Accenture Q&A: Retailers need to reinvent customer experience for changing needs

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Accenture Q&A: Retailers need to reinvent customer experience for changing needs

By Dan Berthiaume - 01/20/2021

Retailers must have a flexible customer experience strategy to meet constantly evolving consumer expectations.

Chain Store Age recently spoke with Glen Hartman, senior managing director, Accenture Interactive North America, about how customer needs have shifted since COVID-19 and will continue rapidly evolving throughout and beyond the pandemic.

How has COVID-19 changed customer experience expectations?
COVID-19 has accelerated a shift in customer behavior and expectations already gradually occurring. Even with vaccine distribution slowly rolling out, things will never go back to the way they were. Customers have become used to a world where every interaction is radically different – how and what people buy, how and where they work, and how they interact with others. 

Before the pandemic, brands could easily pinpoint or predict customers’ needs, but today customers have new, often unmet, and frequently changing needs that need to be addressed.
What can retailers do to effectively and efficiently meet new customer experience demands?
Rather than shying away from the radical changes in the retail space, successful brands are realizing they need to continue to have meaningful engagements with customers. We refer to this exciting new time as an experience renaissance, where brands have the opportunity to reimagine every aspect of their business for the better, and CEOs must lead this rebirth. In fact, Accenture research found nearly 80% of CEOs said they will need to fundamentally change how they engage with and create value for customers.
To optimize their success, brands need to obsess over their customers’ needs and analyze pain points. From there, they must view experience innovation as an everyday habit to be valued and embraced by every department and leader so original ideas can flourish. Finally, they have to be prepared to sync the tech, data and human agendas discovered during this exploration in order to optimize efficiencies throughout the business.
What benefits will retailers achieve by transforming their customer experience?
By embracing the business of experience (BX), brands can plot a path back to profitability and growth. As opposed to dated customer experience initiatives, BX is an evolution where experience and customer obsession is not just about optimizing a touchpoint or a new workstream, but a new way of working. 

As a matter of fact, we found that the organizations that embraced and reoriented around practices that we have defined as important for BX grow their profitability year-on-year by at least six times over their industry peers. In the end, brands that obsess over their customers’ needs and use it to guide their business practices will maintain loyal customers and a successful business well past these unprecedented times.
How will retail customer experience change in the next 12-24 months?
In the years to come, successful retailers must find new ways to meet changing customer expectations that embrace experience reinvention as a core tenant of their business. If an organization’s experience fails to meet standards set by companies that do not directly compete with them, they’re likely to falter, particularly those in the fast-evolving retail industry. 

Retailers must now realize consumer expectations have become truly liquid across different product and service categories. Those that do, according to Accenture research, are twice as likely (55% vs. 26%) to say they have the ability to translate customer data into actions.