PCR’s Dec/Jan Retail analysis: The New Age of Customer Experience

Aman Khurana and Andre Hordagoda, Co-CEOs and Co-Founders of Go Instore, and Mark Zablan, CEO of Emplifi discuss how the customer experience is being reimagined to enhance brand-to-consumer relationships.

Increasing levels of online shopping over the last 10 years have seen retailers turn their attention to their digital channels. This has powered a wealth of innovation from new payment methods to innovations in AR and VR and an overall increased attention on the customer’s experience. With 86% of buyers willing to pay more for a great customer experience, who can blame them? Over the last 18 months the popularity of online shopping has skyrocketed, across all generations, and retailers have had no choice but to interact with their audiences digitally. The closure of brick-and-mortar stores for most of 2020 meant brands needed to shift their focus online to interact with customers and create these lasting brand-to-consumer relationships.

As consumer behaviours change to focus more on the online channel than pre-pandemic, brands must look at how they interact with their customers away from the shop floor. Only 12% of customers agree that brands provide them with a consistent experience, on all channels. So, no matter what channel or combination of channels customers choose to shop via, it is clear the experience they have whilst interacting with their chosen brand must be exemplary and frictionless.

Live video and CX
These changing consumer demands and buying habits are impacting how we approach retail. Before the pandemic, retailers were able to put the onus on how customers felt walking around the store, and how they interacted with in-store staff. Retailers could see customers making purchasing decisions first-hand and better understand the journey the customer went on as they made their purchasing decisions. However, with retail now being more evenly distributed between physical and online, retailers have less clarity over the customer journey and, ultimately, the experience they have with the brand.

So, with this need for more visibility over the online customer experience and the consumer demand for better, more personalised experiences overall, retailers must find a way to satisfy both. Today many retailers are capitalising on the increased demand for online shopping by utilising live video and livestreaming on their websites. Brands like Marks and Spencer and Currys utilise live shopping to give their customers an instore experience digitally. Through video-powered shopping, retailers can connect with their customers, no matter their location or proximity to a store, offering tailored advice and product demonstrations.

This, combined with the rising trend of social commerce, is set to revolutionise the online customer experience and the entire retail landscape as we know it. Allowing customers to engage with staff, but also with friends and family as they shop via livestreams, offers another dimension to the journey digital customers go on.

Investing in Technology
Alongside the rise of live shopping, there is also an increasing demand for social commerce, where retailers can use their own social media platforms like Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and Twitch for product launches, seasonal campaigns or influencer marketing promotions. Not only does this allow retailers to reach a wider audience, but it also allows customers to access the brand on a platform that suits them, giving them flexibility over how they interact with the retailer and its products.

These solutions give flexibility to the customer; while having the added benefit of giving retailers access to valuable data that can influence how they reach out to those customers in the future to create lasting brand loyalties. Having access to this data can improve how retailers make marketing decisions but can also determine the kind of relationship they have with each customer.

Without this data and insight into the online customer journey, brands are marketing in the dark. In such a competitive market, retailers really can’t afford to not to innovate.

Strengthening the Customer Experience
Many retailers have started to shape their online offering to respond to changing demands through live chat and similar services. However, brands need to be considering the entire customer journey from product discovery to purchase and post-purchase care if they want to build that all-important customer loyalty. Fostering connections and ensuring an outstanding experience is vital to retailers as 72% of customers will tell six or more people if they have had a satisfying experience. Customers can even become brand advocates if the experience is high quality.

In China, live video has transformed retail and western brands aren’t far behind. Not only do live experiences help brands to accelerate conversions, they are also improving brand appeal and differentiation. Done well, it can strengthen positioning among existing customers and attract new ones, especially young people keen on innovative shopping formats and experiences.

Recently Emplifi acquired Go Instore. Go Instore enables video-powered retail by connecting online customers with data driven, product-matched in-store experts using immersive HD live video. The company’s video technology provides brands with a new channel via which they can engage with and serve their customers.

With the addition of Go Instore ‘s video-powered retail technology, Emplifi Social Commerce Cloud can now give brands the ability to deliver livestream shopping experiences, as well as provide stand-alone livestream solutions to enable them to build faster connection-to-conversion experiences for their audiences. The acquisition aims to bring breakthrough innovation and real value to the retail and overall B2C industry. This is to cater for the brands who are constantly in search of fresh, engaging ways to connect with and convert consumers as buying habits and shopping behaviours change. But this is just the brand side, on a consumer level, the partnership will bring delight and fun back into the shopping experience that has been so greatly missed during the pandemic.

This will be vital for the future of retail. As consumer demands of moving to online retail have become permanent, the enhancement of the online experience is a necessity for retailers. The next era of retail is looking more digitally driven and will require retailers to be agile. The acquisition enables this agility, allowing brands to connect and convert consumers more quickly and directly through the power of livestreaming and social media.

Discussing the future of retail, Emplifi CEO Mark Zablan said, “The key to success for retailers will lie in ‘phygital’ experiences, a merger of physical and digital strategies. Today’s customer is digitally grounded and they look to brands to provide omnichannel experiences across the platforms on which they are active. Live video represents a great opportunity for brands looking to bring back the enjoyment, and personalisation of the shopping experience, grow loyalty and ultimately boost their revenue.”

Co-founders of Go Instore, Khurana Aman and Andre Hordagoda said: “The rise of social commerce is the next step in a true omnichannel offering and being part of Emplifi’s Social Commerce Cloud will enable us to provide industry leading solutions to retailers across the world.

Today more than ever, brands need the ability to deliver livestream shopping experiences, as well as provide stand-alone livestream solutions to enable them to build faster connection-to-conversion experiences for their audiences. Live video can be used to provide customers with a number of personalised services, including sessions ​​with virtual stylists, fashion consultants, product experts or sales people – or use it to host one-to-many streamed video events from your own website or via social platforms such as Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and Twitch for product launches, seasonal campaigns or influencer marketing promotions.

The Time is Now
The customer experience has been a focal point for many retailers over the past few years, however it is vital that now all retailers respond to the demands of better experiences across every channel. Whether customers shop via stores, browser or mobile, the experience the customer receives should be the same. This seamlessness across every channel allows the customer to feel connected to the brand, as well as having the option to connect further by talking with product experts via live video solutions.

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