It’s never been easier to be a consumer. Businesses around the world are making every effort to streamline the shopping experience for customers.
Consider Starbucks, where customers can reload a gift card online, in a store, through the Starbucks app or over the phone. Mobile ordering is a cinch because the app remembers your preferences and frequent orders. At Target, customers who use the retailer’s REDcard can pay, redeem coupons and earn rewards all at once. And Amazon is credited as a pioneer in painless shopping with its 1-Click ordering process.
Mobile apps and online ordering and delivery are becoming increasingly common, and consumers’ preferences are adapting as fast as the technology that supports them changes. That means the digital shopping experience plays a major role in customers’ overall purchase journey — and that journey can strengthen or sever their loyalty to a company. Businesses that are making it easier on consumers and expanding their digital offerings are seizing market share and amassing valuable insights into their customers.
Nearly 60 percent of consumers agree that technology has significantly changed their expectations of how companies should interact with them.1 And 73 percent of consumers have stopped buying from a company because a competitor provided a better experience.
Customers expect buying to be easy, and experiences that aren’t easy are quickly abandoned. It’s not so much about novelty as it is about saving people time, money and mental energy. Shoppers want an experience that requires the least amount of brain power and the fewest number of steps.
Businesses today are finding they need to offer a seamless experience and channel integration no matter how the customer chooses to shop. Why? Customers expect their experience to match across channels. They want mobile shopping to be as simple as buying online, in-store or when they call in. To meet customers’ expectations, merchants need to understand their customers’ preferences and create a consistent experience across platforms.
Consumers have grown accustomed to quicker and sometimes nearly invisible payments for all kinds of purchases. Uber, for example, revolutionized the payment process for ride-sharing and changed the customer experience along with it.
Developing and implementing a seamless customer experience cannot be achieved without overcoming sometimes significant cost and technical integration challenges. Improving the customer experience requires investment and connecting back-end systems that support both digital and brick-and-mortar channels. That can be daunting to many mid-to-large businesses, particularly if they run complex operations on outdated technology platforms. The investment and effort can pay off, however, in retention of existing customers and attraction of new ones.
Improving the customer purchase journey through integrated platforms and updated payment methods doesn’t only make buyers happier — it can also yield a wealth of valuable data for businesses. With an ever growing array of purchasing channels, customer interactions produce important information that drives the need for analytics.
“Data analysis can help predict customer behavior, such as their reaction to promotions,” says Simon Blanchard, an associate professor of marketing at Georgetown University. “It helps to test the effectiveness of specific campaigns and make predictions about whether change is going to manifest itself the way we expect it to.”
Data-driven insights into customer habits and preferences can help companies know their customers better. With this elevated level of knowledge, businesses can make informed decisions that boost their performance and help them identify opportunities for growth.
For example, through payments data, an auto parts dealer might learn that millennials represent a larger share of its customers than baby boomers — revealing that its marketing efforts have been targeting the wrong demographic, and may need to be recalibrated.
Payments data can also help to reduce costs for businesses. Internal operations such as chargebacks, authorization rates, transaction routing and consumer authentication all contribute to the total cost of payment. Analyzing your data frequently may help you identify areas for improvement. For example, a close look at your data might indicate that upgrading technology at the point of sale to enable chip card-acceptance could help reduce chargeback expenses.
Data analysis can help companies get a 360-degree view of their customers, build smarter loyalty programs, more precisely measure campaign performance and help reduce costs. All of these insights give businesses a deeper understanding of their sales trends that are critical to driving performance.
No matter where your organization is on the road to meeting your customers’ heightened expectations or leveraging data analytics, it’s always beneficial to scan for pain points. These could be inconsistencies or dissonance in the customer shopping journey or missed opportunities to alter business strategies based on data-driven insights. Even small improvements to address these opportunities can yield measurable results that strengthen your organizations’ competitive positioning.