Customer experience is a big retail buzzword these days, but when it comes to actually delivering a “wow” experience to consumers, retailers are generally falling short.
A 25-country study by IBM found that on a scale of 0 to 100, retailers scored a subpar 33, and worse yet, they missed the mark on areas such as personalization, store and mobile experiences—key aspects of customer experience. In fact, the study ranked only 3% of brands as “leading edge,” compared with 39% of them it considered falling or lagging behind.
The study, IBM’s fifth annual customer experience report, covered 507 retail and consumer products brands. Mystery shoppers rated their experience in seven ways: store experience, digital experience, physical/digital integration, mobile experience, omnichannel supply chain, personalization and social media.
In an era when store experience is supposed to be a key weapon that brick-and-mortar retailers use to fend off competition from online rivals, the study sounds a dismal note: the store experience score was basically a failing 20.
Personalization was another area where retailers still have a lot to catch up on. While the industry has been talking about using artificial intelligence and other tools to design personalized products and marketing offers, the IBM study showed 71% of the brands it studied provide only generic marketing messages to their customers. In another example, among brands that offer loyalty programs, 70% don’t allow customers to choose their preferred form of reward.
With Amazon-led online retailers making online product research and price comparison common consumer behaviors, the study found an overwhelming 88% of the brands it assessed don’t give customers the ability to compare products side by side.
Live chat and readily-available customer service are two other features that are widely considered “must haves” for retailers, but here again the study found many companies falling short. It said 61% of brands don’t even provide online chat options. Retailers also have missed the opportunity to use their call center staff to convert sales: 39% of call center agents wouldn’t take orders or try to upsell to IBM’s mystery shoppers while 21% were unable to access customer account details, limiting a brand’s ability to personalize consumer experience.