What does the customer experience look like beyond the pandemic?

 This post is sponsored by Shopify Plus.

With bricks and mortar stores closing because of enforced isolation, brands are under pressure to deliver the same in-store tactile customer experiences in an online marketplace. And with the stresses of 2020 taking their toll on all of us, customers are expecting more personalised and empathetic experiences from their brands.

Smart brands are recognising that digital and online experiences can offer the same level of service and care as traditional face-to-face experiences, and are harnessing the best technology to deliver them in 2020 at scale.

Why it’s time to revive a deeper layer of customer experience

The human empathetic layer of customer experience (CX) was on the decline before COVID-19 hit, with PwC finding 59% of global consumers felt companies had lost touch with the human element of CX, whether it was in a face-to-face or online environment.

According to PwC, 73% of customers cite the experience as an important factor in their purchasing decisions, behind price and product quality. Meanwhile, 43% of consumers would pay more for greater convenience, 42% would pay more for a friendly welcoming experience, and 65% of customers find a positive experience with a brand to be more influential than great advertising.

So how do brands deliver a great customer experience beyond the pandemic? Whether online or offline, putting the customer at the centre of your efforts is key. 

Connection and trust in the age of fear and uncertainty

The incremental psychological pressures of the pandemic are taking their toll on all of us, and with mandatory isolation and fear becoming all-encompassing, people are looking for comfort in the familiar. Familiar brands, familiar services, and familiar products offer a sense of normalcy in a changing world. 

At the same time, making the customer experience a priority, and putting the customer at the heart of everything you do, could mean the difference between staying afloat or going under in today’s cut-throat competitive business environment.

So, now is not the time to pull back in your customer communication channels or buyer journey experience. Instead, reach out and communicate more, and offer customers value and empathy at each stage of their buyer journey. In short, show you care at this time and your customers will be even more loyal.

Embracing the latest digital CX innovations

The number of companies that said creating better customer experiences was a digital priority dropped to just 10% in 2017, down from 25% in 2016, according to PwC’s Digital IQ survey – and this was before COVID. 

There are now a lot of powerful technologies available to help brands deliver exceptional experiences to customers. Augmented reality is just one of those tools, and is deceptively easy to implement. 

Shopify AR is a tool which allows merchants to get 3D models made of their products, upload them to Shopify, and then have those AR experiences work on their website. Using AR, shoppers can see what products can look like on, or in their homes, providing a personalised experience online rather than in-store.

As an example, Magnolia Market at the Silos retail complex in Texas, was renowned for its bricks and mortar experience, so translating the feeling of shopping at  Silos into an online equivalent was never going to be an easy task. Magnolia Market decided to use AR to translate its bricks and mortar experience into an online brand experience for customers who could not get to the famous location.

The company partnered with Shopify’s AR team to create an app to revolutionise the Magnolia Market shopping experience. Select products were rendered using the highest possible 3D photo-realism through Apple’s ARKit, which allowed for a transformative consumer adventure.

The result was the creation of a stunning augmented reality app, hyper realistic renderings of its products to simulate in-person shopping online, and total control of its brand customer experience across all channels.

Put the ‘emotional connection’ back into your brand

Human connection and technology are not mutually exclusive. While the humanity in selling online can be lost in the drive to embrace the latest technology, the reality is technology is a facilitator of human emotional connection, not a replacement for it.

As an example, iconic Australian brand Culture Kings was renowned for its in-store experiences, with customers flocking to the stores for its unique vibe.

Culture Kings wanted to mimic its trademark in-store experience online so shoppers outside Australia could also enjoy it. With the ability to customise Shopify Plus to allow for tailored, dynamic product listings of any variation, without the threat of a crash, Culture Kings could make its site its own.

The brand posted weekly lifestyle photos and video shoots online, which led to a “Shop the Look” page, where Culture Kings’ in-house team could curate customer outfits on the web the way staff might make personal recommendations in-store.

Culture Kings’ online business, which now features four global storefronts selling in three major global currencies, leapt ahead of its in-store sales and has never looked back. Today, 60% of Culture Kings’ revenue comes from eCommerce because of the experience it offers.

A powerful time to prioritise CX

COVID and isolation does not need to come at the expense of the customer experience. Rather, it can be the prompt to make the online experience as good as, or even better, than face-to-face interactions with customers. Using technology as a facilitator, savvy brands can get closer and more personalised than ever with customers, offering customers exactly what they need from their trusted brands in times of uncertainty. 

Click here to find out more about how you can unlock exceptional customer experiences with Shopify Plus. 

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