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Creating a customer experience strategy: What, why how?

Every customer that visits your store will have an experience. And experiences can leave a lasting impression, whether good or bad.

With the constant tug-of-war competition going on between online and brick-and-mortar retail stores, a customer experience strategy could be the edge you need to increase footfall and revenue. According to a study by ThinkJar, as cited in The Huffington Post, 55% of consumers are willing to pay more for a guaranteed enjoyable experience.

In this article, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about customer experience strategies and how to create your own. A partnership with SumUp is a great way to improve the experience your customers will have in store.

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What is a customer experience strategy?

Customer experience (CX) can be defined as:

“The interactions that a customer has with a company and its products during their relationship with the company.”

Customer experience is an important part of customer relationship management and often reflects how a customer feels about the company and its offerings. While customer service plays a significant role in this, there’s certainly more to it than that.

Customer service can be defined as:

“The assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services.”

So, customer service is all about supporting your customers when they are seeking advice or assistance, whereas customer experience is about entertaining them at every turn. This increase in focus on customer experience has given rise to a concept known as ‘retailtainment.’

Retailtainment refers to the convergence of retail and entertainment--hence the name. It used to be solely practised by large brands, like Disney (who are famous for creating ‘Magical Moments’). But now, as the retail industry becomes more competitive than ever before, small and medium-sized businesses are starting to see the benefits of entertaining their customers.

According to a RetailDive study, one of the biggest reasons customers still choose physical shopping over online is for the enjoyment. Customers don’t just want a transactional experience. They want to be wowed by your store.

With that in mind, here are three stores that really know how to create impactful customer experiences.

Waterstones

When Kindles and eReaders came onto the scene, it looked like bookstores were done for. And yet, people still love to peruse the shelves of their local bookshop.

Why?

The experience.

Gower Street Waterstones, one of the most iconic bookstores in London, is famed for its customer experience. It boasts a coffee shop, a children’s area, and even an art gallery. There are also several seating areas where customers can curl up with their books, almost like a try before you buy scenario.

John Lewis

John Lewis is no newcomer to retail, and certainly no stranger to creating amazing customer experiences. But, in an ever-changing market, the long-established retailer has had to start rethinking its strategy.

Upon opening their 50th store, customer director Craig Inglis explained that this new store has been designed to, “reflect our customers’ behaviour. They want that exclusive product, they want curation, they want that much more one-to-one relationship."

As such, the new store is very customer-focused, with a style studio, daily talks, and an experience desk where customers can book in-store experiences.

Cocoa Wonderland

Confectionery is a saturated market, but Cocoa Wonderland--a small business in Sheffield--stands out with their community-focused experiences. The store hosts regular knitting clubs, book clubs, and chocolate-related workshops.

Day-to-day customers can also enjoy a great experience as there is a cafe and ice cream parlour on-site.

Customer experience strategies are bound to differ from company to company, and while these businesses offer a great source of inspiration, it’s down to you to think about what your customers would love.

Why do you need a customer experience strategy?

A Forrester study found that experience-led companies have 1.6x higher brand awareness, 1.9x higher average order value, 1.7x higher customer retention rates, and 1.6x higher customer satisfaction rates compared to companies that are not focused on creating great experiences.

The results of this study highlight just how valuable a customer experience strategy can be. Increased brand awareness means that more people are going to start shopping at your store. Increased order value improves your bottom line. And increased retention and satisfaction rates mean that your customers are more likely to leave positive reviews and become passionate advocates of your store.

In a world where customers can purchase anything they want with a couple of taps on their smartphone, a customer experience strategy is your trump card.

How can you create a customer experience strategy?

If you think you need to be as big as Waterstones to create amazing customer experiences, then we have great news. Anyone can do it.

All you need is a strategy, and you can build one in just 3 steps.

Conduct customer research and define your goals

The first step towards creating an experience that your customers will like is to...find out what they like. It’s that simple.

To help you along with this, try creating customer profiles that flesh out your ideal customers as if they were real people. This will help you to better understand their wants and needs.

You should also ask customers what they want. By handing out surveys to customers (with an incentive to fill it in) you can find out what they currently like about your store and what they feel is lacking.

After gathering your research, you need to look at what your customers want, then determine what you can offer, and define your goals from there. It’s all about finding that sweet spot between what your customers want and what is achievable for your store.

Here are some quick examples:

  • If your research finds that your customers hate queueing, implement mPOS readers to alleviate queues and create a more relaxed customer experience. 

  • If your research finds that your customers are spending a long time in your store, create a respite area where people can rest their feet or even buy beverages and snacks. This could be a great way to generate extra revenue, too. 

  • If your research finds that your customers wish they could try before they buy, set up a samples section in your store. 

Implement change

After defining your goals, it’s time to implement them in your store. And it starts with your employees. According to a survey of over 2,000 customer experience professionals by Hotjar, companies with the most mature customer experience management had the strongest buy-in company-wide. So it’s important to create a customer-centric culture and get your whole team involved.

To encourage your employees to create amazing experiences, share the customer feedback that you collected. You can also update your company’s missions and values to be more customer-focused; in addition to offering extra training if needed.

When all of your changes are implemented, be sure to let customers know and encourage them to get the most out of their experience when shopping store. This will help you to collect additional feedback to find out if customers are enjoying their in-store experiences or if further changes are required.

Gather feedback and tweak as needed

The only way to know if your customer experience strategy is working is to ask your customers. According to a CX survey by Hotjar, customer feedback is the number one driver of successful customer experience strategies.

There are two important scores you can use to measure customer satisfaction. The first is the customer satisfaction score (also known as CSAT). To calculate customer satisfaction levels you ask:

“How satisfied were you with your experience today?”

This is scored on a scale from 1-10, with 1 being ‘not happy’ and 10 being ‘very happy’. To find your score you need to divide the number of satisfied customers by the number of surveys conducted. This will give you a percentage of satisfied customers.

A similar score used universally is the net promoter score or NPS. To calculate this you ask customers:

“How likely would you be to recommend our store to a friend, family member, or colleague?”

This is also scored on a scale from 1-10, with 1 being ‘not at all likely’ and 10 being ‘extremely likely’. People who score your company between 9 and 10 are labelled ‘Promoters’ and people who score you 6 or below are labelled ‘Detractors’. To find your NPS score you subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters.

For more specific feedback, you can invite some customers for a feedback interview. This gives you a chance to hear their story and uncover pain points that you may not have been aware of.

While collecting feedback is great, it’s equally important to implement it. According to a Microsoft study, 52% of people around the globe believe that companies need to take action on feedback provided by their customers. The same study also revealed that brands are viewed more favourably by 77% of consumers if they proactively invite and accept customer feedback.

To conclude...

An amazing customer experience strategy can be the difference between someone being a one-time purchaser and a lifelong mega-fan of your store.

A great way to improve your customer experience strategy is by working with SumUp. Take a look at our available product and partnership opportunities.

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Ashleigh Grady