Remember 2019? What a great year! The gig economy was taking off from Uber and Lyft to Airbnb. It was the height of customer service and convenience. Everything was plentiful. I love boom times for that reason—things are easy and convenient.
As a consumer, it seemed like everything was right at our fingertips. There were so many ways to get the things you wanted—retail store, computer, smartphone. I worked in San Francisco at that time, and I was experiencing the second dot-com boom. It was an auspicious time marked by excess, and you could feel the unsustainability in the air. It felt like the Internet 1.0 boom in 1999 and conjured images of the roaring 1920’s. Alas, there’s always a crash and ours was Covid.
But this blog isn’t about the pandemic (insert sigh of relief). It’s about how retail and service companies are eliminating the path to purchase options we love—whether they’re aware of it or not—and the customer experience mess it’s leaving in its wake. Here are four examples why I’m issuing a call to action to reclaim our retail mojo.
Four Customer Experiences That Beg for Better Path to Purchase Journeys
- Cable company retail store. I’m moving and had to go to a cable company’s retail location to return my hardware. I walk into the store, there’s a huge line, and nobody who appears to work for said cable company. Someone says an employee went into the back office and never returned. Realizing this was going to take longer than I expected, I left my box of hardware on the counter and left. The next day I got a phone call from an automated assistant. I thought I was going to get to talk to a live person to finalize the return. Instead, the automated assistant directed me to the Internet. I tried to talk to someone in person, but alas I had to login and complete the transaction myself online.
- Large upscale home furnishings store. I drove to a store to replace some broken wine glasses from a matched set only to be directed to the Internet by the salesperson. This left me thinking … why did I even bother to go to the store? Aren’t stores trying to survive? Didn’t they hire all these nice people to help me? Turns out going to the store only created extra work for me. And an attitude. I had to go home and complete the task on the Internet.
- Local clothing boutique. I popped into a local boutique I like to support to pick up a new pair of jeans. They had every size except mine, naturally. Instead of ordering them for me, they directed me to the Internet to buy them directly from the brand. I left empty handed, with a chore to complete from home, and unable to support the boutique. Why did I ever leave the house to shop?
- Airport coffee shop. It was the most epic line I’ve ever seen. While I waited to place my order for a chai latte, I noticed an equally long line of people across the aisle who were ordering their coffee from the same place via the mobile app on their phones. They were not only jumping the line but creating twice as much work for the employees who were under siege. It was a chaotic mess with hangry travelers. Imagine my delight as I watched the people who had shown up after me getting their coffee before me. Sure, I could have joined them and used the app, but in that in-person moment, I thought I had a chance. Their path to purchase was the Internet, even though I was standing right there. The Internet won again.
So, it’s 2023 and retailers are still struggling to get their mojo back. I get it. The persistent supply chain issues, the on-going labor shortages, etc. But after these experiences I’m starting to wonder … does anyone really care about customer service anymore? Does anyone want to help the human being that’s right there in front of them? Have retailers consciously abandoned some of their paths-to-purchase, or are they completely unaware? These four awful customer experiences I just described have shaken my loyalty to these brands.
And I know I’m not alone.
It’s Time for Retail & Service Companies to Reclaim their Mojo
As a market researcher and someone who has spent a career in customer services roles, I’m concerned. When a path vanishes, sometimes right before our eyes, it forces us to change the way we do things. This may be the single biggest challenge to customer loyalty today.
Brands need to wake up to their paths-to-purchase. They need to measure and take notice that their paths-to-purchase are fraught with issues. Purchase paths are disappearing; it’s impacting consumer loyalty and killing brands.
Is your company forcing one path to purchase? I sure hope not because there is no single influence path for all consumers. Retailers needs to understand consumer behavior and the multitude of avenues along the path in which they engage with a brand. Only then will retailers reclaim their customer service mojo.
Our proprietary approach to path-to-purchase research dives into how modern shopping has changed consumer behavior and customer journey and helps brands understand what they need to build an actionable purchase journey map. Click below to learn more.
Managing Director, Consumer Goods & Retail and Telecom
Dyna is the managing director of the Consumer Goods & Retail and Telecommunications practices at Escalent. She has a propensity for action and is on a quest to advise and inspire insights leaders across the world. Over the course of her career, Dyna has been on the executive team of multiple venture-/private-equity-backed start-ups, including two that she co-founded. On this journey, she’s experienced an IPO, scaled a company, and been through two acquisitions. She also co-founded the WIRexec Leadership Summit to promote collaboration among other female executives in her industry. Above and beyond, Dyna believes in diversity and inclusion as well as providing mentorship to young women. Dyna and her partner live in Northern California. They love to mountain bike, ski and do yoga when they’re not busy sorting drama between their two teenage girls, teenage boy exchange student, and rambunctious Frenchie named Matcha.