2 must-haves for building a robust customer experience in 2021

Last updated: 01-28-2021

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2 must-haves for building a robust customer experience in 2021

John Kavulich, VP, IoT Solution Sales, Acuity Brands Lighting, Inc., shares why the new year is when retailers should reflect on the 2020 learnings and that retail success in 2021 will continue to hinge on delivering an exceptional customer experience defined by in-store location data and inventive mobile app usage.

Industry executives spent the last 10 months of 2020 deciphering the retailing unknowns of COVID-19. Some navigated almost instantaneous shifts to online-only sales, closing all their physical stores, while others remained open but rebuilt operations to comply with new and ever-evolving public health requirements.

Adjusting to the chaos on the consumer side was only half the battle; retailers were also deciding where to pivot in order to hit revenue targets despite pandemic-driven changes in both store operations and consumer behavior.

As we begin the new year, even the predictable end-of-year wrap-ups look different for 2020. With January here, it's time to reflect on the 2020 learnings that will be critical to meeting performance goals in 2021.

During the last year, store leaders found new ways to proactively address ongoing COVID-19 challenges. For example, they leveraged data-driven insights which revealed consumer preferences for mobile shopping. This enriched customer experiences with one-click curbside pickup and virtual concierge services. With a vaccine now in play, retail success in 2021 will continue to hinge on delivering an exceptional customer experience defined by in-store location data and inventive mobile app usage.

Last year, we described how retailers could use in-store metrics to deliver personalized shopping experiences. For example, teams can use location data to reduce congestion around best-selling items in various parts of the store or create more accurate shopper profiles by looking at what shoppers don't buy despite spending notable time in specific areas. Location data also played a considerable part in redesigning store layouts to account for adequate physical distancing, whether that came in the form of wider aisles, creating more space for hot-ticket items, or managing checkout queues.

Pairing location data with sales receipt data can also help retailers improve the customer journey. Analyzing foot traffic patterns against purchase trends might reveal inventory issues or if certain shoppers buy something from every part of the store they visit. As consumers increasingly return to brick-and-mortar stores in 2021, analyzing location data helps retailers continue to meet shoppers' high expectations for physical safety and the personalized online customer experiences they've had during most of 2020.

Another big 2020 takeaway is the opportunity retailers have to turn their mobile branded apps into tools shoppers use at home and in the store. 2021 can be viewed as the year to position these platforms as strategic resources and integral elements of the entire customer journey. Inventive, responsive, and user-friendly digital strategies will continue to transform customer experiences this year.

As retailers look ahead in 2021, there are several ways to increase the digital real estate value of their apps on consumers' phones: 1. Guiding in-store shoppers: Building easier and safer customer journeys where guests find desired items quickly by integrating store maps in the mobile app. 2. App-only deals: Enticing customers to shop in-app first by pushing exclusive discounts and in-store promotions. 3. Request Assistance: Enable in-store location technology so shoppers can use the app to request an associate to find them and address their needs rather than risk a customer leaving the store empty-handed.

Considering 80 percent of shoppers expect to increase their BOPIS and curbside pickup over the next six months, retailers upping their 2020 BOPIS and mobile app retailing game is crucial to growing 2021 revenue.

Having become accustomed to shopping predominantly online, it's likely consumers will expect the same hyper-personalized customer experience as they return to in-store buying. Retailers also have the added challenge of regaining customers' trust. After months of limiting social contact and sequestering themselves at home, leisurely shopping in a store won't come easily for some.

Communicating store safety procedures through email, app notifications, and even website posts are crucial to rebuilding in-store sales, especially considering mobile shopping is expected to account for 54% of total e-commerce sales in 2021. Retailers need to maximize data collection and analysis to merge these two retail worlds and bring best practices of 2020 forward to innovate and accelerate the return to the store for 2021.


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