Customer experience used to be centered on a physical location. Pre-internet, it was all about the retail experience you could give customers at your brick and mortar location. Helpful employees, physical inventory, and an easy return/exchange process used to be enough to provide customers with a great experience, but as we’ve entered the digital age the expectations have changed. 

With the growth of eCommerce and advancements in technology, your customer experience is about a fluid in-store and online experience. In light of the digital revolution and COVID-19, customer experience is more important than ever. Post-COVID, 59% of consumers care even MORE about customer experience, and customer experience is predicted to be a major purchasing driver in 2021. 

To compete in 2021, customer experience will need to be the center point of your business strategy. Today, we’ll discuss the 2021 customer experience trends to follow and ways that you can improve your in-store and online customer experience. 

Why the Shift in Consumer Behavior?

Before diving into how to improve customer experience, it’s important to understand why customers have shifted their behaviors and priorities. While changes in the customer experience and expectation were happening pre-COVID, pre-pandemic models aren’t effective for predicting current customer behavior. Customers are making retail choices that make them feel safe and certain, which goes for both in-person and online experiences. According to research by Qualtrics, the three fundamental ingredients for a good digital customer experience include:

  • Success – did the customer complete their task and achieve their goal?
  • Effort – was the process smooth and easy?
  • Emotion – did they come away from the interaction feeling good? 92% of people who scored a brand high for “emotion” said they were more likely to purchase again from that company. 

eCommerce has been on the rise, with brick and mortar commerce declining, for several years. The pandemic accelerated the change toward a digital experience, and many brands adapted accordingly. Many businesses found ways to move in-person aspects of their customer journey online. Jewelry company Pandora began offering virtual ring sizing and shopping appoints. Car companies have created virtual showrooms. Grocery stores have integrated buy online pick up in-store (BOPIS) offerings and curbside pickup, blurring the lines between digital and brick and mortar. The pandemic itself, as well as the associated retail changes that have taken place, have all drastically altered expectations for consumer experiences. 

Customer Experience Trends for 2021

According to CustomerThink, your customer experience strategy will define your success in 2021. Customers expect a seamless experience on all channels, and it’s more important than ever to deliver that this year. Here are the top customer experience trends to implement for 2021:

  • Self-service and contactless commerce. Online ordering services that connected the online and in-person experience were fueled by health and safety concerns during COVID, but they are here to stay. BOPIS and similar offerings are quick and easy for consumers, allowing them to skip the shipping costs. 
  • Telehealth. Digital health grew immensely this year. Doctor.com found that 60% of patients want to make their appointments digitally and that quality customer service is the top factor driving patient loyalty. The trends in telehealth show the importance of scheduling appointments digitally, which is valuable for healthcare providers as well as retailers to know and implement. 
  • Websites are back. Websites are again incredibly important for the consumer experience. The top websites in 2021 include customer-centered messaging and details about the post-COVID experience customers should expect in physical spaces. Web experience will be a key driver of customer loyalty in 2021. 
  • Relationships are crucial. In 2021, customers will pay attention to HOW you conduct your business. Salesforce research found that 71% of customers believe businesses that have shown more care and empathy this year gained more loyalty. Invest in your company culture and customer relationships. 

2021 Strategies for Improving Your Customer Experience 

Here are some simple ways to improve your customer experience in 2021:

Update Your Website

Customers begin their retail journeys online, especially in a post-COVID landscape. For that reason, websites are booming again and will be critical in 2021. You should make sure your website design and content is up to date. Make sure it’s easy to navigate and offers good customer experience. Furthermore, implement SEO strategies to ensure your website shows up in search engines for relevant search terms. Include helpful information about what your customers can expect for ordering or visiting your store. 

Listen to Your Customers

Largely, the customer experience is still a mystery, but that mystery dissolves when we listen to our customers. Customers are very good at demonstrating what they want, but we must collect and use the information correctly. Optimize your customer feedback collection through surveys, polls, and retail data. Paying attention to how customers are shopping at your store (online and in-person) can yield a lot of valuable information that can help you better cater to your audience. Track, measure, and implement customer feedback at every point of omnichannel retail with a high-quality POS system. 

Create a Seamless Experience  

One of the most important steps to take this year is to seamlessly integrate your online and in-person customer experience. No matter which touchpoint a consumer reaches your business on, they should have a smooth experience. You must make sure your website and online presence reflect your brick and mortar store and vice versa. Some ways to do that include:

  • Inventory management synchronization.
  • Design consistency (colors, fonts, logos, style, etc).
  • Consistent copy (phrases used, names, information). 
  • BOPIS. Allowing customers to purchase online and then pick up curbside or at your location. 
  • Coupons and deals are reflected across all channels. 

Integrate the Latest Technological Solutions 

The retail industry is often an arms race for technology. Many businesses have adapted to the challenges of COVID-19 by integrating new technologies. In the modern digital era, where contactless has become an expectation, some solutions to consider include:

  • Concierge order management. Customers request their order on fixed screens or mobile devices and the associated notify the customer via text message when the order is ready. 
  • Queue management. Customers can see their place in line and receive a notification when it’s their turn to check out. 
  • Digital signage to display products, menus, sales, and more. 
  • Contactless payment kiosks/self-checkout areas. 
  • Health and safety technology like UV-Clean solutions, temperature scanners, RCS shields, hand sanitizer holders, and more. 

Improve Customer Experience with the Best POS System

Providing the best customer experience begins with having the right POS system for your business. Top POS systems of course process payments, but they also help with omnichannel inventory management, eCommerce integration, and other customizable features. With NCR Counterpoint, you can control every aspect of your operations online, which means you can provide a seamless experience to your customers with ease. RCS has industry-specific POS systems available as well as several key integrations that will help you nail down your customer experience for 2021. To learn more about how we can help you improve your customer experience, request your free demo today HERE.

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