Key Retail Trends Right Now: Delivering Seamless Customer Experiences

Women shopping online using mobile phone

The trading environment in the past year has been challenging for retailers and has also reinforced the opportunity for retailers to completely rethink their operations to deliver seamless customer experiences. Carmen Carey, CEO of Sorted, explains.

What’s become clear is that customers hold the power. Brands need to be aligning to the preference of the consumer, not the other way round. This means creating 5-star customer experiences, the best way to both convert and keep those all-important buyers, becomes a basic hygiene factor.

While the retail world may be heating up like never before, the competitive advantage is there for the taking. To grab it, there are many considerations retailers will need to keep front of mind in this new trading landscape. What are the top trends we can expect to see right now?

1. Retailers will own the delivery experience

Branded tracking is now considered an essential rather than a ‘nice to have’ option. Although now expected as a standard, our recent research found that only 36 per cent of retailers offered branded tracking, leaving a huge opportunity for brands to transform their post-purchase experience and drive engagement. This is a call to action for those retailers who have not yet adopted this practice, and we expect to see retailers focus their investments on ways to take control of their delivery experience rather than relying on third-party carriers who own this instead.

By offering branded tracking, retailers can guide customers to track deliveries and returns in their app and website, not only increasing traffic but also keeping customers tight within the brand. Ultimately, moving customers away from third parties post-delivery experience will drive revenue, increase app adoption and keep customers coming back for more.

2. Retailers will realise that the returns experience is just as important as the outbound delivery experience

Customers are now looking beyond the initial purchase experience before deciding to hit ‘buy’. While getting a delivery to a consumer’s front door is no doubt crucial, consumers are now double-checking that seamless, consumer-centric experiences extend to the returns process too.

This is especially true when we consider how reliant consumers are on ecommerce. Whether due to isolation rules, government restrictions or simply because it suits our lifestyle – consumers are now expecting – and demanding – faultless delivery and returns as standard. As such, to avoid returns becoming a growing headache retailers need to finally fix the process, particularly for growing businesses.

A convoluted returns process is more than enough to put a serial online shopper – or indeed any shopper – from ordering again from that brand. We discovered that 81% of shoppers would write-off a retailer if they saw issues with their return process, meaning brands need to up their returns game if they want to keep their customers sticky. Plus, an easy process is the best way to convert a straight up return into an exchange – meaning retailers can keep the cash and optimise inventory.

What’s more, customers expect these faultless returns experiences regardless of whether they order from a large multinational brand or a small business. Enabled via technology, we’ll expect to see retailers of all sizes compete on a level playing field to offer the best end-to-end customer experience.

3. Customer satisfaction as a key business KPI

Our research revealed that 75 percent of consumers would stop using a retailer if they frequently messed up communication updates regarding their delivery. This suggests that consumer expectations are higher than ever, and delivery is now a major point of differentiation between brands. As the most important touchpoint for influencing satisfaction, retailers will need to pull out all the stops when it comes to transforming their post-purchase journey.

We’ll see retailers blend a consistent online and offline experience by personalising the post-purchase journey, getting proactive with communications and connecting with customers more. With branded communications, you can stay one step ahead, keeping your customers updated on delivery and returns progress while displaying content tailored to them. Not only does this drive digital and brand engagement, but it generates sales and upsell opportunities by hooking the customer to the brand.

4. Retailers will need a disruption back-up plan

Considering the global supply chain issues over the past year, (Brexit, the pandemic, workforce shortages and the Suez Canal blockage, to name a few) we’ve been reminded that no two days are the same in logistics which highlights the critical importance of customer communication.

Should disruption arise, teams need to be empowered with actionable delivery performance data and insights so they can act before customers realise there’s an issue. With automated updates, customers can be notified with delivery or returns (whether it be status changes or disruption), protecting CX as a result.

Since consumers value transparency, retailers will give customers access to branded tracking pages or embed tracking directly in their app or website so customers can self-serve the delivery or returns updates they need. For contact centres dreading the waves of ‘where is my order?’ enquiries, this will dramatically reduce the pressure on teams and driving up operationally efficiency. Despite the uncertain trading landscape, keeping one step in front of the customer is what will drive brand loyalty in the months ahead.

5. Retailers will focus more on delivery and post-purchase data insights to monitor and inform change

Many existing retailers simply aren’t harnessing data they have in an optimised way. Structuring reliable and meaningful data is simpler than many brands think. Plus, it’s often the case that delivery and post-purchase data is some of the most transformative when it comes to considering customer journey innovations.

As more retailers come to realise this, we’ll see a real shift in focus towards technologies that ensure brands can better monitor and inform change through insights. For example, savvy tools such as delivery performance reporting can keep teams on track of issues and performance across all carriers.

By utilising actionable insights, retailers can protect the customer experience and ensure promises are kept. After all, better informed teams lead to better informed and ultimately happier customers.

6. Transparent communications and a strong post-purchase experience will be more important to customers

Despite the drastic shift to online, many retailers are still failing to make the investments needed to keep up with customers’ expectations. We found that 42 per cent of consumers say they have missed, on average, three deliveries due to miscommunication by a brand during the pandemic. In today’s market, it only takes one poor experience to lose a customer – so offering a tailored post-purchase journey and transparent communication is vital if customers are to return.

With real-time tracking and personalised comms available to enhance the delivery experience, there’s no reason why brands should make customers rely on cryptic SMS updates or email communications alone.

A tailored experience is no longer simply about putting their name on the top of an email – it means ensuring that customers have access to the information they want, through the channels they choose. As such, having a clear omnichannel comms strategy is vital for meeting and communicating with consumers to suit their preferences, while hooking customers to your app and helping to secure brand loyalty.

What to look forward to

The retail world is changing at a pace never seen before. Consumers are demanding more; ecommerce is taking over the high-street, and competition is fierce. Yet the opportunity is truly there for the taking. By putting the customer front and mind with seamless delivery experiences, brands will be able to reap the benefits back twofold in the years ahead.

About the Author

Carmen Carey, CEO, SortedCarmen Carey is CEO of Sorted. Carmen has over 20 years of tech expertise under her belt – leading successful GTM strategies and developing cutting-edge solutions in her executive roles at brands such as Brady, Unbabel and BroadVision. As CEO, Carmen fuels Sorted’s strategy, drives business transformation, backs our vision, and supports the leadership team to deliver our growth plans.


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