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By: Adriana Noton
Customer experience in the retail services industry has become a hot topic and important emphasis. As one top executive put it recently, customers are party guests and the retail company the host who is ensuring every part of the party guest encounter at the party.

The retail industry is waking up and smelling the coffee to the need for customer engagement to secure and maintain customers and their loyalty. Per consulting studies, engaged customers will purchase more products and services, stay with you longer, and tend to be more profitable than average customers. Companies that engage their guests tend to be more profitable than companies that do not.

Customer engagement starts from the very first time the guest is aware of your company as a prospect. Often times there is a clear life-cycle of a customer and engagement and the prospect and purchaser encounters happens throughout this life-cycle each time the prospect and later purchaser is engaged.

As a guest and later a purchaser moves through their encounters with your company pre-purchase and post purchase, there are various touch points which are important to both you and the customer. These are known as moments of truth. This includes pre-purchase encounters such as research and information gathering by the prospect. Research has shown that 75 percent of consumers do extensive research before purchasing electronics. The next moments of truth center around the Purchase.

Studies show that 70 percent of purchasers make their decision inside the store. This means companies could market to the prospect at that moment. This is called shopper marketing versus customer marketing. The physical store is factored in during the purchase. By providing a physical outstanding encounter to purchasers, the purchasers will spend more money.

In the final stage at post-purchase, customer service and the guest loyalty program are very important pieces. Studies over the last decade have shown happier guests are more loyal guests and more loyal guests spend more money on your product and services over time. It is important for loyalty programs to not just exist as loyalty programs but for them to ensure a special and unique encounter for the guest. Just giving a purchaser points for purchases does not cut it anymore. Now you need to ensure they get a unique encounter along the way.

Retail giants are beginning to embrace and understand that they will reap benefits by offering unique and specialized encounters to their customers and prospects. What are some challenges that retailers will encounter along the path to greater customer encounters and engagement?

Consumers are more informed and empowered with the ability to look up information on products within seconds and at their fingertips with their smartphones and tablets. Their expectations have also risen and now customers typical have a higher benchmark or norm that they are holding retail companies to. There is a growing segment of people who want retailers to do it all for them rather than them doing it themselves partially due to people leading more and more busier lifestyles. Again holding retailers to a new higher norm, customers expect extremely fast service.


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