Merchants find that the customer experience can be improved even on remote transactions. As the following article explains, mobile apps are a key to making this happen.
Improving the customer experience has become a key focus of all astute retailers. For providers of convenience services, much of the focus rests on integrating frictionless point-of-sale payment. Hence, one of the best-attended educational sessions at the recent National Automatic Merchandising Association show at the Las Vegas Convention Center focused on how payment technology innovations — namely mobile payments — are impacting customer expectations.
Michael Kasavana, Ph.D., endowed professor emeritus of the National Automatic Merchandising Association, moderated the session. Paresh Patel, founder and CEO of PayRange, a mobile solutions provider for self-service equipment, honed in on the “customer journey,” which he described as everything that happens to the customer before, during and after making a purchase.
The convenience services industry has focused on saving costs and lifting sales, he said, but the important question is what it has done to improve the customer journey.
If you focus on costs or sales, you can lose sight of the customer journey, Patel said. Blockbuster made this mistake when it incorrectly assumed that customers wanted to visit and walk around its stores, he said. Redbox and Netflix eventually changed the DVD customer’s journey.
A convenience service customer’s journey can be divided into three phases: pre-purchase; purchase; and post-purchase, Patel said. He encouraged his listeners to view their business activities — route management, customization, relevant marketing, payment and post-service customer contact — within these three areas.
Because technology is changing, the service provider has to use the correct technology to communicate to the customer, Patel said. The millennial customer, for example, will not pick up the phone to call the service provider about an issue with their service. They will use social media messaging.
Beyond mobile pay apps, conversational commerce is becoming a favored method of customer engagement for many consumers. Text is now standard fare for communication especially among younger demographics, and now smart speakers like Amazon Alexa, enable consumers to use normal speech to shop, order, and pay for many products and services. Merchants are learning quickly that they must respond to their buyers who have the power to decide how, where, and when to buy.
Overview by Raymond Pucci, Associate Director, Research Service at Mercator Advisory Group
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