High street retail sector leads the way for customer experience says new report

A new report from customer experience (CX) agency Zone and the global professional services giant, Cognizant, reveals that retail companies are closing the customer experience gap, but still have a way to go to meet consumer demands.

The ‘Bridging the CX gap’ study highlights that with so many touchpoints accompanying customer journeys, across both digital and traditional channels, the challenge is becoming ever more complex.

According to Blake Cahill, Senior Vice-President of Digital Marketing and Media at Philips: “Customer experience is being reset by the leading platforms and startups. Everyone expects an Uber-like experience, whether you’re B2B or B2C. Customers don’t expect clunky, 20-step processes.”

Despite the high street doom and gloom, more than half of consumers (51%) surveyed would highly recommend a brand to a friend or colleague based on their online experience with them, while only 15% would definitely not.

This equates to a Net Promoter Score of 36, significantly higher than the next leading sectors (Banking and Private Healthcare) on 28. However, the sector still has a long way to go to reach the global average of 54.

For high-street retailers, consumers see ease of access to information as particularly important. It also represents an area offering opportunity for competitive gains for the sector.

Retail consumers give it an importance rating of 27% (equivalent to an index importance rating of 202%), more than twice the average across all sectors. However, less than a third (31%) of consumers see retailers as delivering an ‘excellent’ online experience in this area.

Oddly, given retailers’ constantly shifting inventories, consumers assign relatively low importance to availability of up-to-date information on product pricing and availability. Yet retailers excel in this area, with a leading position across all verticals.

As well as naming a company they had recently dealt with, consumers were asked to name a brand – from any sector – they associated with ‘a brilliant customer experience’.

As can be seen in the tag cloud above, two brands stand out. John Lewis, the never-knowingly undersold multichannel retailer, matched digital focused behemoth, Amazon, showing that incumbents can compete with digital players when it comes to delivering exceptional customer service, and winning over the hearts, minds and wallets of consumers.

John Lewis Partnership, owner of John Lewis and high-end supermarket Waitrose, has a strong tradition of focussing on the customer experience and, in recent years, has invested heavily in its ecommerce operations and in-store innovations, such as self-service check-in iPads for John Lewis Click & Collect orders in 140 branches.

Jon Davie, Chief Client Officer at Zone, concludes: “Customer experience resonates with people on a deep and highly emotional level. Our findings show that companies and organisations have woken up to this fact and know that outstanding CX is a powerful differentiator. This is where the rational (data, technology and platforms) blend seamlessly with the emotional (narrative, empathy, customer centricity).  This is hugely challenging mission for companies.

“The findings clearly layout the key points to consider around delivering exceptional CX. CMOs and CIOs must collaborate more on strategy, technology and data to close the gap. Beyond this businesses with outstanding CX have made customer experience a whole organisational mission with clear leadership underlining this day in, day out.”

Key points again

  • Despite high street doom and gloom, sector scores highly for online customer experience
  • Net Promoter Score of 36 tops survey but lags behind global average of 54
  • John Lewis shows that incumbents can compete with digital players when it comes to customer service
  • CMOs and CIOs urged to collaborate more on strategy, technology and data to close the gap