Customer Experience and The Challenge of In-Store Analytics

Getting CX right is hard work.  It’s a continuous effort, and in some cases can require a bold re-think of existing strategy.  As we saw previously, for many commentators, customer experience is the key differentiator in todays’ retail landscape.  It may be hard work, but it’s important.

For brick and mortar, one of the big challenges to customer experience in recent years has been the rise of eComm (and lets name names, Amazon).  While the fear may be real, the fact is that the majority of today’s transactions still take place in store.  In 2018 10% of sales in the US were made online, while even in the more mature e-commerce market of the UK online made up just 18% of total sales.  It’s no myth – consumers really do crave the tangible joys of the in-store shopping experience.

In fact, consumers today expect their in-store experiences to be better than ever before – 51% say they will never do business with a company again after one negative experience.  For many retailers, the ability to effectively monitor in-store experience remains a neglected part of the retail journey.  If thought leaders are shouting that customer experience is the major challenge right now – why aren’t retailers responding?

The Cost of Innovation

A common stumbling block for retailers is cost.  Traditional CX solutions like mystery shoppers and surveys are expensive to implement and slow to return.  By the time a 3-month estate wide store report has been filed, it’s already out of date.

Deloitte’s assertion that ‘in times of rapid change, the only way to innovate is to experiment’ holds true, but in the absence of an accessible source of real-time CX data, many retailers are not setup to A/B test or deliver the fast-moving innovation they need to survive.

While online merchants have long enjoyed the luxury of being able to analyze each point of their customer journey to microscopic levels of detail, the in-store experience continues to languish neglected from a measurement perspective.

In these turbulent times, the cost of not investing in innovation, is greater than ever before, as Mary Drumond succinctly warns, the ‘customer experience economy is the most violent in the history of capitalism’.

Fail Fast or Learn Faster?

The concept of ‘failing fast’ has become popularized by innovation teams. In 2015, when Starbucks rolled out its ‘Evenings’ program, selling beer and wine in select stores after a certain time, they took a chance on a concept that shifted their core offering and value prospect.

While commentators were quick to label the move doomed from the start, the business won praise for at least demonstrating a will for experimentation. Cathy Hotka, principal at Cathy Hotka & Associates, noted at the time, “They should be congratulated both for trying new things and pulling back when those things don’t work”. When it became apparent that customers weren’t about to start flocking to their local Starbucks for after works drinks, the business pivoted and moved on, no lasting harm done.  In fact, the misstep became an opportunity to demonstrate that it was willing to listen to what its customers wanted.

In the case of a giant like Starbucks, the business case for experimentation is easier, as long-term revenue growth tends to mitigate the risk of a short-term drop. But how would the landscape look if every retailer was armed with the tools to implement changes and instantly measure the impact on the customer and their buying behaviour. What if rather than fail fast, we could help businesses to learn faster?

A Different Approach to In-Store Analytics: New Balance

At TruRating, we’ve discovered when you provide retailers with the ability to collect validated customer data, en masse, at speed, they become quite literally empowered.  The key tenets of ‘customer-centricity’ are not the lessons that need to be taught – providing retailers with the tools to quickly learn and understand the impact of their innovation is the key.

A simple but powerful illustration can be found in our work with New Balance in Australia.  After working with the in-store team on a proposed new layout for their outlet stores, we helped them collect over 25,000 validated pieces of customer feedback in just a 4-week trial.

Measuring how the changes impacted not only customer spend overall, but at the level of individual experience metrics such as Value, Product and Service we were able to help them to quickly decide on an estate wide roll-out of their new store layout, validated and confirmed by customer experience and spend data, fresh to the very day of decision.

The New Balance team didn’t need to ‘fail fast’. Rather than second guess, the ability to ask their customers about its actions, as they were being implemented, meant they could drive to the right decision for their business, quickly and with confidence.


For more on our explorations in CX, why not take a check at our previous articles in the series:

If you’d like to find out how TruRating can help your business today, get in touch on our Contact page and a member of the team will be in touch soon!

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