A recent Harvard Business Review report found that getting the customer experience right is more important in retail than in all other industries combined. David Nothling-Demmer looks to some of the key trends shaping the shopper experience, as he chats with industry players about what CX excellence looks like, and what marketers should be doing to delight customers at every touchpoint.
The retail landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. From the impact of a global pandemic and the rising cost of living, to the introduction of new shopping technologies and channels, consumer behaviour has seen a big shift. Customers are no longer simply after cheap prices, but desire memorable, positive customer experiences across multiple touchpoints from brands and retailers they choose to do business with.
In a recent Salesforce-sponsored study by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, researchers found that 82 percent of retailers say that improving the customer experience is their top priority.
This is no wonder, given that in 2021, three quarters of New Zealanders said they were dissatisfied with their experiences as customers, according to the Qualtrics 2022 Global Consumer Trends study. Based on insights from 1,000 consumers in New Zealand, Qualtrics found that 74 percent of people believe customer experiences need to be better.
Customer service support was the second most common area consumers wanted businesses to improve, behind prices and fees. Improving communications and online resources were also called out for improvement. Almost half of respondents said businesses need to care more about them (43 percent) and get better at listening to their feedback (41 percent).
“The coming year is critical for organisations across New Zealand as they continue to navigate macroeconomic issues – from talent shortages through to supply chain disruptions and rising costs – caused by the pandemic,” says Vicky Katsabaris, Director of XM Solutions Strategy at Qualtrics.
“Customer experience will be in the spotlight as consumers will not only demand higher quality support and services in response to the higher costs or longer wait times they might be facing, they will actively seek out and reward those companies able to meet and exceed their expectations. It’s a reality that means businesses across the country will have to continually address customer service gaps that might emerge by finding new and sustainable ways to deepen relationships with customers,” adds Katsabaris.
The implications of shifting market dynamics can impact bottom lines too. A recent Qualtrics study found that globally 53 percent of consumers have cut spending after a single bad experience with a company. In contrast, 38 percent of consumers in New Zealand said they would buy more from a company if it treated them better.
“The last two years have affected just about everyone at home and at work, pushing consumers to re-evaluate many of their relationships. They are actively looking to do more with organisations that put their needs first,” adds Bruce Temkin, Head of Qualtrics XM Institute.
“Given this shift, it’s more important than ever for businesses to continually listen to and understand the needs of their customers, and then rapidly adapt to those signals. Those that can make ongoing use of customer insights will differentiate themselves going forward.”
On the back of this research, NZ Marketing sought to engage retailers, their marketing partners and technology provider on the various local market challenges they are facing and what all they are doing to strengthening their CX strategies.
Here’s what we’ve discovered.
The customer journey around product discovery has changed with the pandemic accelerating trends around browsing and buying, including, in-store digital purchase, touchless pickup, QR codes for price comparison and savings, click-to-buy and location-targeted mobile advertising, as well as addressable CTV.
All of these opportunities combine branding and product discovery with purchase just a step behind, compressing the traditional shopping funnel. Yet, many marketing strategies are still designed with one of two objectives in mind – brand awareness or conversion. Brands are having to operate at the speed of the customer and recreate their approach to product discovery, moving away from a bifurcating bricks and mortar approach versus e-commerce shopping experience.
Robert Leach, General Manager, APAC at Kargo says that in this regard the customer journey in a retail setting (be it online or offline) is “colliding or collapsing”, meaning that the time between discovering a new product and purchasing it, is starting to shrink.
“So rather descending through the traditional steps of the marketing funnel, using [new technologies] brands can now choose to directly link their upper funnel brand advertising to a customer’s retail shopping cart,” he says.
“This is driven by evolving consumer behaviour that has been accelerated by the pandemic. People are turning to their phones for shopping, with product discovery and purchase often happening almost simultaneously. So, in order to keep up with consumer’s shopping habits, marketers need to retool the way they market. Traditionally we had branding campaigns and conversion campaigns. The lines between these two marketing objectives are blurring and advertising should reflect this strategy by combining awareness, audience building and sales. Click to cart advertising solutions provide this solution.”
Robert says that brands and companies are becoming attuned to this. “We have seen this emerge for single product SMEs in social media, but Kargo is now affording larger brands and retailers the opportunity in the more responsive mobile web.”
Across the board, he says that brands are seeing more of their sales coming from online. “According to NZ Post, in their Online Spotlight Report, November 2021, online e-commerce spend in that month was $893 million, a very impressive 40 percent rise on November 2020 and 77 percent up on two years ago,” he says.
“This is even transcending into verticals like CPG and luxury brands that traditionally had less of an e-commerce footprint. We have spoken with CMOs at a few luxury brands who, just in the past year or two, have been challenged to really sell in digital to the brand stakeholders where it was nothing more than a blip on their radar previously. But in the current landscape, in order to keep up with today’s consumers, having a digital commerce strategy is now crucial to more and more brands in order to remain relevant and successful.
For Bríd Drohan-Stewart, Director of Brand, Customer Advocacy & Activation Practice Lead at Woolworths, integration is the key here.
“Integration within campaigns is no longer a nice to have, it is imperative. The fragmented media landscape means that there is no longer a single customer journey. There is now a plethora of touchpoints which need to be considered.
“Integration ensures we have coherence, meaning our different communications are logically connected. It also delivers consistency, so our multiple messages support and reinforce as opposed to contradict. An integrated approach is complementary and synergistic, meaning the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, delivering higher overall brand impact,” she says.
As with most large retailers, Countdown customers interact with the brand across such a wide variety of devices and channels, so Bríd says that it’s critically important for her team to understand which touchpoints and channels will resonate best.
“How we measure our campaigns, and how we move our customers from consideration to purchase is key when making decisions about our channel mix.
“Although the channels and the way that customers are interacting with different platforms is constantly evolving, one thing should remain consistent throughout, and this is the message itself.”
Transforming media at Woolworths NZ from a traditional, conservative and cautious approach to always audience first has been Bríd’s main focus since joining the retailer just four weeks prior to the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown. “In this time, I’ve managed to move the business from taking a very tactical campaign approach to developing platforms for rewards, value, fresh and online shopping. Delivering the best brand net promoter score and improvements in share consistently week-on-week.”
Bríd says that as a retail marketer, she needs to be responsive to changes in shopping behaviours. “For example, lockdowns have meant that our shoppers are visiting our stores less frequently, but their basket size has grown. Regardless of the changing environment, value for money the best of fresh and providing the right products at the right price remains an important customer need and ongoing
focus for us – particularly as we move into a period of inflationary pressure and rising interest rates coming out of the pandemic.”
One such touchpoint challenge is international shipping delays and supply chain challenges, which Bríd says will continue to cause some issues for us here in New Zealand. “We’re continuing to work hard with our suppliers to make sure we’ve got all of our customers’ favourite brands available on shelf or online each week.”
The marketing industry has been quite resilient and adaptable to the changing consumer landscape – the industry has become very good at pivoting at very short notice and considering what our customers’ priorities are in a world where we’re living with Covid-19.
Juanita Neville-Te Rito, Managing Director and Founder at RX, says that as consumer behaviour shifts, responding to pain points along the shopping journey will be imperative to maintaining brand engagement.
“The most compelling engagement is delivered by solving customers’ pain points at the intersection of functional, rational and emotional deliverables. True transformation goes beyond just meeting needs and wants; it is delivering unforgettable experiences with excellence, innovation and authenticity,” she says.
Take Laybuy’s recent integration of Ambit’s conversational AI platform as its newest digital employee ‘Hugo’, a move that it says will significantly improve customer experience and help support Laybuy’s international growth.
‘Hugo’ is an intelligent chatbot, or Digital Employee, who is able to instantly answer a wide range of common questions on Laybuy’s website, providing customers with real time responses to everyday enquiries.
Gary Rohloff, Laybuy co-founder and Managing Director, says “employing” Hugo was an important and innovative step to help manage the increasing demand on Laybuy’s customer services team as the company continued on its rapid growth trajectory.
“In just the past year, our customer base has increased by nearly 25 percent and we now have nearly one million consumers actively using Laybuy in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom,” says Gary.
“We know that the key to maintaining this growth is making sure we continue to make our customers’ lives easier. This means providing them with an ongoing seamless and first class customer experience, including answering their questions quickly and comprehensively each and every time they make contact. Hugo is helping us do just that.”
Available 24/7 on Laybuy’s website, Hugo is answering many of the common questions customers have that up until recently had to be answered by the customer services team, such as help resetting passwords, questions around refunds and returns, as well as payment enquiries. This frees up the customer service team to work more closely with those customers who have complex queries that require specialised expertise.
“Hugo is really supporting our customer service team, helping them work more efficiently and to deliver a high quality service, while also ensuring we continue to meet customer expectations for a real time, integrated payments experience,” says Gary.
“We are proud to be one of New Zealand’s leading Fintechs, which is why we were delighted to partner with a fellow innovative Kiwi tech company such as Ambit to create Hugo. There’s been a real synergy between our teams as we train Hugo in the language of payments.”
Laybuy tested and deployed Hugo in a matter of weeks in late 2021 in time to help out with the busy Christmas and New Year retail period.
“Conversational AI can significantly enhance the retail and payments customer experience. We are in a 24/7 economy now, and companies want to deliver a superior experience while managing support costs. We look forward to developing further innovative customer service solutions with Laybuy,” says Tim Warren, Co-founder and CEO of Ambit.
Retail marketing specifically is meant to delight and entice shoppers to buy in-store, but as we shift to new digital commerce platforms, how do marketers translate this to an exceptional, personalised digital experience?
Robert says that it’s about appealing to all touchpoints with compelling creative messaging. Retailers will continue to want to drive customers in store – and great creative on mobile devices will continue to do that.
“The click-to-cart experience simply adds and other string to the bow of retailers and brands. Many customers prefer the online shopping experience. Other customers who do not wish to go into store or cannot do so can still easily purchase advertised products using click to cart technology.
“Brands need a full 360 digital solution, but that doesn’t mean in-store becomes completely irrelevant. However, going through a digital transformation does have many layers including having all the right software, chat functions, being available 24/7, frictionless check out, real time product feeds and so on. This is especially true today, with supply chain issues affecting everyone. It is fundamental that you find a data solution that matches your consumer demand to your inventory or consumers will purchase a competitor product,” says Robert.
So just how much separation or difference is there really between in-shop and online customer journeys?
Robert says that in-store or ‘active’ shopping tends to be a planned engagement with a strong momentum to buy now – the consumer has gone there to make a purchase and the engagement with the brand happens in a very short time frame as the consumer is browsing the aisle.
“Traditional e-commerce advertising has been a more passive shopping experience. The brand engagement is spontaneous, when the consumer sees the ad, but the journey of clicking to site, browsing the store, making selections, inputting financial details and so on means that the engagement to purchase happens over a more extended period of time.
So, collapsing the funnel and the ability to add a product directly into the consumer’s shopping cart from the ad is increasingly making the experience more akin to in store purchasing. The differences begin to blur, and again the pandemic has accelerated this. Brand discovery happens online now and as a result in-store digital purchase, touchless pickup, QR codes for price comparison and savings, location-targeted mobile advertising and click-to-cart solutions are all becoming more common,” he adds.
A recent DHL study found that 46 percent of basket abandonment is caused by limited shipping options. In addition, customers are twice as likely to return to purchase after having a positive delivery service.
“Shipping has definitely been an area of great stress and concern for business owners recently however this information does place quite a bit more importance on the shipping element of a customer experience journey. Shipping really is an extension of your business and despite it being out of a businesses’ hands once they put the product on the delivery truck, it can still reflect poorly on the business if they don’t have more options available to the customer,” says Mark Foy, DHL Managing Director New Zealand and Pacific,
Click-to-cart is new to the APAC region and so the impact has been minimal to date. But Kargo expects that to change significantly in 2022 and we are already seeing that start to happen.
“For many iconic/luxury brands and CPG’s digital was not a priority historically. But it is overwhelmingly becoming a core focus of brands’ media strategies, and with cookies going away, there needs to be less focus on attribution and more focus on the quality of the media being bought,” says Robert.
He believes that personalisation in media messaging is going to be key to unlocking better customer engagement when it comes to online advertising.
“Creative is the key to all advertising. Ipsos tell us that 75 percent of an ad’s ability to form brand-linked memories is due to creative and Nielsen claim that, ‘almost half of an ad’s impact is attributed to creative quality.’ This is a truth that certainly extends into e-commerce and so makes the opportunity for products to ‘click-to-cart’ directly from brand advertising all the more powerful.
“Personalisation, or at least addressability, is also important, particularly as first-party cookie targeting continues to decline. Kargo’s Cohort Intelligence provides this addressability and drives the right audiences to the right e-commerce advertising.”
Bríd would agree, saying that personalisation is now an expectation from customers online. “When Covid hit digital transformation accelerated overnight. Consumers have been conditioned to expect a level of hyper-personalisation that marketers must deliver. The customer expects so much more than just a seamless digital transaction, they want frictionless, anticipatory, personalised experiences across the entire customer journey. Business will need to adjust to meet the expectations that have been set, not only by competitors but business in general.”
Kargo has partnered two click-to-cart technology providers and integrated them into their products. As a result the company is the first and the only platform offering a click-to-cart solution in New Zealand.
“Further, in 2022 we will be launching Kargo Commerce, a division of Kargo, that provides an insight-driven and personalised omnichannel advertising solution suite proven to drive foot traffic, e-commerce sales and higher ROAS for retailers. Powered by our recent acquisition of StitcherAds, Kargo Commerce bridges the gap between audience building and sales across quality publishers and social platforms,” says Robert.
Looking towards the future, he says that the nexus of content and shopping will drive the next wave of unique experiences.
“With cookies going away, a lot of brands are left struggling to get an omnichannel view of the customer/target audience. Between our different partnerships, integrations and our own contextual targeting technology we have the infrastructure to help advertisers reach their target audience at scale.
“Whatever the advertising, Kargo always aims to provide a white glove service and to genuinely partner our advertisers and publishers. To that end we sit down with our clients to monitor and interpret the results of every campaign we run and to offer solutions to improve performance in upcoming campaigns.”
On future trends, Bríd adds: “There is growing recognition that social, economic and environmental challenges are systemic and need to be addressed as such, people are looking for daring approaches to effect true, transparent, inclusive change. Which is why New Zealanders are wanting businesses to take a stand on their behalf when it comes to issues we face in society. Businesses can no longer sit on the sidelines, people are expecting businesses to take a stand and lead the change. Consumers will continue to vote with their wallet and hold business accountable for the contributions that they are making towards change. If we don’t communicate our purpose on a greater level we will be dismissed.”
This article was first published in the 2022 June/July issue of NZ Marketing magazine.