• March 1, 2021
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Digital CX Tops Retail Priorities for 2021

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An overwhelming majority (85 percent) of retailers have ranked growing and enhancing digital commerce as their overall top business priority this year, Retail Consulting Partners (RCP) found in its annual POS/Customer Engagement Survey.

Admittedly, this is no big surprise, given the explosive growth in online transactions in 2020, but digital is only part of the experience, according to RCP.

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing mandates changed retail operations, physical stores remained the central customer experience hub, with many online orders picked up or fulfilled from the store.

That is why retailers are now more concerned than ever with the customer experience, noting that customers today now expect a seamless, anywhere, anytime, anyhow experience across all channels. In fact, focus on the holistic customer experience remains paramount and is shaping many retailers’ technology decisions, with 67 percent of retailers looking to expand and enhance the customer experience in 2021. It was their second-highest overall business priority in the RCP survey.

And while personalization of the shopping experience was the top customer engagement priority for the past couple of years, 52 percent of retailers today see providing customers with flexible and convenient pickup and delivery options as their most critical customer engagement priority in 2021. “Retail has never been more transparent, and the customer experience is center stage. Flawless execution of omnichannel capabilities and last-mile delivery or pickup is the expectation and key differentiator driving loyalty for most retailers,” says Ryan Grogman, a managing partner at RCP.

As retailers scrambled last year to implement capabilities like curbside pickup, many struggled with effectively integrating online order management and in-store point-of-sales technologies. For that reason, 67 percent of retailers see adding or enhancing order management system integration as a priority, and 52 percent see omnichannel capabilities as their second-highest POS priority. Trending up as well is the amount of retailers prioritizing POS software upgrade or replacement, 52 percent, up from 41 percent last year.

As retailers focus on new technology for the store, 74 percent of them already have or plan to implement a unified commerce platform within the next three years.

“Thinking about POS and other in-store technology differently is an imperative,” says Brian Brunk, a managing partner at RCP. “The customer experience of tomorrow is not the same as five years ago or even last year, and therefore the concept of POS is and will be radically different than that of five years ago.”

The research ultimately finds that the following are the top five remaining customer experience trends driving today’s retailer initiatives:

• Fulfillment flexibility, including customer delivery and pickup capabilities, cited by 52 percent of retailers;

• Customer identification and personalization, cited by 41 percent of retailers;

• Mobile experience alignment, cited by 41 percent of retailers;

• Real-time retail, cited by 33 percent of retailers, up from 19 percent last year; and

• Self-service retail, cited by 22 percent of retailers.

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