By Jack Lovely, ERS Business Analyst Intern
What is Consumer Experience?
Shopping is an activity that comes in many forms. It can be as simple as purchasing products such as groceries, or it can be a social trip to the mall with no desire to spend money. Whether they are spending money or not, any visitors to a store will inevitably form opinions on the products and brands displayed. Consumer experience refers to a customer’s subjective interaction with staff, environment, and products. This can be in stores or in any form of media. All interactions where the customer will acknowledge or recognize the brand get pooled into their overall perception of the business. Shaping the market’s understanding of your brand can have lasting impacts on foot traffic and purchases.
It is important to note that consumer experience is a wholly subjective idea. Something that one individual might consider rude and improper will have no effect on another consumer. This makes creating a uniform experience difficult. For example, in recent years, grocery stores have implemented self-checkouts. Some people appreciate the convenience of these stations, while others prefer the traditional use of cashiers. It is impossible to guarantee that no one will have a poor experience; however, by listening to feedback stores can improve areas that are perceived as negative by a large group of consumers.
Why is it Important?
For each element of the consumer experience there is potential to create a situation the customer will remember. Negative experiences in a store will influence a consumer’s decisions regardless of other factors such as price, quality, or design of products. People expect positive interactions with the marketplace and feel more strongly about negative interactions. According to a study done by American Express, 78% of people have abandoned a transaction due to poor customer service. While this may be less common in retail, customers will still be turned away from any future business. After all, finding a suitable substitute is a Google search away.
Not only is it important for exchanges with consumers to be positive, but it’s critical to understand when these interactions are happening. It is not just during the purchase of a product: it includes any customer service post-purchase, any store visits that do not lead to a purchase, and any presence in the media. These are all called consumer touchpoints; by managing these interactions, marketers can intentionally shape how their brand is perceived. Tracking ratings and following social media also plays a role.
Gaining a Competitive Advantage
In the same way a negative experience can turn a customer away, a significantly positive experience can create a loyal customer. Creating a tailored experience that will surprise consumers can create moments that they will want to remember and share with their friends and family. This higher quality service should especially be the case in more expensive industries. If the consumer feels they are paying a high price, they will assume it comes with top-tier service. Top-tier services in other markets will show the consumer that the brand cares about their feedback and experience.
For example, Chick-fil-a is a fast-food provider that is famous for its customer service. Employees trained to say, “my pleasure” with friendly dispositions and a genuine desire to serve the customer has led to the chain’s notoriety. There are many individuals in the market that will visit a Chick-fil-a because they can count on a positive experience with the staff in contrast to a Popeyes or KFC.
Focusing on the details of how a customer specifically interacts with a store is the key component of developing a positive consumer experience. This will ensure that customers will continue to return to your products/services. Additionally, it can elevate the brand’s image in the minds of people who have no history of interaction through word-of-mouth. However, negative interactions can ensure that customers will not return, and warn other potential customers in reviews. Identifying and perfecting as many consumer touchpoints as you can is the best way to ensure consumers will receive a positive, tailored experience.