Think after before: Rethinking the customer experience.

Customer experience is changing. Consumer expectations of what constitutes a good after payment experience has changed. You only need look at the recent excitement around ASOS updating its returns policy to know that what happens after payment has been made is more important than ever.

Being such a crucial part of the customer journey, we wanted to take a closer look at what it means for consumers and retailers alike. The result? Shoppers have an emotional response after they’ve paid for something. This is what we are calling the After Payment Emotional Experience or APEX for short.

While it is well known that the prepayment experience is an important part of the customer journey, what happens after has for a long time been neglected. However, this part of the customer experience includes some of the most important parts, including returns, refunds, marketing and even in-store experiences. To really understand this crucial area of the shopping experience we commissioned a report into the current state of the APEX, what UK shoppers think about it and what areas are needed in 2019 for a good APEX.

What we found surprised us. Over half of consumers (54 percent) expect at least a basic level of care following a payment. However, retailers are not delivering with over a third of UK shoppers feeling undervalued after making a purchase.

Think after, before.

The news that UK retailers are failing with APEX should worry all those in the industry. Getting APEX wrong is bad for any retailer, but getting it wrong in today’s retail environment could be the end for even the largest businesses. A quick look at the retail headlines tells you that it has hardly been plain sailing in the last couple of months. Fewer shoppers, higher expectations, lower levels of brand loyalty; the list goes on and on for the challenges facing everyone from SMBs to high street stalwarts.

Against this backdrop, the APEX does offer hope. While the APEX is closely connected to areas such as returns and refunds, its influence goes much further. The APEX actually has touch points across the customer experience, which is why it is important for retailers to think after, before when developing their customer journey.

What does this mean? Well in today’s data-driven world, the information that is gathered in the post-payment phase can be fed into prepayment and during payment customer experience touch points. Knowing customer preferences for products, payment and marketing can all be leveraged to develop a meaningful and positive relationship with a consumer via more personalised marketing and better in-store and online experiences.

With the UK retail sector facing potentially troubling times ahead, APEX could offer a way to win back shoppers and lay the foundations for long term business success through retaining customers.

Keeping hold of customers is itself only one part of what a good APEX can offer. While getting it right can deliver a number of positives, getting it wrong could be disastrous. An example of this was seen in the way consumers share a bad experience. To this end, the research found that four in ten will tell their friends and family about a bad experience. One or two failures at any point in the customer experience during this time can quickly cascade into a full-blown crisis as shoppers vote with their feet and head off to competitors.

The state of APEX.

So, what can be done? Well, interestingly the research shed some light on a number of areas that cause consumers gripes. Predictably rude staff came out as the number one reason, with 55 percent of consumers selecting it, clearly highlighting the importance of training and motivating staff.

However, what was less expected was the damage that long checkout processes (38 percent) and the difficulty in finding the right product (34 percent) can cause. Retailers looking to solve these issues will consequently not only need to focus on training staff but also the technology and processes that can be deployed to help.

Breaking down the silos that can exist for multichannel retailers and becoming a truly omni-channel retailer will help. For instance, instead of queuing, customers could simply pay for a product in a store on their mobile device, via an app and then leave the store. While finding the right product, could utilise the same app and information on the in-store stock, to direct a person exactly to where a product is or provide a click and collect service.

As more information is gathered, services can be personalised to offer customers their preferred payment, helping save them time and reduce friction to provide a great customer experience through the entire retail journey.

Once a shopper has left the store, marketing communications can be personalised to highlight offers that are relevant to their past purchase history. By focusing on the first interaction with a customer, retailers can ensure that going forward consumers will be more receptive to their marketing materials. In fact, it was found that 47 percent of consumers are less likely to pay attention to marketing communications after a bad experience.

Getting the APEX right then is not just a way for retailers to survive but actually thrive in today’s shopping environment. The customer experience is a circular journey. When done correctly it builds long term, meaningful relationships with consumers and success for a business. Get it wrong and it has the potential to lead to stores being boycotted and shoppers heading to competitors. In 2019, improving APEX needs to be a top priority for retailers.

To find out more about APEX and how it can be improved, then click here and download the full report.