Cutting back on CX will hit you hard, retailers warned

shopping 1The vast majority (83%) of businesses view an engaging customer experience as a way to stand out against competitors, but nearly three-quarters (71%) of leaders are being forced to match or surpass last year’s performance with significantly reduced budgets.

That is according to Wunderman Thompson Commerce & Technology’s ‘A Vital Recession-Survival-Strategy for Digital Retailers’ report, which analysed the importance of a differentiated customer experience, amid the cost-of-living crisis, economic uncertainty and tightening purse strings.

Lack of budget is not the only dilemma facing retail leaders, however. A third (33%) admit to providing an inconsistent experience across shopping channels; this figure rises among FMCG (80%) and automotive (46%) brands.

The leading factors cited as preventing an improved CX include limited budget (46%) and lack of time (36%), with over two-in-five (42%) claiming they do not have the resource to focus on customer retention.

With the advent of new technology and changed consumer habits, retailers must now invest in a truly unique customer experience, the report insists. Despite widespread economic disruption, budget cuts and redundancies, the appetite to satisfy customer needs remains undeterred as 71% of organisations believe that with unlimited time, budget and expertise, they would completely overhaul existing customer experiences from scratch to maximise sales.

Wunderman Thompson Commerce & Technology CX director Rachel Smith said: “Customer experience has sat in the shadows of retailers’ strategy for too long, previously an afterthought in a world where brand loyalty and digital proficiency were enough to get by.

“But recently, there has been a noticeable shift in the importance businesses place on customer experience, and those that do, are reaping the benefits. Covid-19 has eradicated brand loyalty, in favour of brilliant service, reliable operations and favourable prices.”

The research also showed that over three-quarters (76%) of leaders feel they have a clear understanding of key customer frustrations, and a similar proportion (77%) have a clear view of their highest value customers, as well as their lifetime value and four-in-five (79%), are confident in their ability to connect with high-value customers across channels.

Yet, while retailers may feel they know their customers like the back of their hand, the truth is that as little as 15% have conducted their own research in the past three months – a major problem considering businesses typically plan their CX initiatives 12 months in advance.

Smith concluded: “CX enhancements offer a low cost, effective solution to improve growth and margin, fast. Only with a reliable, innovative CX strategy that combines insights gained directly from audiences, alongside industry foresight, can retailers meet and exceed shoppers’ needs and desires. It’s the only formula that will see retailers reap the rewards of customer acquisition, conversion and retention, irrespective of industry and size of business.”

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