Ahead of our upcoming Consumer Summit this September, which will see leaders across the sector explore how they are redefining CX strategies, we home in on the shining examples of customer excellence across the sector.

Whether it be a two-second online payment transaction or a four-hour shopping trip, every minuscule moment across a consumer’s retail journey can have a lasting impact on their feelings about a business.

It is often said that negative experiences dominate memories more than positive ones. Recent research, for example, suggested 78% of UK consumers are unlikely to shop with a retailer again after a sub-standard delivery experience.

And so, with mounting pressures on consumers’ purse strings, it is more important than ever this golden quarter to deliver experiences that will have shoppers coming back.

Taking place at The Form Rooms in London on September 21, Retail Week’s third annual Consumer Summit will unite retail and brand leaders, industry experts and consumer psychologists to drill down on the practical ways to combat the cost-of-living crisis.

Top of the agenda will be exploring ways the sector can redefine CX strategies, including invigorating workplace productivity, questions around loyalty and where to invest.

Here we look at three ways in which retailers have already been boosting shopper experiences and what the more successful players in the industry can be doing to stay one step ahead.

1. Go ‘extra’ when it comes to experiences

From ‘sweat rooms’ at Gymshark to a golf putting green at Sports Direct, immersive experiences have proved a popular way to create an unforgettable customer journey.

Japanese retailer Uniqlo is attempting to “elevate the shopping experience” with its Covent Garden store that opened in April complete with a tearoom, florist, terrace and repair studio.

Meanwhile, EE’s new Westfield London store offers a range of “experience zones”, including a dedicated gaming area, “taste of the future” smart home zone and a “digital spa”, where customers can use technology to detox from their screens.


EE’s Westfield London store features “experience zones”

However, it’s not just about the all-singing, all-dancing thrills – sometimes it is as simple as just listening to what the customer wants and responding accordingly.

For example, B&Q opened smaller-format convenience stores earlier this year to provide a more convenient and easy way to shop.

At the time of opening, strategy and development director Chris Bargate said: “We’re continually listening to our customers and colleagues to take learnings to evolve the shopping experience in these smaller stores.”

More than seven in 10 (72%) shoppers also expect personalised experiences, according to research by McKinsey, and so those that manage to achieve this both on- and offline are the ones that will stand out.

Superdrug has elevated its experience for disabled website users with new accessibility features, allowing customers to modify the website to their own personal needs.

2. Look after your front line


Pandora has increased staff wages and offers other incentives to keep front-line employees engaged and motivated

From shopfloor workers to delivery drivers and call centre staff, those on the front line are the ones who directly impact a consumer’s experience.

Therefore, empowering your staff as well as focusing on their wellbeing, safety and development can help foster a happy workforce, which in turn makes positive consumer interactions more likely.

If staff feel appreciated and engaged, they are then more motivated to deliver customer excellence, and productivity is supercharged. Engaged employees are 17% more productive than those who are not engaged with their work, a study by Gallup found.

The same study also found that companies with a highly engaged workforce have 21% higher profitability – even more reason to ensure staff feel valued.

Pandora has been an expert at rewarding its retail employees for their hard work. In April, the jewellery retailer announced a pay rise for its UK and Ireland retail staff, the third in 12 months.

A monthly bonus scheme, a Pandora jewellery allowance of up to £500 and a trip to Thailand are among the new enhanced incentives introduced within its retail operations in the past year.

The passion and energy Pandora staff put into making the customer experience so unique is a major contributor to the business’ overall success, says Pandora managing director for the UK and Ireland Rasmus Brix.

“Investing in the growth and fulfilment of our retail teams has been a top priority for us and we’ve put a great amount of effort into fostering a healthy workplace culture – one where our employees are not only rewarded competitively but also where they feel heard, valued and supported through the right tools, platforms and policies.”

Focusing on your front line goes hand in hand with invigorating workplace productivity.

If retailers have a flexible and robust set-up in place to ensure the most efficient and seamless service, it allows shopfloor staff to feel empowered and engaged and better able to deliver a top-tier customer experience.

3. Invest in the correct tech

Investing in technology can not only help businesses meet consumers’ growing demands but also boost the efficiency of staff.

Take robotic picking arms in fulfilment centres – the investment in this tech will dramatically lead to increased productivity, with machines making fewer errors than humans and freeing up staff for other tasks.

A frictionless omnichannel customer experience is expected as the norm now and so retailers must equip staff with the appropriate tools to deliver this.

Speaking at Retail Week’s Innovation Summit, DFS’ chief operating officer Russell Harte said: “Tech is crucial for a modern organisation to demonstrate agility and to be able to solve problems quickly.”

Retail Week’s recent Talking Shop report revealed that a huge 96% of store staff expect technology to play an increasingly pivotal role in stores of the future.

With such a wealth of technology readily available, it is more important now than ever to ensure that the tech you invest in is worth the expenditure.

Innovation of the Week – John Lewis pilots virtual try-on across rental index

John Lewis recently piloted a virtual try-on service

In a bid to bolster consumers’ experience while also driving down returns, John Lewis has recently piloted a new virtual try-on service across its fashion rental platform. The partnership with Zyler enables consumers to upload measurements and ‘try on’ 750 different garments.

“It allows our customers to experiment with more styles, colours and lengths in products that they may not have tried before,” says JLP’s innovation lead Danielle Gagola.

Another retail group at the forefront of innovation is Inditex.

The Spanish fashion giant uses augmented reality (AR) in its apps to elevate the customer experience, with its Pull & Bear app allowing consumers to use a virtual fitting room to trial products.

Today’s consumer is extremely tech savvy. Therefore, technology should be used, not just for tech’s sake but to fundamentally enhance a consumer’s experience while shopping.

Keeping this front and centre of all discussions will be integral to ensuring investment is spent in the best way. The retailers that blend data, technology and creativity to give customers the convenience and experience they want are the ones that will come out on top.