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Retailers should focus on the customer journey, not the channel

| February 25, 2016
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Digital influence on retail is so pervasive that the concept of entirely-offline retail is becoming outdated.

That’s according to a recent report from Deloitte Digital, which projected that 64% of in-store retail sales in 2015 were impacted by customers’ use of a digital device. This is up from 49% in 2014 and 36% in 2013.

“When everyone is online all the time, when digital is pervasive – there is no offline. When no one is offline, then the concept of online is not necessary. Operating separate online and offline businesses is likely a waste of valuable time and energy.”

Yet for many companies, the status quo is to run different channels (e-commerce, m-commerce, and brick and mortar) as distinct businesses. They set separate revenue goals for online and offline channels, and they measure results independently. They have different teams designing the interfaces and experiences for each channel. Then, they make nominal (and often unsuccessful) attempts to connect the disparate experiences.

The result is often a disjointed customer journey.

Today’s consumers don’t see their interactions with a brand on different channels as separate experiences. Instead, each interaction is just a step within a single journey, whether it’s on the web, in an app, or in-store.

And that means that companies that treat each channel as a separate entity are missing the mark with their customers.

But many companies don’t have the luxury of tearing down the organizational structures that separated the online and physical channels in the first place. So what can they do to improve their CX?

1. Align research between departments

Chances are, your company’s different departments are conducting consumer research independently of each other. You may have many sets insights from different sources, but that doesn’t mean you can’t share findings between teams.

Schedule regular interdepartmental meetings to review significant insights. Analyzing findings as a group will help uncover a more complete picture of the customer experience.

2. Measure entire customer journeys, not just the sale

While it’s tempting to simply measure sales, the customer journey doesn’t start—or end—at the point of sale. Smart companies recognize the need for more advanced measurements than simply where the purchase occurred, and they track customer feedback and sentiment along every step of the way.

Take a holistic approach to your research strategy, and understand your customer’s journey by gathering feedback at every point of interaction. Watch customers use your site or app through remote, unmoderated studies, and then see how they interact with your brand in real life as they walk through your store or try to contact customer service while commuting home on the train. Conduct regular user research wherever your customer can interact with your brand to assure you’re measuring the entire customer journey.

3. Align teams around larger company goals

There’s no point in celebrating an increase in e-commerce sales if the company’s overall revenue decreased. Many larger companies have a rivalry between the e-commerce and physical retail departments. While a little friendly competition never hurt anyone, it can become dangerous if different departments act on initiatives that benefit one channel while damaging others.

Instead, align your teams around shared goals and reward all teams when progress is made in achieving those goals. Give teams the opportunity to share in each other’s success, and learn from any challenges along the way. By giving each team’s goals equal weight and importance in achieving company-wide goals, teams will be aware of how their initiatives impact other departments and the entire company.

4. Include representatives from different divisions in a CX council

One of the best ways to assure your teams have a customer-centric mindset is to constantly reinforce the practice. One way to do that is by setting up a dedicated CX council that’s devoted to all things customer experience-related.

Gather a team of like-minded CX champions within your organization, and arrange to meet regularly—we recommend at least quarterly, if not monthly. These meetings will be helpful in identifying pain points along the customer journey, brainstorming as a group on a strategy to improve, and implementing changes on the company level.

Be sure to share your insights with the rest of the company, too. This will help cement the understanding that CX is something your organization values and is constantly striving to improve.

To create great experiences, understand the real customer journey

Providing your customers with a delightful customer experience means realizing that there really aren’t separate channels anymore. Your customer may take many steps along their journey to purchase, and a bad experience on any one of those steps could ruin the relationship. It’s critical for your team to understand the shopper’s mindset at each point in order to create a unified customer experience