Sectors & markets

The Future of the customer experience

The latest Retail Forum heard how behaviour, knowledge, psychology and loyalty are redefining the customer experience

Hosted in the elegant dining room of Les 110 de Taillevent in Marylebone, the latest Retail Forum session welcomed three speakers: Megan Higgins, Leader, Customer & Retail Analytics, PwC; Catriona Ferris, Consumer Insight Director, Unilever; and Gareth Pope, General Manager EMEA, Lululemon; on the topic of new customer journeys and experiences.

The session was Co-chaired by Alain Harfouche, General Manager, L’Occitane, and Catherine Palmer, Legal & Administrative Director, Joseph.

Understanding the customer

Megan Higgins, PwC, spoke about general changes in customer behaviour, as they are becoming more connected, savvier and more experiential.

Businesses now need to consider how to become more customer-centric in order to meet the new expectations that these changes entail. This involves leveraging big data to form ideas of customers and their behaviour irrespective of touch points. It also means forming holistic insights about customer attitudes, values and engagement. And it involves personalising customer experiences based on these findings.

One valuable area where businesses can innovate is in their customer loyalty programmes. Traditional loyalty programmes rewarded spending; new loyalty models should reward spending and engage customers. This can mean access to special ‘bonus’ events, faster or free delivery, early access to products, free samples and tutorials.

The shopping mission

‘At Unilever, we look at shopping missions not at shoppers,’ said Catriona Ferris of Unilever. This means mapping customer intentions when entering a shop – what are people looking for and what are their priorities.

She provided an example involving three food-buying missions: the routine low pressure and highly-regular shopper; the pressurised buyer looking for something for today; and the experiential shopping, who is all about browsing.

While these three shoppers are converging in one store, they have highly different priorities and attitudes towards the products that they will purchase. Retailers can then cater to each of these markets with different product ranges, services or touch points.

Unilever mustard brand Maille offers its product in the traditional glass jar for routine shoppers, but also offers a similar product with high end packaging to entice the more experiential shopper. ‘It’s an example of designing two experiences under one brand – this is the challenge,’ says Ferris.

Customer experience is also top of the agenda at Lululemon, as reported by its General Manager, Gareth Pope.

He outlined three broad categories of customer shopping missions, ranging from a customer with no pre-conceived plan to purchase to one that is actively considering a purchase to one that has already decided. 

A brand should strive to provide best-in-class service for each of these missions.

According to Pope, the next step is to know yourself as a brand. Who are you here to be? What do you provide to your customers? And where typically do your customers interact with you?

« Businesses now need to consider how to become more customer-centric in order to meet the new expectations »

Pope said that Lululemon also approaches these questions not only in terms of customer experience at retail touch points, but also within local communities. Their ‘ambassador’ programmes support local athletes and help build real-life social networks in and around their stores.

This article was originally published in INFO magazine, March/April 2018

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