Back-to-School Shoppers Today, as Always, Value In-Store Customer Experience

Posted on August 13, 2013 by Kevin LeiferComments

It’s no secret that annual back-to-school shopping is big business. This year, revenues are projected to total $83.8 billion among K-12 shoppers in school supplies alone. Momentous nationwide shopping events like this beg a question: is ecommerce outperforming traditional bricks-and-mortar retail?

Admittedly, consumers are increasingly filling online shopping carts in addition to actual shopping carts. Today 40% of shoppers are expected to stay home and shop online, a figure that has doubled in just six years. But even with such a trend pointing to a broader offline-to-online transition for shoppers, the question of which medium offers the superior customer experience still looms in the distance.

Until now.

Comprehensive survey data aimed at comparing the online customer experience to the traditional in-store experience was collected from a variety of retailers, and it seems there might be trouble in e-paradise.

At first, the online experience seems like a sensible alternative: there are no long lines to wait in, inventory information is readily available, and there’s often a range of delivery options. But after taking a closer look, there may in fact be disadvantages to ecommerce, which may be influencing consumers to remain in the store this back-to-school season—at least for a while.

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Topics: Customer Experience

More Online Retailers Extend to In-Store Locations

Posted on August 8, 2013 by Kevin LeiferComments

People like to get hyped up about new technology and what it means for the future of how we live and interact with businesses as consumers. The rapid growth of eCommerce during the earlier days of the Web 2.0 era led many analysts and business owners to believe an Internet revolution had begun and the traditional in-store strategy was doomed to disappear.

In the coming years, however, trends seemed to stabilize and the exaggerated rhetoric began to leave from business and market discussions. Today, although US eCommerce sales continue to rise year after year as retailers increasingly implement omnichannel service strategies, the overall percent by which growth is taking place year-to-year is projected to decline steadily.

  • An eMarketer study finds that despite continued growth, eCommerce still only accounted for 6% of US retail sales in 2012. (Source)

Recent numbers also show that number has fallen by half a percent in the first part of 2013.

With such a consistently low portion of the total retail environment being taken by online transactions, what does this really mean for the online/offline dynamic in the coming years?

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Topics: Customer Experience

Adapting Traditional Customer Experience Cycle to Omnichannel Retail

Posted on August 6, 2013 by Kevin LeiferComments

With the growing level of consumer connectedness demanding retailers shift their customer experience strategies from a multichannel approach to an omnichannel one, it’s easy to lose track of the essentials of what goes into crafting such a plan in the first place.

Mobile connectivity, consistency among separate retail channels, and delivering a satisfying degree of high-tech capabilities are all extremely important pieces to the customer experience puzzle, but the core tenants of the now well-established customer experience cycle should always serve as a foundation to inform your strategy adjustments.

The cycle as we know it today, consists of a series of steps which when realized as a moving system, make up the consumer’s overall retail experience. Before ideas like multichannel or omnichannel retailing came around, the contents of these steps were relatively narrow in scope—catalogs were essentially the only way customers could access products outside of the store itself, and customer retention rarely meant more than a mailing list.

Today, the complexity of eCommerce, mobile connectivity, and social media among other things, are changing not only the way consumers are finding and purchasing products, but also the way they’re sharing information about their experiences.

Let’s fit these new retail considerations into the cycle in order to start looking at ways to adapt effectively:

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Topics: Customer Experience, Omnichannel

What’s the Difference Between Multi-Channel & Omnichannel Retail?

Posted on August 1, 2013 by Kevin LeiferComments

I’ll illustrate the difference between multi-channel retail and omnichannel retail with a simple story.

Imagine you arrive at work one morning, and without thinking you jump out of your car forgetting that your cell phone is in your lap—or, was in your lap. Now, it’s doing somersaults across a strip of pavement. Fearing the worst, you nervously reach for your phone only to discover that the device itself is unharmed—but the phone’s case is shot. So, you head to the electronics store on your break and find yourself staring at a giant wall of smartphone cases.

Each case is marketed as having its own unique perks—how do you know which one is right for you? This is where omnichannel retail differs from multi-channel retail.

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Topics: Customer Experience, Brand Experience

Newly Released STRONG Study Findings Continue to Produce Insight for Grocery Industry

Posted on July 30, 2013 by Kevin LeiferComments

The year-long STRONG Study, being conducted conjointly by ICC/Decision Services and the Progressive Grocer, focuses on key service areas for retailers across the country

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Topics: News

Evolving From Customer Service to Customer Experience

Posted on July 26, 2013 by David RichComments

In a 2005 issue of the Harvard Management Update, James Allen, Barney Hamilton and Frederick F. Reichheld published a staggering statistic:

Eighty percent of companies believe they deliver a superior customer experience, while only 8 percent of their customers agree.

The stat from that famous paper still turns heads—there’s often a difference between what you think about yourself and what your customers think about you, but a seventy-two percent difference?

The field of Customer Experience has quickly risen to the front of our awareness in the retail industry, likely due to stats like these: they represent a significant blind spot for retailers.

But, really, nothing that can’t be remedied through a little understanding.

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Topics: Customer Experience, Customer Satisfaction

New Ideas In Customer Experience – July 2013

Posted on July 23, 2013 by David RichComments

There’s no shortage of new ideas surrounding mystery shopping, customer intercept surveys, and customer satisfaction surveys as ways to improve Customer Experience in the 21st century. However, it can be difficult to distinguish the helpful thought leadership from the not so helpful thought leadership being shared online.

With that in mind, The Team here at ICC/Decision Services would like to present our regular blog readership with several resources we feel are advancing the field of Customer Experience in a new monthly ICC/Decision Services curated blog post called “New Ideas in Customer Experience.”

In our new monthly recap, we’ll be sharing original content from industry publications and other notable CX bloggers—and offering our opinion when relevant—in order to help our core audience better understand this fascinating field.

As always, please feel free to reach out to us via Twitter (@ICCDSLive) or contact us directly if you have any questions regarding any content we share—we’d welcome the opportunity to address any questions you have.

Best wishes,

The ICC/Decision Services Team

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Topics: Customer Experience

Close to Home, Global Reach: Finding the Right Mystery Shopping Company in New York City

Posted on July 18, 2013 by David RichComments

Saks Fifth Avenue, Aéropostale, Barnes & Noble, Tiffany & Co., Macy’s—browse any list of the world’s hottest retailers and you’ll see that many of them are headquartered in New York City.

That’s a huge point of pride for me as a New Yorker, but an even greater one for me as the CEO of a mystery shopping company in New York City. Some of the world’s best consumer shopping happens right here in NYC, and that fact provides me and my company with more than a few opportunities to work alongside the elite brands that serve as the standard in customer experience for retailers everywhere.

But even though New York is home to the consumer brand elite—brands you’d expect to feel plenty comfortable on long distance conference calls and video meetings—we continue to find that when tasked with working with providers like us, companies headquartered in New York prefer to work with mystery shopping companies in New York City. Because for all of the advanced communications technology available to us as business professionals, there’s still nothing quite like sitting across the table from an actual person, is there?

But as an elite brand, it’s important to have the support of an elite brand. When searching for a mystery shopping company in NYC or a New York-based customer experience evaluator, it’s critical to look for a provider who understands CX at the highest possible level and is familiar with companies of your caliber.

With that in mind, following are three important tips for finding the right mystery shopping company in New York City.

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Topics: Mystery Shopping, Customer Experience

How to Use Mystery Shopping for Competitor Research

Posted on July 16, 2013 by David RichComments

Imagine this:

You’re a retailer. You’ve done well for the past decade. After being the sole provider of the service you offer in your area, a competitor sets up shop a few miles from you.

At first, you keep a cool attitude about the future of your business—after all, you’ve had extremely satisfied customers for years now. What could this competitor possibly do to disrupt such customer loyalty?

Several months after the competitive opening, earnings begin to slide. It appears you’re losing business to the new retailer.

Not knowing why the other guy is doing so well can be extremely frustrating. But there’s a creative way around this problem: mystery shopping companies can provide competitor research data directly from the floor of a bricks-and-mortar competitor, the way a customer experiences them.

Conducting competitor research is certainly nothing new to the business world, but the means by which a retailer can receive actionable competitor data are now much broader given how connected we all are.

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Topics: Mystery Shopping, Customer Experience

Create an Omnichannel Retail Strategy for Greater Brand Loyalty

Posted on July 11, 2013 by David RichComments

There’s no doubt the retail landscape has changed drastically since the introduction of eCommerce to the business world.

Although online shopping continues to grow nationwide, companies are beginning to take a fresh look at what makes the in-store experience valuable to shoppers given the assumed ease and convenience online outlets have to offer.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in-store purchases still make up the majority of sales transactions going on day-to-day. When we zoom in to see how eCommerce is affecting certain kinds of products, categories like books, clothing, and electronics are seeing some of the highest percentages of online sales, yet companies like Barnes and Noble continue to maintain a strong in-store component to their retail strategy.

With a study by the NPD Group finding 48% of book and stationary sales now taking place through online outlets (and growing), the future for bookstores may seem shaky. With people turning to the convenience of eBooks, why do people bother making the effort to meander the bookshelves inside physical stores anymore?

The answer is simple: innovation doesn’t mean completely converting your retail presence to the Internet—in-store customer experience remains the strongest component of consistent retail activity.

Shopping online for books is perhaps one of the least exciting ways to immerse yourself in the experience of discovering new things to read. Barnes and Noble realized this and consequently made their stores into exactly what people can’t get online: a place to sit down, drink a coffee, and thumb through some potential purchases in a social environment. As a result, they’re able to provide customers with a place to come back to time and time again to find what they’re looking for rather than battle with a multitude of online outlets engaging consumers in constant flux––chaotically shifting from company to company in a quest for the lowest price.

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Topics: Mystery Shopping, Customer Experience, Brand Experience, Retail, Customer Service

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