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Marketing Manager - France
At a time when customer-store relations are drastically changing, new technology is enabling businesses to generate more points of contact with customers. The rise in m-commerce has highlighted the importance of omnichannel solutions for retail outlets, especially in terms of customer relationships.
Consumers are constantly being targeted by retailers, so much so that it is hard for businesses to talk about “loyalty” these days. When competing with so many others with similar strategies and services, how can a business stand out? There are many ways to do so but customer relationships is a major area that businesses can and should focus on. Customer feedback is an invaluable source of information once we take the time to listen up. What’s more, it is said that customers no longer have the tendency to hold back their opinions, a sentiment that is partly verified by what we see online. However, this is far from being the case when dealing with offline customers. The main reasons why customers won’t give feedback offline is due to their lack of faith in the brand and lack of time. Yet, their needs are pretty simple. All they want to do is make their point where they want and when they want, using the feedback channel of their choice. Today’s customers are omnichannel, so you’ll need to develop your strategy with that in mind.
Cross-channel solutions enabled businesses to communicate and interact more directly with customers. How so? By integrating several contact channels into a centralised system, interactions could easily be managed. So how could customers share their recommendations, suggestions and remarks with a retail outlet? After-sales services, online contact forms, suggestion boxes and satisfaction surveys are all examples of such data-collection tools, which are essential points of contact. Offline businesses have let Internet communication channels fall to the wayside for too long, which is understandable given the development of e-commerce. Yet, French people are connected now more than ever. 43% of French people connect to the internet via smartphone. There’s a real business opportunity there for physical stores. You should go ahead and develop a mobile app, integrate the NFC technology into your POS, send emails after an in-store purchase, etc. By positioning yourself within the channels used by the buyer, you’re giving customers the chance to share feedback when they want to, not just when it suits you (even though reaching out is vital). This first step is key.
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By positioning yourself within the channels used by customers, you can boost feedback rates considerably. That said, this concept still seems difficult to grasp for some. Your customers are omnichannel in that they have several solutions at their fingertips all at once. They can be on their phone while grocery shopping or watching TV while using their tablet. This certainly complicates matters and highlights a crucial point when discussing customer relationships these days: that of continuity.
The main criticism we have of retail outlet strategy is that their efforts aren’t continuous. They’re undoubtedly cross-channel attempts, but nonetheless they are only occasional in terms of frequency. Be it through mystery shopping or satisfaction surveys, retail outlets must demonstrate their ability to generate continuous customer feedback on the entire experience. The aim of the game is to limit moments without customer interaction. Even though customers may not always want to engage with you, they expect to be able to when needed. By giving customers the chance to reach out at any time of day, at any stage of the buying process, using any channel streamlined with all the others, you will boost customer feedback rates on one hand and the feedback quality on the other.
Continuously adding new points of contact is not easy. The customer buying process is pretty long and complex, involving research, comparisons, preparing a visit to the store, the in-store experience, the actual purchase and after-sales. There is a risk of having many channels—reducing moments without customer interaction— but no synergy between the points of contact. An omnichannel strategy is certainly demanding but that’s because customers are too.
An omnichannel approach can achieve a level of communication like never achieved before with customers. Although implementing this kind of strategy is complicated, giving customers the opportunity to be heard when and where they want, using any device, and in a streamlined and continuous manner allows you to optimise feedback rates. You can then use such invaluable information to get to know your customers and their expectations even better.
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