Navigating the Future Retail Customer Journey

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On the path to success, it’s often hard for companies to find their footing. Retailers must travel an especially rough road as they race to keep pace with technological innovation. Because consumers are incredibly quick to adopt the latest tools and toys, they consistently remain one step ahead of retailers. As 2016 begins, retail leaders recognize that they need to keep pace and take customer experience to the next level in an effort to combat the competition and maintain their edge on the market.

Retailers are well aware that the modern customer journey isn’t linear. In fact, the path to purchase often winds more than the Yellow Brick Road. Luckily, however, there’s no wicked witch or flying monkeys to distract retailers from reaching their goals. The only obstacle that currently stands in their way is their willingness to invest in technology and talent. Retailers anticipate the trends that are destined to disrupt their industry throughout the next year, but only those that readily put money into such endeavors will reap the inevitable benefits of success.

Here are the three most widely anticipated customer experience trends retailers will encounter on their own journey toward strategic development and how each element will light the path to satisfaction and loyalty:

retail customer experience journey1. Omnichannel will transition from ‘nice’ to ‘necessary’

While the elusive omnichannel customer experience has been on the horizon for numerous years, companies realize that the future has finally arrived. To engage consumers, retailers must deliver the 360-degree shopper experience of tomorrow, today. Consumers want to move between digital and physical channels with as little friction as possible, yet retailers often fail to seamlessly link these varied touchpoints. Each channel may serve as its own entity, but all remain interconnected, particularly from the shopper’s point of view.

Action item: In 2016, retailers must collect data across all touchpoints in an effort to understand how each interaction influences experience. By working to understand these pathways, retailers can actively integrate brand loyalty measures at every step along the customer journey.

2. Personalization will draw success from consumer emotions

Relevance reigns supreme as consumers increasingly expect retailers to align communications with their preferences and interests. However, personalization strategies alone don’t resonate quite as strongly as they once did, as they’ve become an expectation, as well. Consumers want to satisfy their own needs, while also helping those who cannot necessarily help themselves. Millennials, in particular, love to know that their purchases ultimately support the greater good.

Action item: As emerging shoppers tend to gravitate toward brands that serve both the customer and humanity at large, retailers must make business personal by tapping into customers’ emotions to encourage sales. Such philanthropic initiatives tug at the heartstrings and encourage repeat purchases simultaneously.

3. Mobile will reignite in-store consumer engagement

Normally, mobile customer experience strategies target those consumers who cannot seem to stand still. But what if future strategies relied upon getting those movers and shakers to stop in their tracks? In the near future, mobile applications will become critical tools for brick-and-mortar stores. While mobile apps offer the opportunity to strengthen existing relationships and attract new customers on the digital front, these tools also have the power to tap into behavioral and geo-location data to target shoppers with relevant information in real time.

Action item: Mobile’s breadth of capabilities draws from the omnichannel ideal. Retailers therefore can use one channel to promote another, mobile apps can present shoppers with tailored offers when they’re near the brand’s physical location to encourage sales and increase conversions in-store.

Deep down, retailers understand that no two customer journeys are the same. Retailers may be able to predict how shoppers will proceed based on context clues at various stages along their path, but the only way to truly guarantee success would be to establish their presence at every customer touchpoint. If the given retailer actively engages its consumer base during those moments when assistance is crucial, leaders will effectively guide these shoppers further down the road toward loyalty and conversion.

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