Where have you been shopping for your holiday gifts this year?

Today, it seems consumers only purchase from large retailers, opting for the quick convenience of the Amazons of the world, rather than supporting local shops. Even events like #SmallBusinessSaturday, a post-Thanksgiving staple aimed at benefiting the local retailer, seem to pale in comparison to events like #CyberMonday, where customers can shop from home and still snag sale deals.

Small, brick-and-mortar shops and vendors tout personal touch and a great customer experience as reasons to keep shopping local. But in a recent 25-country study by IBM, it was discovered that on a scale of 0 to 100, retailers scored a mere 33, lagging on key customer experience opportunities like personalization and, unfortunately, in-store experiences, which garnered an even lower score of only 20 out of 100. While there is a strong desire by the public to move away from generics and find an authentic, meaningful experience, this demonstrates a severe disconnect between retailer values and on-the-floor execution and interaction with customers. And it’s cause for concern.

So, how can product and service providers improve the customer experience and, ultimately, drive sales? It revolves around making customers feel the brands they choose represent, understand and are considerate of their needs. Here are a few elements that your business can easily incorporate:

  • Know your customer and tailor your messaging. The IBM study showed that 71% of observed retailers developed only generic points about their products and services. But with customers looking for more and more personalization, we recommend finding the right consumer data to align your messaging and practices with customer needs. With the right data, we help our clients think beyond just inventory, to the wants of the everyday brand user, and use it to create a tailored experience.
  • Attitude is everything. You just know when you’ve met a really great employee. You don’t feel pressured, yet you feel well-informed and have a stronger sense of trust in the organization. What’s more, you feel good about supporting that business. If your business relies on in-store interactions, develop plans and protocols around how you approach consumers when they walk in the door.
  • Make it easy. Because they’re accustomed to rapid online experiences, customers often associate the small and local stores with antiquity and inefficiency. In addition to attitude, create protocols to facilitate speedy orders, shipping and returns so your customers feel they can get what they need from you, even if it’s not in-store.
  • Keep your team on the same page and make them accountable. Make sure your employees understand your vision of how to treat the customer, and teach them the fundamentals of how you want your store to run and your customer to feel. If you want to take it a step further, develop a component within your employee job descriptions that includes customer experience accountability.
  • Build your online brand. It may seem counter-intuitive when trying to develop customer experience, but the inevitable fact is, to engage with more customers, it’s necessary to build your website and make it mobile friendly. Doing so not only helps current customers know about any sales or events going on in-store, but allows you to be a competitor in the online arena and garner new customers nearby who are searching for products and services like yours.

As customers come to you this holiday season, take a moment to step back and observe. What are they looking for, what kind of questions are they asking when they walk through your door, and how does your team measure up in getting and giving customers answers to their questions and addressing their needs efficiently and cohesively? If you would like to talk through ways to turn your customers’ needs into actionable marketing plans for you and your team, get in touch.

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