Leaders from Seasalt, Hotel Chocolat and more have revealed how, and where, they will be investing in customer experience to future proof their businesses for 2021 in Retail Week’s latest report.

As the UK stares into the jaws of the deepest recession on record, Retail Week spoke to directors behind five established multichannel retail brands across August and September to look beyond the pandemic and tackle the big questions about the future consumer.

Kingfisher, Hotel Chocolat, QVC, Waterstones and Seasalt gave in-depth interviews as part of CX Decoded: how the UK’s top multichannel retailers are investing to win consumer spend, a report produced in association with Arvato.

The retailers exclusively revealed how their customer experience strategies are changing, where they are investing, how they set KPIs and who drives them. 

The quintet also gave their take on what the future face of customer experience could look like – from the role of customer service agents in stores and contact centres working in tandem to the complementary role automation could come to have. 

So what must 2021’s CX strategies look like and how are top retailers playing into the mindset of the new shopper? Here is a selection of some of the key insights shared in the report. View the interviews in full here.

Will Charnley, Seasalt

What does the future of the in-store experience look like? Where will you be investing to drive CX in-store? 

“We have been doing appointments, allowing customers to come in and have time where there is no-one else on the shop floor, just them and a member of staff. Fitting rooms are shut at the moment, but this allows them to use the fitting room. We are just trying to make sure the experience is safe and enjoyable.”

Will Charnley, omnichannel director, Seasalt

Lysa Hardy

What do you see the role of the in-store associate or virtual customer service agent being now vs in the future? To what extent do you see automation of these services coming to play a greater role?

“The danger is that retailers suddenly say automation is the way to do it, but the reality is that is not what every customer wants. So I think it’s about the appropriate interaction at the appropriate time.”

Lysa Hardy, board director and chief marketing officer, Hotel Chocolat

Beccy Preece

Which channels are you most focused on to drive growth, and has that shifted?

“It became clear customers were searching for answers which could have been resolved independently should we have had the right knowledge base [whereby CRM automates the most basic enquiries based on frequently asked questions, search terms, links to help pages and policies] in place. Therefore, social media and knowledge base moved up the priority list.”

Beccy Preece, logistics director, Waterstones

Sienne Veit

Which technologies are you investing in to drive customer service and experience across your digital channels, and why?

“Mobile is a key focus area for our ecommerce investment. Mobile is already the primary way our customers engage with us. It is the glue between online and our shops, and a key convenience driver.”

Sienne Veit, group digital product and platform director, Kingfisher

James Keegan_VP Customer Service_and_Experience_QVC International

Who is driving your cross-channel CX strategy and how are they determining KPIs?

“It goes right up to our president over in the US through to our market leader CEOs. It is now everyone’s challenge, not just customer services’, to be the champion of the consumer. Historically they would have been knocking down those barriers, but it is a different world now.”

James Keegan, vice president customer service and experience, QVC International

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To read their full interviews, download the report for free today. Inside, you will also discover:

  • Which technologies to invest in to futureproof digital operations without breaking the bank
  • What the future of in-store shopping is going to look like
  • Who the top 30 multichannel retailers are
  • What your customer experience roadmap needs to look like