A Trade Magazine for New Age Retailers

Customer Experience: Differentiation is Key

Convenience is good, but excellence is, well, excellent. To create long-lasting customer engagement that gives you a real competitive advantage, you need to think beyond the basics of experience and explore how your brand will stand out.

When it comes to customer experience in North America, consumers tell us that true excellence is still elusive. In our latest consumer research, Digital Innovation for the Experience Economy: Retail, more than 70% of North American consumers agree that digital technologies have made their shopping experiences more convenient — but only 1 in 5 rate the current retail experience as “excellent.”

Forward-thinking retailers have an opportunity to own not just customer experience, but excellence. As more brands develop robust customer experience strategies, offering a standout CX based on broadly defined values is becoming less revolutionary and more table stakes.

To stay ahead of the game in increasingly crowded markets, you now need to think beyond CX and enhance your own experience with three key differences: empathy, personalization, and satisfaction.


Ensure Empathy as a Foundation of Strategy 

We hear many companies talking about the importance of empathy. Lots of brands claim to have a customer-first approach, but very few do it well. When done right, an empathetic approach gives you a chance to truly step into your customers’ shoes and make strategic decisions that resonate with them. Without a thoughtful approach to how you’re employing a genuinely empathetic lens that results in aligned actions, you’re just guessing. There are several ways to distill empathy into actions, but ultimately it boils down to finding the right opportunities to listen first and act second. This doesn’t need to take a long time, and in fact, it shouldn’t.

  • Regular phases of lean research like interviews and surveys can be conducted in real-time and are effective.
  • If you want to build a bigger picture, ethnographic research is an opportunity to observe your customers’ motivations and behaviors in the real world.
  • It’s also important to tap into areas where conversations are already happening. Customer care and sales reps are on the front line and filled with incredibly valuable insights that too many organizations leave untapped.


Data-Driven Insights Today, Personalization Tomorrow

Data can help you understand what your customers are currently doing. More importantly, knowledge of what’s most important to them can give you ideas on influencing and triggering the behaviors you most want to encourage. The biggest challenge I see is organizations with data coming and no clear sense of how (or why) they should bring it together to inform actionable insights.

  • Ensure your data is diverse and flowing from multiple sources.
  • Be clear on how you’re bringing data together from multiple channels into one powerful and cohesive story.
  • Look for opportunities to bring value to individual customers but also stay aware of how you can glean broader insights for the business at large.

Customer Satisfaction Is Key

Next-level customer experiences don’t merely meet basic expectations – you need to surpass them to leave customers with a sense of deep satisfaction and complete fulfillment. Put a fresh lens on how you see yourself and think of your organization, not as a company that sells products, but rather one that sells satisfaction.

The role of CX is to ensure that every interaction a customer has with your brand is not merely positive but delivers differentiated value. Something that they can’t get anywhere else.

What does this look like in the real world? Relative newcomers like Glossier are a great example. Not only have they built a digital shopping experience their customers love, but they’ve integrated their customer service agents into their marketing team. They’ve energized a culture internally that’s encouraged to harness recommendations directly from consumers, with a shared process to continuously enhance everything they do in service of creating a demonstrably different customer experience.


Thinking about these three next-level approaches will enable a more differentiated customer experience, help drive competitive advantage, and deliver experiences that are nothing short of delightful, creating loyalty and love for your brand.



Allison Humphries
Author: Allison Humphries

Allison Humphries is a seasoned strategist with over 20 years experience creating innovative, business-building, multi-national experiences for some of the world’s leading brands. Allison is also the Vice President of Strategy, Americas at Appnovation, a global full-service digital agency, where she is responsible for leading a team of strategy and insights professionals who partner with clients to deliver positive outcomes for their customers and their business. To know more, visit:

Website: www.appnovation.com