Retailers work hard to keep customers coming through their doors. They allocate a significant budget to marketing, and they're proud to talk about how well their brands understand the retail customer experience.

However, new research from Redpoint Global reveals that marketers and retailers are nowhere near as connected with consumers as they think. Just 18% of consumers felt that the brands they interacted with regularly provided excellent customer service. Almost twice as many retail marketers believed they provided excellent service.

The big difference in the numbers points to a gap between retailers and consumers that is much wider than most marketers like to believe. Getting at the heart of the problem and reconnecting with consumers is essential for retail outlets.

A Closer Look at Retail Customer Experience

Customer satisfaction is a key indicator of how well a business is seizing growth and marketing opportunities. Research shows that organizations that offer an excellent retail customer experience outperform both laggards in their industries and S&P Top 500 Index companies. There's no doubt that experience strongly correlates to customer satisfaction.

Most business leaders and marketers would point to customer experience as a key factor in purchasing and brand loyalty decisions. No matter their age, education, gender or ethnicity, retail consumers demand a great experience.

All this attention on customer experience means that data and analytics companies have stepped in to assess just how well organizations meet their customer satisfaction goals. When marketers in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. are asked how well their organizations are doing in terms of retail customer experience, they tend to respond very positively.

According to the research from Redpoint, 34% of marketing pros believe that their brands delivered excellent retailer customer experience almost all of the time.

retail customer experience gap between marketers and consumers
Source: Redpoint Global

Contrast this against the results from the consumer side of the Redpoint survey and a different picture starts to emerge.

Only 18% of consumers say that the organizations they shop with deliver excellent customer experience most of the time.

That means marketers are twice as likely as consumers to rate their organizations as excellent. It's a big contrast, and it points to improvement opportunities that business leaders can't afford to miss.

Some marketers are tempted to believe that there's a generational problem here, and that they are capturing the attention of younger consumers efficiently.

That isn't true either. Only 27% of Gen Zers and Millenials felt that retailers provided excellent service. Contrast that with 17% of Gen Xers, 12% of Boomers and 10% of seniors who gave an excellent rating. The disconnect between retailers and consumers of every age is significant.

Why Aren't Retailers & Consumers on the Same Page?

A recent Salesforce study found that 63% of retailer shoppers feel that the stores they patronize don't know who they really are. This figure baffles many business leaders and marketers, who believe the money they pour into digital efforts should fix this problem. After all, many organizations know a great deal about online shopper behavior and launch campaigns to drive website sales.

However, brands today tend to know far less about their in-store customers. Remember not everyone who walks through a business's doors has interacted with or will interact with that company online. For these shoppers, real-life customer experience matters much more than the online shopping experience a brand offers. It's essential for business leaders to remember that consumers who've already set foot in a business are generally more likely to buy than casual online shoppers.

Closing the Expectation Gap with In-Store Wi-Fi

Consumers want to be known and understood by the retailers they frequent. Those who meet the challenge of collecting and using consumer data positively are able to close the gap between the marketing team's perception of retail customer experience and the consumer's actual experience. While launching digital efforts to get to know customers is a step forward in this direction, it's essential to be proactive inside stores too.

Retail customers want to have meaningful interactions in the stores that they frequent. So, introducing in-store campaigns is generally easier than many marketers think it will be.

And one of the most powerful tools to improve the retail customer experience is in-store wi-fi.

Many retail outlets have moved toward offering wi-fi for customer use while in the store. This alone can improve customer experience, but it's just a hint at the real potential of a wi-fi connection. With wi-fi, retailers can gather data about where and how customers spend time in their stores. This data on its own can help business leaders make smarter merchandising and customer engagement decisions.

An in-store wi-fi connection leaves plenty of room for growing customer relationships too. With a wi-fi connection, retail employees can build relationships with individual clients. This practice is known as clienteling and can substantially increase sales over time. Businesses that gather crucial information from both online and in-store consumers have an excellent understanding of the customer experience needs of loyal brand buyers.

A Note: Don't Believe the Buy-In Myth

Marketers who are eager to explore in-store opportunities to gather customer data often meet pushback from older company stakeholders. Many leaders believe that customers won't want to give data such as their email addresses or phone numbers to retailers. This belief just isn't true. While a few older consumers may balk at providing this information, the majority of retail shoppers actually prefer the stores they patronize to know something about them.

Proven sales tactics such as real-time offers and targeted ads help drive sales in retail outlets. What business leaders must understand is that the special offers don't prompt sales on their own. They simply reflect a larger customer engagement process that helps consumers feel that the retailers they frequent understand their needs and habits.

A great retail customer experience is the backbone of consistently strong retail sales. Don't miss out on crucial improvement opportunities by ignoring the disconnect between your marketing department and your consumers.

Quality Deployment is an industry leader when it comes to shopper insights, in-store wifi and personalization. Schedule a call to start realign your efforts with your customers' expectations.

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