Interacting with retail customers has come a long way from the days of mom & pop’s shops and department stores. The whole industry still strives to find its feet after its encounter with “Customer 2.0” who demanded to be put in the spotlight of brands’ marketing and sales strategies. As the phrase “customer experience” entered everyday business parlance, companies faced a pressing need to create a sort of one-stop-shop for dealing with this complex phenomenon, in the form of a new player among the c-suite crowd: chief experience officer (CXO). Being part of the industry which is often first to feel the sting of changing trends in interaction with customers, CXOs in the retail sector now play a vital role in designing best business models for retailers and ensuring their positive outcome. Let’s see why they can do the same for your retail brand.
Taking the Pulse of Empowered Consumers
For starters, retail now has to deal with a new generation of empowered consumers who are characterized by being highly informed, mobile, brand-agnostic, globalized and having preference for hands-on experience. According to Oracle Retail Report, retailers are now asked to provide a broad assortment of reasonably priced goods that are delivered in time and manner that is determined by the users themselves.
This is a new development compared to the time when retailers had the ball in their court, with their ability to customize the supply chain, product delivery and inventory management according to their needs. Yet, rise of mobile technology and e-commerce created an abundance of choices for customers, for whom being “good enough” in retail simply did not cut it anymore.
Therefore, the prime role of chief experience officers is to truly understand what is demanded by the “base” in forms of customers who now determine the rules of the game. They are the first address for receiving customer feedback, which will help brands establish their business model based on how the consumers respond to offered user experience. As this goes beyond simply catering to customers’ needs, CXOs’ role is crucial in delivering this experience and as “value” and something customers actually shop for.
Plotting the Customer’s Journey
Yet, designing customer experience needs to be driven by sufficient field input, instead of relying on abstract strategies. In order to fulfil their roles as “decoders” of customers’ desires, CXOs have to rely on data analytics on shopper’s behavior and buying patterns, as well as on prevailing trends in popular culture and entertainment industry. This does not stop at mere gathering of analytical data and metrics, as all of them have to be carefully evaluated before being turned into actionable data.
Therefore, the drafting of an effective UX strategy begins with the CXO analyzing each point in the customer’s journey as a lynchpin in interaction between your company and consumers. This includes identifying all opportunities and risks that the customer faces which inform the design of customer journey scenarios. Based on these, CXOs come up with initiatives that are turned into programs which become available for field testing. Thus, CXOs already supply two important starting points to build on in drafting your business strategy: customer feedback and analytical data.
Going beyond UX: Delivering Brand Experience
At the same time, CXOs can help you not just with delivering a superior user experience, but with fusing it with the overall marketing effort by creating an amalgam called “brand experience”. As the user experience design is compared to fashion design, it is a small wonder that this approach has entrenched itself in the fashion and luxury segments of the retail industry.
As the CXOs prioritize customer experience in every endeavor, designing a holistic brand experience means fusing the qualities of both online and offline shopping experiences into a seamless whole. Based on available data, CXOs need to consider all facets of customer experience of interacting with fashion brands, from the organization and naming of store sections to streamlining the store finding process.
British luxury fashion giant Burberry utilized this approach and had its CXOs unify their customer’s journey into a single personalized brand experience based on blurring the lines between physical and digital shopping experiences.
Another brand, Victoria’s Secret, did a similar thing for its customers by detecting their location while shopping online and offering specific localized alerts based on them. This effort was expanded to using online data to improve customers’ in-store shopping experience when they find themselves in brick-and-mortar stores.
Finding a Single Voice for UX Delivery
Finally, CXOs are aware that delivering integral customer experience relies not just on coming up with a game-changing strategy based on customer feedback, analytical data and experience of other retailers – its successful delivery also depends on doing away with fragmented efforts which are invested into it by various retail divisions (sales, marketing, e-commerce).
Therefore, the degree of success of designing the perfect user experience will be proportional to the CXOs ability to bring together all stakeholders under a single UX banner. Thus, “selling” the vision of a unified effort which is always guided by the focus on user experience, remains an essential tasks of CXOs who need to work with a broad spectrum of actorsacross retail business hierarchy in order to effectively design it. This encompasses all levels, from salespersons and store managers, to human resources and customer support departments, ending with the company’s top brass. In addition to this, CXOs are often at the forefront of adoption of new technological innovations, as their work often relies on using cutting edge analytical and data gathering platforms.
In this manner, CXOs become a focal point of cooperation and information exchange among various silos and departments, which are often prone to acting independently in pursuit of their business goals. On the other hand, a responsible CXO will effectively blur borders between various divisions and succeed in eliciting a sense of personal responsibility with each employee in pushing integral user experience as a goal which is permanently wedded to the company’s business success.
The changing retail landscape and the customer’s demand for an ever-improving user experience brought to prominence the role of chief experience officers. They emerged as a single address for driving unified efforts aimed at delivering top notch UX. Faced with increasingly sophisticated demands of empowered users, CXOs positioned themselves both as listening posts for their feedback and strategists who use advanced analytical data to come up with new, customer-focused business models. In their bid to implement them, CXOs have to turn this new approach into a guiding beacon across all retail business divisions, from rank and file to top brass levels. For all this, you can easily say that downplaying or ignoring their role in contemporary retail business planning is an equivalent of forfeiting one’s future, which, judging by today’s trends, happens as we speak.