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SMEs need to move beyond click and mortar

By 2019, 89% of businesses will be competing based on customer experience

SMEs need to create a cohesive retail-brand experience throughout the customer journey


Michael Klein

Positive brand experiences can improve customer retention and increase acquisition rates

With 43.8% of Malaysian SMEs adopting e-commerce, the line between bricks and clicks is becoming blurred. The customer journey is increasingly occurring across not only physical, but also multiple digital channels.

An Asia-Pacific commerce report says 44% of Malaysian online purchases were made via laptop or desktop and 58% via mobile devices last year.

Today, experiences need to be crafted from looking at every interaction that customers have with brands across all touch-points to create consistent omnichannel brand experiences.

Why retailers that use experiences stand out

APAC businesses that focus on customer experience are achieving an average revenue growth rate of 23%, according to a study by Forrester Consulting commissioned by Adobe. The advantages of managing customer experience is clear.

By this year, 89% of businesses will be competing based on customer experience, according to Gartner. From websites and apps to actual interactions with sales associates, SMEs must leverage on every micro-moment through consistent and seamless customer experiences to stay ahead.

Here are four steps to create consistent and seamless retail experience.

Start with a story

Cohesive stories can create memorable and compelling experiences. Think of the “story” as a promise to customers. Stories act as the overarching identity, which enable businesses to integrate the sales process with a theme for the experience delivered throughout the customer journey.

If a brand’s elements are inconsistent, it can cause confusion and may foster distrust. So, the key to delivering a great brand story is consistency throughout all physical and digital touchpoints. It is why SMEs can’t afford to have stellar in-store service while lagging in customer-response rates on social media, and vice-versa.

Businesses today need to provide an omnichannel customer experience

Create a seamless experience

The customer experience should not differ from channel to channel. Instead, SMEs need to form a cohesive retail-brand experience for customers throughout the customer journey, regardless of how a customer first interacts with the brand. After all, the days of the linear sales funnel are gone.

Businesses can’t dictate which channel a customer chooses to engage in. With an omnichannel presence, there’s a need to provide an omnichannel customer experience.

Taylor’s University understands that the need for deeper brand connection extends to education. Thus, the university decided to deploy Adobe Experience Cloud to help understand its students and deliver personalised experiences at scale.

“Our brand is really thinking about personalised experiences because every student is different. So, we need to go deep into each student and help them carve their educational journey,” says Yew Vern Chooi, head of digital and technology at Taylor’s University. “However, the biggest challenge around personalisation has always been scalability of the one-to-one experiences. Adobe helped to bring all of our systems together into one platform and unify the experience.”

Personalise the micro-moment

Micro moments are defined as the short moments when consumers act on a need to do, learn, discover, watch, or even buy something. Collectively, personalising experiences for these moments can drive customer conversion.

For instance, having an endless array of online options in every category doesn’t necessarily increase sales. Instead, it can likely lead to the paradox of choice, where customers are stuck with decision paralysis. In that micro-moment, customers may feel overwhelmed or not even know where to start.

By personalising this micro-moment to include only six to seven products that will be highly relevant to the consumer, SMEs can curate seamless experiences for users. Hence, communicating that the brand not only knows the customers’ needs, but can also meet them.

However, it may be challenging for SMEs to do so with an avalanche of data from not only websites, but also new platforms that are growing in popularity, such as smart speakers and visual search features on apps.

Nonetheless, with artificial intelligence, businesses have the capability to automatically surface and answer questions and adapt over time to user insights for an ever-improving personalised experience.

Connect micro-moments for an enhanced experience

All channels of a brand should be treated as equally important. Customers expect to receive the same customer service and have consistent experience no matter how they engage with brands — in person, online, through social media, or via mobile. Hence, retailers must use today’s touchpoints to understand what shoppers are looking for in the subsequent micro-moments in an omnichannel context.

Gina Casagrande, senior Adobe Experience Cloud evangelist says: “On the next visit, just being able to pick up where you left off and get to that product faster helps reduce friction and has been shown to increase conversion and order rate.”

Bad experiences impact the bottomline

In short, if customers are unhappy with their experiences, SMEs stand to lose both existing and potential customers alike. Conversely, positive brand experiences can improve customer retention and increase acquisition rates.

Given the growing demand for personalised, frictionless retail experiences and the availability of technological solutions, large global corporations and local SMEs alike can deliver personalised experiences via different digital touchpoints.

The race to meet the demands of next-generation consumers in the era of digital transformation is already here, so SMEs must begin to offer a cohesive brand experience for customers to remain competitive. Even small wins can translate to big gains. FocusM

Michael Klein is Adobe Systems’ head of industry strategy

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