As the dust settles on 12 months of unprecedented disruption, Australian retailers are entering a “reorient phase” – whereby many consumers and employees settle into patterns of behaviour that will remain after all restrictions have lifted. As evidence of this point, at least half of Australians plan to continue the online shopping behaviours adopted during the pandemic.

This new reality is summed up by KPMG’s Australian Retail Outlook 2021, which states “globally a different retail customer has emerged with new behaviours and decision-making criteria.”

In response to this considerable shift, retailers must reposition their existing services, offerings, and capabilities to create forward looking operating norms that design and improve the experience delivered to their customers and employees.

To ensure their success in this new reality, there are four common pitfalls every retailer should avoid in the way they manage and deliver both their customer and employee experience:

Do not go back to old metrics

2021 will not be the same as 2019. Retailers need to change for the future instead of over-tracking against the past.

The best way to achieve this is by evolving metric programs beyond NPS or CSAT to enable more action. For instance, add a relative metric to track performance against competitors, such as drivers of consumer preference. Whatever new metric is chosen, it needs to answer two questions: What have you learned? What improvements are you making?

Do not stop making rapid decisions

A common meeting throughout the pandemic was regular huddles between decision makers to respond to market changes. These meetings should not stop even though the immediate crisis is over.

We know there is more change ahead. By keeping these meetings – or even expanding them – retailers ensure decisions, resources, and investments are continuously aligned and optimised with the realities of the current environment.

The rapidly growing Australian online furniture retailer Koala is a great example of an organisation testing ideas and using experience data to make smart and fast decisions. Partnering with Qualtrics, Koala is leveraging new insights across its brand and products – including concept ideation and testing, and product development – to optimise its go-to-market strategies, international growth, and inform its product, brand, and customer experience.

This has allowed the retailer to deploy several projects at speed, including an optimised sales strategy for products in international markets, and a creative concept evaluation for key advertising campaigns (amongst other things).

Do not ignore inconsistencies in data

In times of change abnormalities in data can be a key indicator of future trends and behaviours that are around the corner. As such, retailers can accelerate their journey forward by treating them as meaningful signals and taking action accordingly.

It’s also important to recognise that not all data is quantitative. Retail organisations should expand their listening to include more qualitative mechanisms, like open-ended questions on surveys, data from support interactions, customer advisory boards, and journey mapping. This will bring a deeper understanding of new customer behaviours and trends.

Do not forget the critical importance of employee experience

With all that people have been through in 2020, retailers must not overlook – or forget – the importance of supporting the physical and mental wellbeing of their workforce. In fact, the recent Qualtrics 2021 Employee Experience Trends report revealed creating a culture of belonging as the top driver of employee engagement in Australia.

Retailers need to continuously listen, understand, and act on the needs of their workforce during this time by enabling regular engagements across the entire employee journey. Investing time and effort into keeping employees engaged and aligned with the business objective will go a long way to delivering success. What’s more, employees can be a great source of insight into what is happening in the marketplace based on their regular engagements with customers, which can help inform and guide future innovations.

More change remains for retailers in 2021 – from the impact of fiscal stimulus packages coming to an end through to catering for new consumer preferences and behaviours. Businesses need to prepare for this new reality by developing systems and processes enabling them to become experience-centric organisations, where they can confidently and quickly respond to the changing world around them.

Vicky Katsabaris is head of XM solutions and strategy for Qualtrics Asia Pacific & Japan.