In 2019, Australia’s retail market remains a challenging one and brands must strive to gain and maintain customer trust if they hope to keep shoppers coming back for more.
Serious cash splashers have been an endangered species in the Australian retail landscape in recent years, as have their counterparts with more modest budgets.
The country’s retail sector has been subdued for years; so much so that the announcement yet another household name chain has bitten the dust no longer surprises.
In recent years, we’ve seen the demise of a string of once well-loved local brands, including Dick Smith Electronics, Pumpkin Patch, Payless Shoes, David Lawrence and Roger David.
Insolvency specialists SV Partners say many others are teetering on the brink―by their reckoning, around 1,500 more retailers may be holding their own closing down sales in the next year or two.
Australians’ collective propensity to keep their purse strings tightened has been attributed to an array of factors, which includes stagnant wages growth, high retail rents, changing consumer tastes, cutthroat competition from online and overseas brands and, more recently, falling house prices around the country.
Even Christmas is no longer a time when cash registers will ring reliably. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, retail turnover fell by 0.4 per cent in seasonally adjusted terms in December 2018.
Customer experience counts
For retailers, customer experience is often the difference between clocking up sales and being stuck with a surfeit of stock that’s hard to sell at any price.
Brands and stores have a greater chance of attracting and retaining regular buyers if they are able to exceed expectations, especially in tight times.
However, research suggests many retailers are failing to deliver the sort of customer experience that surprises and delights.
According to Acquia’s Closing the CX Gap: Customer Experience Trends Report 2019, the majority of retail marketers are unwittingly missing the mark. In fact, 87 per cent of those surveyed were confident they were meeting customers’ needs but their audience saw things somewhat differently. Two thirds of consumers surveyed stated they couldn’t remember the last time they’d had a brand experience that exceeded their expectations.
Personalising interactions with customers can improve the way brands are perceived―if they are able to demonstrate they’re capable of handling and storing individuals’ personal data with integrity.
That’s a decent sized ‘if’, at least as far as customers are concerned. Half of those surveyed stated they were not confident brands had their best interests at heart when using and storing their personal data.
They’re reluctant to share their personal information, as a result―and who could blame them?
Regular reporting of data breaches which see individuals’ records up for sale on the dark web and persistent and unwelcome approaches from direct marketers have left Australians chary about disclosing their particulars, without good cause for doing so.
The result is a classic chicken and egg scenario.
A third of customers say ‘trust in brand’ is a key factor influencing their buying decisions, according to PwC research. It’s tough for brands to build that trust, without access to the customer data they need to deliver meaningful communication and interaction.
Below are three ways that brands break the stalemate and build up the trust reserve they need to keep customers returning to their sites and stores.
In an era of rising threats, doing your utmost to protect personal data that’s been entrusted to your business is a no-brainer. That includes working with your internal IT team or external partner to implement comprehensive cyber-security and data protection measures.
These should include deploying up-to-date technology to detect and neutralise network threats and ensuring data practices are compliant with current regulations, as laid down by Australia’s privacy watchdog, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.
And if you are collecting data for marketing purposes, be upfront about the fact you’re doing so and make your modus operandi an opt-in one.
Use data cleverly and carefully
If customers do take a punt on sharing their data, resolve not to give them grounds for regret. You’ll likely succeed if you can find ways to show them you have their interests top of mind. That includes providing customers with content and offers that are appropriate and timely and delivering experiences, on and offline, that are welcoming, relevant and respectful.
Be transparent and genuine
Individuals are more inclined to share their data willingly if the value proposition associated with doing so is clear. Retailers can make it so by being transparent about the ways in which customers’ information will be used and what they’ll receive in return―think VIP discounts and offers, loyalty bonuses and the like.
Time to act
Winning customer trust is not an overnight exercise but for Australian retailers that make a long-term investment in the process, the payback can be significant. Trust is key to the creation of meaningful customer experiences and, in tough economic times, those can be the factor which determines whether your retail brand is a success or a statistic.
By Chris Gibbs, general manager Asia Pacific and Japan, Acquia