In today’s digital word, consumers’ expectations of their favourite brands and retailers are sky high. The increasing maturity, sophistication and choice of the modern e-commerce experience, in particular, have set the bar high. At the same time increasingly convenient digital purchasing aids, such as automated form-filling and express links to one-touch payment facilities when they buy online, make it very easy for consumers to switch their loyalties if their needs aren’t being met by their initial choice of supplier.

Furthermore, the pandemic has had an enormous impact on the global retail sector, bringing with it a fresh new set of challenges. The UK industry has seen sales fall into a tailspin, a number of prominent retail brands placed into receivership and thousands of retail employees furloughed or made redundant.

These challenges have seen retailers and brands move even closer to an all-digital model, accelerating what had already been happening in the sector. In this context and to mark a quarter of a century since eCommerce pioneers and eBay first launched, Nuxeo asked UK consumers about the factors that would influence their retail and brand choices. The findings only reinforce the need for retailers and brands to deliver on the things most important to consumers - a first-class digital customer experience, personalised and valuable content and detailed product information.

Rich Digital Experiences Matter

In an intensely challenging market, retailers and brands must work harder than ever to keep customers coming back, which means maintaining strong relationships by recognising who shoppers are and what they want, and continuously improving their browsing and buying experience.

In the survey, almost two-thirds of UK shoppers said they tend to be loyal to a retailer that offers exceptional customer experience. The coronavirus pandemic has seen many retailers upping their game here, adding elements to their online offering to improve the experience, or pivoting quickly to offer products to meet particular demand. The consumer’s digital journey is critical to secure purchases in the first place – and to keep attracting them back. More than half of shoppers said they would go to a competitor, if their favoured brand/retailer’s overall digital experience did not meet their expectations - rising to 60 per cent of 16-24 year-olds specifically.

Chart: Loyalty & Digital experience

Chart: Loyalty & Digital experience

The Importance of Informative Content

During the lockdown, people are shopping almost exclusively online, a habit that they might not wish to break. This means that the right product information is critical. Yet, for the younger demographic, the most commonly cited problem was the lack of sufficient product information – including photos, videos and detailed descriptions - available to support their purchasing decisions.

The importance of informative content clearly applies at all stages of the retailer/brand relationship and purchasing decision process, from even before a desire to purchase has been formed. And the range of images and videos matters too, helping shoppers to make more confident choices that are right first time: 28 per cent of consumers in the survey said that they like having access to 360-degree images when buying products online, so that they can view goods from all angles. Social distancing measures have made many people reluctant to visit physical stores - this makes it even more important to give them all the information they need online.

Retail Poor Photography

Customised Content is a Clincher

Retailer and brand content has been really interesting during the coronavirus. It has definitely not been a time to stop engagement and conversations with consumers, but it needed a change in approach. Brands have mostly moved away from sales-focused messaging to more informative, light-hearted or reassuring content - essentially it has become much more human.

Content has been a big part of the customer experience for a number of years now. Across all age groups, 41 per cent of UK shoppers said they engaged at least once a week with a brand or retailer’s mobile app; 42 per cent via a retailer’s website and 28 per cent via a brand’s web site.

Relevance, personalisation and value of content clearly matter to shoppers. This has only been heightened during the pandemic, when many brands have excelled with the level of personalisation and relevancy of their content. When these parameters are observed, success rates are strong. More than four in 10 of UK shoppers say they have recommended a retailer because of the quality of the content they share and 41% have made additional purchases for the same reason.

Yet, similar numbers of consumers are being turned off by poor content experiences. Almost half of UK shoppers said they have been sent irrelevant or duplicate content from a retailer. 42 per cent of 16-24 year-olds have switched retailer because of this.

Keeping Consumers Close – and Engaged

So where does all of this leave UK retailers and brands? The pandemic is undoubtedly having an impact on the sector, but most likely, is that all the things that mattered to consumers beforehand will matter to them afterwards, perhaps even more so. This is especially pertinent when it comes to the digital customer experience. Undeniably then, these organisations need to be working towards greater agility and dynamism in their ability to keep refreshing their propositions. They also need to recognize and engage with consumers in ever more creative, sophisticated and customised ways at different points along the customer journey – with targeted, relevant content, harnessing all channels to best effect.

Certainly, retail will never be as competitive and challenging as it has become now, so it is vital for those in the sector to do everything they can to ensure consumers have the best experience possible. With increasingly diverse and intensifying competition and continuous market disruption, added to the general uncertainty caused by the pandemic, retailers and brands need to be proactive in their approach to innovation and providing exceptional customer experiences.

Read our infographic about the importance of customer experience in retail

The good news is that the technology exists today to satisfy all of these requirements. With a coordinated approach to content management across the customer journey, retailers and brands can give customers the confidence and appetite to purchase, and to keep coming back.

Read the full report ‘Navigating the new normal: How customer experience has become even more important for retailers and brands as they look to the future