How to engage customers in retail

May 23, 2022 | Customer Experience

The digital transformation of the retail world brings several challenges and opportunities for retail businesses. An integral multi-channel retail strategy can be used to bring a brand closer to its customer base, increase customer loyalty, and improve customer engagement. 

What is retail customer engagement? 

Retail customer engagement is the relationship between a brand and its customers. This concept encompasses brand-consumer engagement in physical stores as well as while online shopping. 

Thanks to the latest developments in customer engagement technology, businesses can use data to gather actionable insights about their customers. Data and digital solutions can be used by companies to personalize their services, creating meaningful connections with clients. 

The benefits of a retail customer engagement strategy include the following:

  • Improving customer loyalty: Providing a personalized, high-quality shopping experience can make a huge difference in customers’ perception of a brand. A retail strategy with customer engagement in mind will create a positive association between a brand and comfort in consumers’ minds. 
  • Driving sales conversions: If people enjoy their customer experience, they are more likely to return for future purchases. Return customers spend more and often and they are more inclined to recommend your business to their friends and family. This makes them ideal customers to base your engagement strategy around.
  • Enhancing retail customer lifetime value (CLV): A business’s CLV is the measure of the total income it can normally expect to receive from a customer for as long as they still spend money on its products or services. Naturally, an improved CLV is advantageous to any business able to attain it.

7 strategies to improve customer engagement for retail companies

A focus on retail customer engagement is crucial for maximizing the value of marketing strategies. More than selling products or services, the main objective of a customer engagement strategy should be to create positive customer experiences.

1. Leverage analytical tools for customer experience management

The first step towards improving customer service and satisfaction is to understand your customers’ needs, desires, and behavioral patterns. In the modern retail environment, customer feedback data is a very valuable commodity. Through unimpeded access to data, businesses can know what their customer base really wants, empowering them to create the most efficient methods of customer engagement. 

According to research published by Mckinsey & Co., data-driven decision-making can lead to a business being 23 times more likely than their competition to acquire new customers. Moreover, the chances of above-average profitability are almost 19 times higher for intensive users of customer analytics (source).

Customer data is available from a wide variety of public and private sources. Examples of customer data sources include: 

  • In-store and online shopping data
  • Web browsing data
  • Web analytics
  • Social media
  • Advertising platforms
  • Survey data
  • Customer service data
  • Sales associate data
  • Customer loyalty program data
  • Marketing automation platforms
  • Mobile apps

However, data in its raw, unaltered state is unstructured and therefore useless for development. In order to be useful, data must first be organized. In the retail world, the most efficient way to do this is to adopt the use of analytical tools for customer engagement management

How to improve the digital customer experience

2. Implement an omnichannel retail approach

Omnichannel retailing is a multi-channel marketing and sales method meant to provide customers with a seamless shopping experience. An omnichannel retail approach aims to satisfy customer expectations regardless of the medium of interaction, taking into account online shopping from desktop and mobile devices, physical store interactions, and any other selling method being implemented.

A successful business strives to be efficiently available to its customers across all available channels, from its business hotline to its social media feed. A complete omnichannel approach guarantees that a business is never losing the opportunity to engage and delight its clients. 

Businesses should consider implementing omnichannel retailing because it will allow them to streamline all their interactions under one main system. An omnichannel retail strategy should consider that customer interactions can come from a wide variety of sources, including: 

  • Submitting a ticket
  • Contacting customer support services
  • Sending direct messages to social media accounts
  • Chatting with a live agent
  • Chatting with a bot
  • While searching for information

Beyond providing valuable data, omnichannel retailing can also enhance the customer experience by offering efficient online and offline channels to satisfy customers and deliver support. This approach can help a brand connect with customers in the way they find the most comfortable, thus helping increase customer retention.

3. Adopt augmented reality (AR) solutions

Augmented reality makes use of the virtual space to enhance real-life interactions. The purpose of AR is to create interactive experiences where objects in the real world are enhanced using technology. The main method used by AR to have an impact on customers is the generation of perceptual information by stimulating the senses. 

AR changes users’ perceptions using various techniques. AR sensory modalities can be visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory, olfactory, and more. Deployment of AR can be incredibly beneficial to capture consumer attention, making its use ideal for marketing campaigns. By using AR, customers can interact with items digitally before they purchase them, allowing them to personalize their shopping experience.

Thanks to AR, the following operations can be achieved: 

  • Enhanced marketing and advertisement: Innovative marketing campaigns that unite the digital and physical worlds can be created with web-based AR platforms.
  • Merging digital and physical stores: AR can be used to replicate the traditional store experience from the comfort of customers’ homes. Customers can interact with products remotely and businesses don’t have to worry about in-store inventory or long queues. 
  • Personalizing user content: Customization allows users to be the authors of the content they experience. When using AR, customers are free to interact with a product in the way they find the most appealing, maximizing their enjoyment while shopping.

4. Engage customers with artificial intelligence 

Providing quality customer support is fundamental for meeting customers’ expectations. In today’s day and age, consumers expect to receive quick, personalized, and convenient customer support solutions on a 24×7 basis. While fulfilling these demands might be too strenuous for employees, specialized AI solutions are able to always be there to assist customers.

The artificial intelligence in retail chatbots may be smart enough to provide more than support. Upselling capabilities can be used to offer discount codes and track behavioral patterns to offer personalized content. In fact, specialized chatbots may be able to upsell, downsell, or cross-sell, depending on their calculations of what will increase sales. 

When boosting retail customer engagement, AI chatbots can: 

  • Interact with customers continually: AI solutions can provide customer support around-the-clock. Furthermore, they can assess multiple tickets at the same time, taking a considerable amount of tedious busywork off the hands of employees. 
  • Function as virtual in-store assistants: Repetitive tasks and casual customer interactions can be delegated to AI-powered solutions. Retail sales executives can also use AI to track customer engagement metrics, learning more about the current trends in customer behavior.
  • Send notifications and more: Marketing strategies can be redefined by AI taking the reins of promotions. Brands can use bots to nurture a connection with retail customers and, thanks to advancements in AI communication technology, promote products and services in real-time.

5. Create a hybrid physical-digital shopping ecosystem

As the line that separates the physical and digital worlds begins to blur, purchase behaviors have become more homogeneous. Today’s customers expect a seamless shopping experience that incorporates the use of technology even when purchasing from a physical store. In turn, marketers can use this as an engagement strategy to boost the time the customer interacts with a brand

For instance, using geomagnetic navigation technology available through geolocation services, businesses can engage in proximity marketing. This approach allows businesses to automatically target consumers who are in the vicinity of their physical location. A brand can use proximity marketing to send coupons, discounts, and more directly to their customer’s smart devices as they shop.

6. Build a robust social media strategy

Social media has become a game-changer in the world of advertising. Nowadays, it is indispensable for brands to keep a professional and inviting presence on all major social media networks, as they work as major hubs where they can interact with their customers. 

The products that hold the most value for customers are those they want to share on social media. Thereby, brands must strive to provide customers with an experience worthy of sharing with the whole world. Potential social media interactions with customers begin as soon as they enter a store or view an ad. 

Key methods to increase customer engagement through social media are: 

  • Building a solid content strategy: Just like social media influencers sell themselves as brands, brands should try to deliver fresh and informative content the way an influencer does. Social media users get bored very easily, so companies should invest in producing the most appealing content.  
  • Implementing FOMO: Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a feeling of apprehension experienced by many social media users and a major catalyst of impulse purchases. Brands can take advantage of FOMO by launching time-sensitive offers, coupon codes, and discounts, especially around the time of a new product launch. 
  • Learning from feedback: Social media content can generate vast amounts of data. This type of information can be used in a great variety of operations. For this reason, it should be parsed by using analytical tools to exploit its true potential.

7. Take a mobile-first approach

Not only is the world going digital, but the digital world is also going mobile. Mobile experiences can no longer be an afterthought, they are the main event. The vast majority of modern consumers expect all brands to provide fine-tuned mobile solutions that are accessible and simple to use. Effortless navigation and mobile-first web design should be vital concerns of retailers. 

Since consumers have begun to use mobile devices as one of the main ways they buy products online, businesses should put as much attention on their online storefronts as their physical ones. Mobile shopping should always be convenient, fast, and easy.

A business looking to improve their customer’s mobile app experiences may wish to follow these tips: 

  • Point out problem areas: Identify the main challenges mobile users of your service face. Knowing what issues exist is the first step towards fixing them.
  • Keep track of improvements: As you implement new strategies, keep track of how they influence customer engagement. This will help you understand how improvements work and how to create future plans.
  • Perform data analysis: Online customer data is extremely useful and can be used to increase the efficiency of all operations. Gathering actionable insights and putting them to good use is essential to improving customer engagement. 

Analytical tools for customer experience management

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