What are the Biggest Challenges and Opportunities Facing the Customer Experience & Loyalty Industry During the Next Year?

Technology has only upped the ante for traditional customer-facing strategies. The Internet has created unprecedented transparency on price dimension and has certainly made product availability a very different basis of competition. As a result, our clients are now grappling with how to drive "true customer loyalty" vs. buying and bribing customer attention through "me-too" rewards. Relatedly, retailers are swamped with data, but are often unsure how to use it effectively. Meanwhile, urgency is high as exciting trends including customer relationship management (CRM) and "Big Data" move quickly from tomorrow’s promise to today’s board-level expectations of core company capabilities.

What's the Current State of the Industry?

Retailers are desperately working to calibrate the right level of engagement with their customers – how to balance traditional processes of service and outreach vs. newer, more flexible and digital means. With so much choice and control available at consumers' fingertips, retailers are also striving to re-establish their relevance. For 2013, this means we'll see many retailers focusing on:

  • Revisiting rewards programs carefully to determine if they are indeed strategically aligned and generating payback
  • Re-defining great customer experience – from the ground up – for an omni-channel world

What Burning Issues are Senior Executives Facing?

Although many executives like to say that their business is customer-centric, few retailers are taking full advantage of opportunities to keep their customers fully engaged and, therefore, relatively insulated from competitive distraction. Some executives are deciding that they need careful recalibration of their loyalty programs, while others are forming partnerships to make their rewards currencies more compelling.

For many, it means going back to basics in terms of trying to make shopping experiences more enjoyable. Many L.E.K. clients will be spending 2013 redefining customer experience for a new world and addressing questions that include:

  • What role do customers want brands to play in their lives?
  • What is their expectation regarding product availability/delivery?
  • How important is human contact to customers?
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