Retail ranked as one of the two top industries to have benefited from new experiences driven by Covid-19, such as improved digital capabilities, according to new research released by leading experience management software firm, Qualtrics.  

The research found that by embracing new digital experiences during the pandemic, customers are now calling for many of them to stay.

When asked to list the new experiences they expected to be standard post-pandemic, hybrid models for shopping and the ability to click and collect were two of the top choices. Customers also want virtual entertainment and fitness classes to become standard offerings, alongside pre-fill forms online, and curbside pick-up from restaurants and cafes.

Qualtrics Australia and New Zealand managing director, Jason Laufer said the most savvy retailers were already on their journey to building experience-centric businesses even prior to the pandemic.

“This was being driven by investing and expanding their omnichannel capabilities to enable seamless customer engagements across channels. The pandemic forced an acceleration for retailers to double down on these strategies, and those already on their journey were well placed to navigate the challenges faced,” he told Retailbiz in a recent interview.

Volkswagen Group Australia is a leading example of a business that increased its focus on digital during the pandemic, and was rewarded for its efforts, according to Laufer.

“Volkswagen Group Australia was able to launch an online store within 14 days of conducting research to identify if customers were willing to buy a car online. By taking quick and targeted action, Volkswagen created an entirely new sales channel, that within six months had delivered sales of $36 million and increased web traffic by 18% year-on-year,” he said.

“The pandemic has irreversibly changed everything we thought we knew about our customers – from their personal concerns and priorities through to spending habits, how they consume media, and how they like to shop.”

Data from Australia Post has revealed that an average of one million additional Australian households shopped online every month last year compared to 2019, with online share of retail spend reaching 16.3%.

Moving forward through the pandemic, Laufer believes there’s no one size fits all approach to delivering a great customer experience for retailers.

“Undoubtedly, we will see some customers continue to embrace the new experiences they’ve adopted, while others will revert to their previous habits. Simultaneously, it’s important to remember there’s more change ahead as restrictions change, and stimulus packages end. However, one thing remains – regardless of how consumers decide to engage with a brand, they will reward retailers based on the quality of their customer experience.

“It’s critical retailers have the ability to continuously listen and understand the needs of each customer, and then use these insights to take targeted action designing and improving the experience they deliver. By prioritising experience improvement using insights, retailers will have a competitive advantage by being able to take confident and precise action, helping them meet the unique needs of each customer type.”