'In-store customer experience' is new retail battleground

09 May 2017

Retailers need to be focussing on in-store ‘customer experience’ standards, according to a panel session at this week’s Retail Design Expo in London. 

But the rise of the customer experience role in organisations demonstrates that companies are already taking it more seriously than before, according to Neil Lobo, principal for customer experience at Vodafone Global. 

“It’s good to see customer experience become more important in organisations. Looking forward, retail is going to have to become a more enjoyable place to be,” says Lobo. “The demise of retail is not happening as predicted as a few years ago, but it’s changing,” he told a packed audience of retailers and designers.  

In 2016, 89% of companies expected to be competing on customer experience, said Linda Mitchell, project lead in retail delivery at property consultant GVA. Citing a recent retail report by analyst Forrester, she explained this means that: "Shopping is now a lifestyle experience, it’s about the experiential engagement, whether that’s an airport, train station or shopping centre.”

But she argued that retailers are ‘often lazy’ in their interpretation of enhancing customer experience and believe technology is the answer, when in fact human interactions are key.

“The new concept at McDonald's is touch screens. You order on screens and you go and pick it up. But do you want to live like robots?” she asked the audience. 

“For McDonald's it makes fast food even faster. But what about other experiences in-store, where you want to speak to someone. We’re social animals - we want to get out. It’s all about the environment you’re creating and how you’re interacting with customers,” she argued. 

Ultimately, however, retailers will only deliver successful customer experiences if they think about every step from the top to the bottom argued Linda Mitchell, because the consumer ‘will only remember the last interaction - and that is always with staff on the ground’.