Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE
Speaker, Author and Consultant
The impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the retail industry is unprecedented. As the world looks forward to an end to lockdowns, the future of retail is an open question.
“When you look at traditional retail — going to the mall, for example — the problems were there pre-COVID,” said Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE, a speaker, author, and consultant focused on helping businesses develop a customer service culture and loyalty mindset. “All COVID did was accelerate those problems.”
Business is personal
“The future of retail will lie in a personalized experience,” Hyken said. “What are you going to do to trigger an emotional response in my brain that makes it enjoyable, that makes me want to go to your store or your website?”
Hyken, an in-demand speaker on the customer experience, sees convenience and control as key.
“The most successful online retailers make it extremely easy, they give control to the consumer,” he said. “Customers want confidence with who they do business with.”
That comes down to the most fundamental thing in retail.
“Digital or in-person, you must create an amazing experience — better than average, all the time,” Hyken said. “There are moments of misery, moments of mediocrity, and then moments of magic. And your goal is to create moments of magic — anything better than average.”
Hyken has written numerous bestselling books on the subject of customer service and retail technology, including his newest “I’ll Be Back: How to Get Customers to Come Back Again and Again.” In his opinion, not all the technological shifts will be permanent.
“At some point, we’re gonna see things getting back to normal from the standpoint of the way people conduct their lives,” he said. “What is going to remain is anything that made it easier.”
One area Hyken sees as having legs in the retail space is artificial intelligence (AI).
“AI is going to play a role in the sale to the consumer,” he said. “Imagine walking into a store and a salesperson has an earpiece in their ear, a scanner using facial recognition knows who you are. It’s going to make you feel good that this company knows you.”
Hyken warns against blindly chasing trends.
“In the retail arena, technology starts as a breakthrough, and then it becomes a trend, and then it becomes an expectation,” he said. “It’s very easy to become enamored with technology like automation, for example, and you think you’re making it easier for your customer. But really what you’re doing is you’re throwing yourself into a commodity trap because other retailers are going to have similar automation. You can’t automate a relationship.”
Hyken has designed several training programs for customer service professionals and believes the technological future of retail must be built on old-school principles.
“You’ve got to have a strategy to engage customers to make them feel connected,” he said. “Repeat customers are not loyal customers — but before you can have loyalty, you need repetition. So we have to move it to an emotional connection — why do you love doing business with them?”
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