How to Boost Customer Experience Amid COVID-19: 3 essentials for Retailers

A global pandemic is the ultimate case of disruption for retailers. As thousands of brick and mortar stores shutter, the in-store customer experience is upended, and supply chains face massive upheaval, COVID-19 poses an urgent threat to many businesses.

Coming out on the other side requires retailers to increase their resilience and adaptability to widescale external disruption.

Those that have already embraced digital innovation and evolved their approach to the customer experience will fare best today and in the long-term. For those that are lagging behind, the time for transformation is now.

In the world of eCommerce, customer-centricity rules

If it wasn’t clear before, it should be obvious now that eCommerce must be a primary business strategy for retailer competition and survival. 

Despite consumers’ proclivity to hoard essentials — like toilet paper, canned food, and water — we know that online shopping for non-essential products has also increased throughout the pandemic.

According to a Klaviyo survey of 32,563 brands, overall revenues rose by an average of 65% between March 14 and April 17, with home goods, athletic products, and loungewear recording unprecedented sales. 

That’s great news for some, but retailers that don’t sell these products will need to find ways to capture their share of this momentum without changing their inventory. Namely, they will need to focus on developing an innovative customer experience that will:

  • Offer a distinctive and competitive shopping journey
  • Fulfill customer expectations for ease and convenience
  • Inspire and capture high-intent shoppers

how can brands harness customer experience

3 ways brands can transform the customer experience and increase resilience

Short-term survival and long-term stability will require many brands to significantly alter the way they view the customer experience. 

Transforming the traditional customer experience into a unique, technology-driven journey will be crucial to developing resilience to drastic and unpredictable crises. 

Here are three tips to get you started.

1. Use hyper-personalization to claim your competitive edge in customer experience

When online shopping is the only option, such as during a global pandemic, retailers need to look for innovative ways to stand out.

A unique, user-friendly, and engaging experience will always be vital to attracting and retaining customers, but you’ll need new tricks to meet rising consumer standards.

Simply making your products accessible online is not enough, and even standard mechanisms of personalization will fail to influence prospective shoppers.

Consumers today expect more than to be reminded of what they already browsed on your website. They want hyper-personalized recommendations for products, services, and trends based on their unique taste.

Achieving this level of personalization will require retailers to expand their customer data sets and focus more on intent to provide a more intuitive and fulfilling shopping experience. 

2. Transform your approach to product search

Whether a shopper knows exactly what they want or they are just browsing, it should be easy to present them with the relevant inventory.

The key to transforming casual browsers into high-intent buyers into loyal customers is by turning the product discovery process into a compelling experience.

Innovative search capabilities, such as AI-powered camera search, will help individuals find the products that are most relevant to them, even if they don’t know how to describe what they’re searching for. 

Imagine a shopper wants to buy the top they see their favorite influencer wearing in an Instagram post.

Whether or not the influencer tagged the brand, the shopper can use the image to quickly locate similar items on your site without needing to search through pages of inventory.

Suddenly, a lengthy search process just became automatic.

3. Use customer critiques to drive continuous improvement

Elevating your customer experience must be a continual initiative, one that evolves as consumer expectations and priorities shift.

By monitoring online customer conversations and analyzing the data, you will gain crucial intel on how to provide a superior experience.

The right tools will give you a clear picture of how customer habits are changing, how they are interacting with brands (including your competitors), what they complain about, what they praise, and ultimately, how to provide the ideal experience for that particular moment in time.

With this kind of data infrastructure in place, you will always be ready to change along with your customers’ needs.

The digital innovation of your customer experience is the key to longevity

Public health experts have warned that social distancing requirements may be necessary to some degree for the next two years.

The disruption of the pandemic hit retail fast, but its effects will linger with us for the foreseeable future.

Refining the customer experience and equipping your business with emerging, innovative technology will position your brand to not only endure these changes but actually increase sales and brand reputation in the future.