The appetite for retail satisfaction is more voracious than ever before. We were happy enough to spend when we had to travel to brick-and-mortar stores, but now that we can grab our phones in the middle of the night and place some hasty orders, we’re taken consumption to the next level. You might think it’s a pretty good time to be a retailer, and it is… to a point.

Here’s the issue: while there’s an incredible amount of revenue on the table (with global e-commerce sales alone expected to hit 4.2 trillion USD in 2020), and more ways than ever before to reach and sell to people, it’s actually extremely hard to make sales. You need to do everything you can to set yourself apart — and the customer experience you provide is mission-critical. But why does it matter so much?

In this piece, we’re going to dig a little deeper into why your focus should go towards creating amazing experiences. Let’s get started:

It’s now possible to create rich online experiences

When internet retail first came along, it was tough to do anything interesting along the lines of what was achievable with physical stores: most notably impressive displays and in-store demonstrations, but anything experiential. What it had were novelty and practicality. And when there weren’t that many stores around, that was enough — but not for long. Thankfully, technology has since developed to the point of supporting rich online experiences.

Consider that an online customer today can get complex rewards through a great loyalty scheme, chase up their orders through a 24/7 chatbot, virtually preview products in their home using an AR app, and get carefully-curated personalised recommendations in whatever format they prefer. You can optimise a product page to the point of addressing all likely concerns and leaving the reader with no doubt that they’ve found what they’re looking for — and since the most prominent brands are doing it, it’s a vital part of keeping up.

Customer retention is a key marker of sustainability.

Churn, or the rate at which customers leave to buy elsewhere, is the enemy of the ambitious retailer. There are two reasons for this: it’s expensive and time-consuming to source new customers (often requiring a lot of marketing), and loyal, long-term customers spend more money, are more forgiving about occasional problems, and drive relevant referrals.

And if you’re indifferent about your customer experience, then your customers won’t feel cherished or even supported. They’ll soon notice that you’re not really invested in how their purchases work out (you only care about getting their money), and this will push them to look elsewhere — after all, there’s little else stopping them, as we’ll see next. So do everything you can to keep your customers happy, and it’ll pay off.

It’s hard to excel through pricing or selection.

There are so many retailers around offering similar things in similar ways that it’s hard to stand out through pricing or product lineup. Imagine that you built a retail business around a specific type of item, aiming to offer the lowest prices: it could work for a while, but what would happen when someone else pointedly decided to undercut you? If you lost your reputation as being the cheapest, it could damage your brand identity — and if you lowered your prices in response, you might struggle to get by with wafer-thin profit margins.

It’s even harder to stand out through product selection because most online retail stems from the same third-party suppliers, and there’s almost nothing stopping another store from completely copying your entire product lineup. So if you can’t get your prices any lower to leap past your rivals, and you’re sourcing products from the same suppliers, then how are you supposed to outperform them? Customer experience, because you can truly make it unique.

Modern consumers are very demanding.

As I noted in the intro, shoppers have become accustomed to remarkable convenience when buying online — and one of the consequences of this convenience is that they don’t form brand bonds very easily. Why would they need to when there’s almost always an alternative to any given site? Whenever they want to buy something, they can simply compare hundreds or thousands of retailers to find the lowest price (with the site being almost immaterial).

As shoppers and the industry dictate change, your business needs to adapt quickly to every disruption. To satisfy your customers and differentiate your brand in a fast-moving market, cloud-based, mobile-ready solutions like NetSuite enable retailers of all types and sizes to innovate and focus on increasing customer satisfaction rather than managing the complexities of traditional retail software and hardware.

Cloud platforms can enable you to customise your specific retail needs quickly and easily, allowing you to add new channels, geographies, business models and brands seamlessly. NetSuite’s end-to-end unified system provides real-time insights into customers, inventory, sales, financials and more, allowing you to have all information at hand to drive success.

Delivering engaging, personalised shopping experiences and build customer loyalty it’s simplified when you have a single view of all your customers, transactions and interactions across all channels and touchpoints. True-cloud ERPs can help you understand and connect with your customers, create segments, personalise their experience, build loyalty and drive growth.

Download NetSuite Guide for Retailers

SaaS Cloud Software for retail comes at a far lower cost and less hassle than traditional on-premise systems. NetSuite can drive your omnichannel retail operations and give you real-time 360° customer view, download our NetSuite Guide for Retailers and learn more.

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If you want a customer to stick around and buy from you repeatedly, you can’t afford to provide a mediocre experience, since it won’t be enough. They won’t hesitate to look elsewhere. It’s brutal and meritocratic, and there’s absolutely no point in getting annoyed about it. All you can do is adapt to the best of your ability.

Customer experience isn’t merely something you can target to bump up your sales. It’s a core part of survival in today’s retail market. Consistently offer a mediocre experience, and sooner or later, even your most ardent supporters will look elsewhere for their goods.

Rodney Laws is an e-commerce expert with over a decade of experience in building online businesses. Check out his reviews on EcommercePlatforms.io and you’ll find practical tips that you can use to build the best online store for your business. Connect with him on Twitter @EcomPlatformsio.

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