The six pillars of customer experience

In an omnichannel world where consumers have infinite choice and control, retailers need to deliver an outstanding customer experience (CX) if they want to thrive. Effective CX is fast becoming the Holy Grail of the retail industry: the key way to gain a competitive edge.

But what makes an outstanding customer experience? Research shows that there are six “pillars” of customer experience: Personalisation, integrity, expectations, time and effort, resolution, and empathy. Retailers that get these right will drive brand loyalty and ranking.

In recent global research, KPMG found that personalisation was the most important driver of overall customer experience and loyalty in Australia – more so than in other markets. Given retailers’ rich customer data and direct interaction with the end user, you would expect this sector to be leading the way with personalised experiences. However, it still has room for improvement.

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Out of the top brands recognised by Australian consumers, Bunnings Warehouse and Dan Murphy’s were the main flag bearers for the sector. Both of these brands have a very clear customer proposition and manage expectations well, which creates meaningful experiences for their consumers.

What sets top ranked brands apart is the successful and consistent execution of a customer-focused strategy. This commitment is noted by customers to flow throughout the organisation to employees at all levels, with clarity in delivery principles that are deeply ingrained in the company culture.

Here are five key trends that Australian retailers need to take heed of, if they want to survive amid increasingly intense global competition.

1. International brands do it better

The top CX leaders as rated by Australian consumers are based overseas. These firms have entered Australia with a value proposition and operating model that has been refined and proven in highly competitive overseas markets. It’s critical that Australian brands are focussed on current, local, international and emerging competitors.

2. Personalisation is the most appreciated CX attribute

Brands that excel in personalisation are doing this through a deep understanding of what their customers value, and adding a personal touch. Personalisation presents huge opportunities for customer engagement and future product development. Personalisation is highly achievable across retail sectors based on the wealth of customer insight and data that is gained with a strong value exchange with customers.

3. Trust is becoming more important

A shift in consumer sentiment and a decline in trust in key sectors indicates that products and services are becoming more of a personal statement, and consumers are paying increased attention to the integrity of the brands they choose. In the “integrity economy”, there’s heightened transparency and lower barriers to switch, increasing the importance of trust.

4. Retailers need to differentiate

Australian consumers perceive most experiences as lacking differentiation, with many brands ranked as having “limited” or “no differentiation”. This flatness in perception is unique compared to other markets, where there’s a wider range of experiences on the top and bottom end of the scale, as well as fewer brands being rated as average.

5. A great opportunity for sustainable growth

The current environment offers a great opportunity to differentiate and drive sustainable growth through a connected enterprise. Retailers need to better align the brand promise and company culture across the front, middle and back of house, and consistently deliver across customer touch points.

Lisa Bora is a KPMG Australia partner. She holds a senior leadership role in Australia’s customer, brand and marketing advisory team.

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