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Consumers are looking for more than low prices. They want a better customer experience (CX) and are willing to pay for it.

While retail giants such as WalMart and Amazon have both risen to success by reducing their price, 81 percent of customers indicate that they’re willing to pay more online and in-store for a superior customer experience, according to a recent Capgemini report. "The Disconnected Customer: What Digital CX Leaders Teach Us About Reconnecting with Customers,” also found 90 percent of companies believed that their organizations’ Net Promoter Score for measuring customer satisfaction had increased by five points over the past three years, but only 54 percent of consumers agreed.

Clearly, there is a gap in perception between customers and retailers, but there are a number of ways brands can enhance the customer experience that consumers are willing to pay for. 

If you're looking for ways to improve the experience of your customers, these five CX trends are a good starting point for inspiration.

Creating teachable moments

In an era where consumers can learn about products online and purchase them with a click, there’s still room for physical stores to educate their customers.

Cosmetics retailer Sephora is doing both. Online, customers can watch how-to videos and get beauty advice via its branded Beauty Talk community, but for those who go to a physical store, Sephora offers beauty classes that cover skincare and makeup topics, and get makeovers from expert artists. The hands-on education offers an experience consumers can’t can get in front of a computer.

Streamlining the purchase process

Consumers want simplicity. Many retailers, including WalMart, enable shoppers to bypass traditional cashiers by using self-checkout kiosks, something Amazon GO has made standard in its prototype grocery store. It offers similar value through its one-click checkout online.

Apple has also streamlined the buying experience by enabling consumers to walk merchandise out of their stores without interacting with a cashier or a kiosk. Customers simply use an app on their phone to pay.

Eliminating the number of steps to pay streamlines the customer experience and makes it easy for them to select their payment option of choice. Apple is starting to let customers pay for iTunes purchases with PayPal in some countries, and many retailers are offering newer payment options using a smartphone such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet.

Making your customer the hero

News media organization POLITICO has opted to make its customers the center of its focus through an insight community that now has 5,000 members.

According to, POLITICO is putting customers in the driver’s seat to guide coverage of issues, the design new products and the creation new beats. The direct feedback loop is both part of the CX as well as a means for readers to let Politico know what they’re expecting. In turn, POLITICO can potentially anticipate what readers want in advance based on the insights they glean.

Investing in employee experience

If your employees are happier, your customers are likelier to be happy too. Research shows the CX is tightly connected to the interactions they have with your staff. Taco Bell, for example, is working to better understand its employees by implementing technology that asks front-line staff for regular feedback. Its aim is to unlock actionable insight about the company’s culture and measure employee engagement.

Remuneration is a strong contributor. Rather than hurting its bottom line, McDonald’s decision to increase wages led soaring sales last year and demonstrates how front-line workers are at the heart of the customer experience.

Ultimately, the culture of your organization is reflected in your employees and will inevitably impact the customer experience.

Reimagining the offline experience

Despite reports traditional bricks-and-mortar stores are struggling (and some are), many are more profitable than online stores.

Established retail brands are all redefining the physical store experience to create a more compelling CX that shoppers will value. The move to more “experiential retailing” has prompted Lululemon to open HUB Seventeen in Manhattan, a community-gathering space where shoppers can take yoga classes or enjoy art and music. Meanwhile, Nike’s SoHo store features a half-basketball court, a soccer trial zone and “smart” treadmills that capture people’s running stats. Not to be outdone, Adidas opened a four-level, “stadium retail concept” store in Manhattan that includes a personal fitness consultation area, a customization section and locker room-style changing rooms.

It makes sense to tie the offline experience with the online. Crate & Barrel overhauled its popular registry program so customers could fluidly start or finish the process in-store, in-app or online, while Starbucks saw a 12 percent increase in revenue of after launching its mobile ordering service so customers have their orders waiting for them when they enter the store.

Consumers value consistency

While retailers must take note of trends that affect their business, improving CX is more effective for building long-term relationships rather than latching onto fads. Consumers will ultimately pay a premium for a consistent experience across all channels.

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Kelvin Claveria

Kelvin Claveria was the former Content Marketing Manager and was responsible for Vision Critical's blog and social media marketing program. Before joining Vision Critical's global marketing team, Kelvin worked at Dunn PR, a Vancouver-based public relations firm. His experience includes working with lifestyle, real estate, and non-profit clients to develop social media marketing and PR strategies. Kelvin has a Bachelor of Business Administration from SFU's Beedie School of Business.
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