The world of customer experience (CX) has seen a massive acceleration in digital adoption in the last 18 months, due to the pandemic. Many retailers have embarked on the initiative to digitally upgrade or improve their online sales channels to build customer engagement and loyalty. 

The uptake of online shopping in 2020 witnessed the local market surge well over $1 billion in total online retail sales revenue, and this has only continued to rise. In particular, the retail industry faced drastic shifts in customer purchasing behaviour and experienced rapid growth in online sales.

However, as more and more businesses shift their presence online, it is imperative that businesses find new ways to connect and build a relationship with their customers and employees alike. There is currently a global shift towards an experience economy, calling for deeper customer engagements and a greater level of agility and innovation that drives value for customers. 

According to a Genesys study, 80% of consumers will buy more from companies who consistently personalise their interactions, anticipate their needs and proactively offer solutions – ultimately retaining and building customer loyalty in the long term. This is why it’s essential for retailers to orchestrate seamless customer journeys by understanding the various friction points in the moments of truth. 

For example, grocery retail giant Woolworths has been employing increasingly sophisticated digital infrastructure to support online and offline sales for years. This has been part of their comprehensive omnichannel market strategy ushered by a customer-focused paradigm shift. Picking the right omnichannel strategy and making the right channel investments was key to delivering optimal customer experiences.

Aided by digital evolution, retailers now have the tools to tap into online digital assets, broaden omnichannel strategies and get granular customer insights across each customer touchpoint. By harnessing the right technology, retailers can cater to customer needs and expectations across all channels seamlessly, to deliver a strong level of digital empathy.  

The changing retail landscape

Social commerce has become a disruptive force in the retail industry, heavily impacting customer preferences and how they interact with brands. PayPal’s 2021 eCommerce Index reveals that a quarter of all Australians are now buying products on social media, as it allows them to feel more in tune with the brands they purchase from. Retailers are being forced to step up to create meaningful experiences and leave a lasting impression on their customers to stand out among increased competition.

By implementing an effective CX solution into the relevant digital sales channels, retailers have the potential to better mitigate friction in the customer journey and deliver a more personalised and empathetic experience to each shopper, encouraging them to return. Over time, a good shopping experience can build and sustain customer loyalty because there is a value exchange across the spectrum.

AI empowering new possibilities

However, today’s consumers expect more than just personalised moments. They expect retailers to connect those moments to create a seamless and tailored journey — one that flows effortlessly across brick-and-mortar and digital channels. 

In saying this, there comes situations when customers will expect human interaction — this is where anticipating customer needs is the new expectation. To stitch those moments together, retailers need to establish a framework that leverages the right combination of technologies to provide customers efficient and empathetic services. 

Until recently, delivering a seamless, holistic experience was difficult to accomplish at scale. But today, artificial intelligence (AI) empowers retailers to envision and enable new possibilities. Bots can engage in personalised interactions and enhance employee performance with customer information and recommended next steps. Armed with connected data sources and AI-powered analytics, retailers can understand buyer behaviour better, anticipate their needs and deliver personalised shopping journeys — at scale. This blended approach of human and AI balance is the equilibrium that is needed in delivering a seamless customer experience.

To keep up with the massive increase in customer inquiries, Woolworths rapidly scaled its ability to respond by implementing an AI-powered voicebot – a more sophisticated version of the text-based chatbots many businesses use.  The Genesys technology used by Woolworths helped the grocery retailer to seamlessly interact with customers and assist them directly using conversational AI, resulting in higher quality customer interactions at scale.

A connected retail ecosystem

The retail ecosystem is continuously evolving, and due to the rapid increase in digitisation, connected channels are able to provide retailers with agility and insights into every element of the business, ensuring that a tailored and seamless customer experience is the key constant.

Delivering a connected retail experience goes beyond a transactional approach and gives the customer a personalised experience across every touchpoint, where various channels work synergistically to continuously improve the customer journey lifecycle. This can also be referred to as the ‘customer infinity loop’, where you take note of how your customers interact and identify opportunities for improving the experiences in each stage.

Retailers that are still using the basic functionality of their online sales systems are missing out on new opportunities. By getting more out of existing online systems, retailers can connect their customer touchpoints for detailed customer insights to deliver more meaningful, empathetic and personalised customer experiences. Digitising these touchpoints is just the beginning of what’s possible, but one thing is clear — being truly connected is more critical than ever.

Naveen Kandasami is industry executive for retail and consumer goods – Asia Pacific at Genesys.