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Improving Customer Loyalty During the Pandemic

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customer loyalty-disruption-retail-retailer-hybrid-curbside pickup
Steve Dennis, Photo: Courtesy of Chris West, Video Narrative

Enhancing the customer experience should always be a priority for businesses, but the current climate makes that extremely challenging.  Retailers need to be aware of the different  technologies and tools available to make the buyer’s journey easier.

“First and foremost, they need to accept that in a world of abundant choice and anytime, anywhere, anyway convenience, even very good is not good enough anymore,” said Steve Dennis, the president and founder of SageBerry Consulting. “They must find ways to be truly remarkable. Retailers need to eschew one-size-fits-all approaches and become much more dynamic. 

“Given that it’s so hard to figure out where both technology and customer desires are headed, they must build agility into their business model and establish a culture of experimentation.”

Recognizing shifts

Dennis notes that over the past year, the average customer has changed the way they make purchases. 

“The most obvious way is that it’s much more digitally driven or enabled,” he said. “We have also seen a great acceleration of trends, like curbside pickup, virtual shopping, contactless payment, and more home delivery. Out of safety concerns, consumers are tending to consolidate their spending at fewer retailers and spend less time in stores.

Shopping, he says, is becoming much more hybrid in nature, demanding a more harmonized experience across channels. 

“The most remarkable retailers are embracing the blur that is shopping today, and taking steps to better integrate the digital and physical worlds, and provide more choices for how customers can gather information about their potential purchases and ultimately have their orders fulfilled,” Dennis said. 

Knowing what works in customer loyalty

“Journeys must be well-harmonized,” Dennis explained. “That is, the discordant notes must be eliminated, and the key aspects of the experience must be blended all together beautifully.”

As for what technologies have made the biggest impact when it comes to retailers driving success post-crisis, “Order online and pick up in store or curbside has been the biggest one on a broad scale, followed by ship from store of e-commerce orders,” he said.

Long-term changes

According to Dennis, the ongoing pandemic has undoubtedly left its mark  on the industry, and retailers must accept that.

“Physical stores will evolve to become more hybrid in nature, serving roles that include showrooms, service centers, brand advertising, and fulfillment hubs,” he said. “Less-than-remarkable retailers will cease to exist or continue to shrink, causing a consolidation of market share to the biggest and the best.”

For retailers, Dennis says it’s crucial to step up, and there’s no time to lose.

“First, remember that a slightly better version of mediocre is not a winning strategy,” he said. “Second, failing to innovate aggressively is the most risky strategy of all. Lastly, the waves of disruption are going to keep coming. You’re going to have to learn how to surf.”

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