PwC: Retailers should enhance services to boost customer experiences

'Experience Radar 2011: Retail Insights' surveyed 6,000 U.S. consumers

NEW YORK — Consumer loyalty isn't driven by rewards programs but shopping experiences that create strong psychological connections, according to a new report from PwC.

The report, "Experience Radar 2011: Retail Insights," surveyed 6,000 U.S. consumers across 11 industries and examined five core consumer experience attributes: accessibility, support, quality, presentation and social belonging. The report found that product knowledge and recommendations accounted for nearly one-third of good experiences related to support, while only 1% of said rewards programs alone influenced their purchasing decisions.

“Customers, like all of us, are social beings, seeking connection and community,” said Lisa Feigen Dugal, PwC’s U.S. retail and consumer practice advisory leader. “When retailers move beyond solely relying on points and develop experiences based on what's most important to consumers, you not only drive loyalty, but you create ultimate brand ambassadors who spread the word on their positive experiences.”

PwC said these results indicate that retailers should consider enhancing their service by "investing in knowledgeable staff and leveraging front-line employees." Additional recommendations included:

  • Focus first and foremost on shopper experience: Use front-line staff to create experiences that result in psychological connections with consumers. Invest in service by training knowledgeable staff to help affirm consumer purchase decisions and to prevent buyers’ remorse;

  • Make customers brand ambassadors: Consumers who experience a positive shopping experience can be the best marketers for retailers, while a single, bad experience can cause widespread damage. Identify, incentivize and promote brand ambassadors;

  • Help consumers avoid risk: Attract new customers by helping them overcome psychological hurdles. Overcome shoppers’ worries about losing money on shipping, and press the emotional hot-button of free things. Reduce consumer purchase anxiety with flexible return policies;

  • Embrace the anytime, anywhere economy: With consumers shopping both online and offline, understand their shopping preferences before the competition does. Develop a multichannel strategy that makes it easy for consumers to shop online, offline, at home or in stores; and

  • When something bad happens, fix it: Provide customers with feedback channels as it may not be obvious that they are unhappy until they leave. Make sure that they are happy with the results—an apology may be enough to create an evangelist.

“In today’s economy, retailers must identify new ways to set themselves apart, and that begins with a clear focus on customer experience,” said Susan McPartlin, PwC’s U.S. retail and consumer industry leader. “A single purchase experience can leave a lasting impact on how the consumer identifies with the retailer, so it’s imperative that retailers enhance how they serve customers to minimize potential hurdles from beginning to end.”

Click here for the full report.

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