherently expected to be customer-first in their approach.

    To reflect that internally, keep reiterating your brand vision and tie it together with a customer-first service culture. Empathizing with customers and understanding problems from their shoes is a byproduct of a service culture that prioritizes customers over everything else.
  • Equip your employees to be remote-ready: It is entirely possible that remote employees could feel less empowered in handling customers and aligning themselves to common goals as the rest of the team. The key to negating this situation lies in the cloud tools through which your agents engage with customers.

    For instance, the ideal customer service software lets you access customer data in a secured cloud repository and help support agents collaborate seamlessly with other teams and stakeholders to resolve customer issues from a single page.

#2 Enable customers to solve problems on their own

Customers prefer not to jump on calls or get stacked in your support queue to solve their problems. The New Rules of Customer Engagement study determined that 76% of consumers globally prefer to try solving issues on their own before contacting support. It has become truer in today’s digital-first retail environment, where there’s no reason why customers should wait for an agent while they can find a resolution with the right resources. 

With a no-code self service portal, this is entirely possible. With a self service portal, you can build a knowledge base, FAQ section, answerbots, solution articles, and much more – all within your website and customer service ecosystem. 

Self service will help customers feel empowered about solving problems independently and recognize the ease-of-use and intuitiveness in your retail customer experience.

#3 Know your customers and their preferences

Customers nowadays expect that the brand they keep going back to knows about their product preferences in and out of the store. More than 50% of shoppers are willing to share their data in order to receive more personalized communication from their favorite products and brands. Integrating the online and offline retail customer experience is the key to bridge this gap. 

With historical data about their purchases and customer service engagements, businesses could offer curated experiences and product recommendations tailored to the individual. 

Grofers increased its average cart value from Rs. 500 to 1200 by providing real-time retail customer experience through their e-commerce platform. It was a result of delivering real-time assistance through personalized recommendations based on customer activity.

#4 Create a consistent customer journey across channels

Establishing consistency across every channel invariably impacts your brand’s retail customer experience positively. From the conversation history across support channels such as email, live chat, phone, social media, and instant messaging, 

Derive customer information from third-parties like e-commerce platforms, payment gateways, and marketplaces to make the retail customer experience increasingly personalized. But the key is to adopt a software that gives your agents a 360-view of the customer, and allows you to respond to them then and there–whether the channel is email or marketplaces like Amazon.

Supara

#5 Deploy live-chat and chatbots for support and sales

One thing common across today’s consumer demographics is that most customers are smartphone-toting individuals. And who can blame them, given the number of things they can set in motion with a few taps. However, this has made them allergic to long ticket queues and wait times. With asynchronous conversation entirely possible, a complete retail customer experience doesn’t go without live chat and chatbots.

According to The New Rules of Customer Engagement, 71% of consumers expect immediate resolution on reaching out to customer service. And chat as a support and sales channel is the perfect way to meet that customer expectation. Not only does it satisfy customers, but live chat also unclogs major support channels like email and phone support to handle more serious issues, giving agents a breather.

Live chat and chatbots to the rescue of retail customer experience

  • Instantprint, an online retailer, increased agent efficiency by 20% using live chat and achieved 98% CSAT on chat support. This was a consequence of agents being able to handle multiple conversations simultaneously.
  • PharmEasy, an online healthcare retailer, used chatbots to handle a 200% increase in query volume. The chatbots ended up scoring more in CSAT than human agents for PharmEasy.

Leverage tools that make your retail customer experience standout

The right tools for retail customer experience can help you scale the demands of running a modern-day retail store.

  • Customer service software or customer service help desk can enable your support team to track all customer interactions, respond to queries from a single-view, offer self service, increase productivity with AI and automation, and study ticket trends for better customer resolutions in the future. Example: Freshdesk, Kustomer, Happy Fox.
  • CRO tools like Involve.me and Typeform help build traction with personalized surveys and offer landing pages that really engage customers and nudge them to increase their cart value.
  • CRM software helps create customer profiles and nurture them into loyal, long-term customers by studying their spending patterns and proactively offering value through potential solutions they might need. Example: Freshworks CRM, Sales Hub.
  • Chatbots can be leveraged to reduce cart abandonment by triggering the right messages or offers to get them closer to a sale. Chatbots also help support agents with ticket deflection by setting up AI workflows to pick up cues from customer questions and find the relevant answer or support article as a response.
  • Interactive experience apps like Endless Aisle transform the retail customer experience with an interactive touchscreen to scroll through products. It also lets customers compare products and agents to get instant product assist if customers have any clarifications.

An example to showcase the potential of retail customer experience tools

Here’s how Blue Nile entrusted Freshdesk Omnichannel to alleviate their retail customer experience at every turn.

With over two decades of experience in the retail industry, Blue Nile revolutionized jewelry retailing by pioneering a disruptive online model. As a customer-first business, Blue Nile has always strived to offer a cutting-edge retail customer experience–much like their diamond jewelry. They deployed Freshdesk Omnichannel to achieve the following outcomes:

  • Centralized 120 agents spread across 3 call centers to one support hub.
  • Unified all internal communication between product, customer, and external stakeholders to happen within Freshdesk, making conversations hassle-free and context-rich. Offering a great retail experience to customers became easier by enabling cross-team collaboration with Freshconnect, as vendors and merchants could get involved in the support process.
  • Started using live chat as a successful sales channel.
  •  Contextualized data and reports to scale and fine-tune retail customer experience.
  • Derived customer intent by gaining visibility into:
    1. Common queries/problems that inhibit customers to create canned responses
    2. Ticket trends that indicate a surge in queries about certain topics (such as refunds, returns, design requests) and improve in these areas.
  • Seamlessly leveraged Freshdesk’s omnichannel functionalities by integrating with custom apps. Tracking customer orders and making changes could all be done from a single view.

Here’s a unique retail customer experience example

Fast – 1-click checkout facilitator

retail customer experience - fast.com

Fast is a direct exponent of our obsession with fast and fluid digital experiences. We all have faced this issue in online retail where we have to go through filling out personal info, forms, and payment details to place an order.

What Fast does is it securely saves all your information, including passwords and entry forms to place an order for the “fastest checkout”. Such delicate retail customer experiences can nudge customers to take this experience with them everywhere they go and therein lies the value of standing out from other retail stores.

If curating seamless retail customer experiences like these is your thing too, we’re certainly on the same page. Check out how Freshdesk can help your retail/e-commerce store deliver memorable experiences and grow customers for life.