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The Future of Customer Loyalty and Perfect Brand Experience: Report

Businesses such as grocery storesconvenience storestraditional retail stores, and retail service outlets play an integral part in the North American lifestyle. As demand continues to rise for convenience, speed, and delivery, and as prices continue to increase, consumer expectations around the quality of their experience have also changed.

In a 2022 survey of 3,000 North American adults, Steritech uncovered consumers' shifting expectations of retail experiences. The findings reveal what factors consumers value most and how their experience can influence behaviors. Top-level findings include:

  • Negative online reviews cost businesses over $200 billion annually
  • 52% of respondents believe online reviews give an accurate representation of an establishment
  • Consumers are more likely to post an online review about a positive experience (29%) than a negative one (23%)
  • 1 in 4 consumers will visit a brand less frequently after one bad experience; conversely, more than half (59%) will visit a location more frequently after a positive experience

With a challenging economic landscape ahead for consumers and retailers alike, these compelling insights provide a strong roadmap for where brands should focus efforts to increase sales, capture customer loyalty, and influence brand perception.

Store breakdown: what do consumers really want from their store experiences?

Consumer shopping decisions today involve more than the products they put in their cart. Buyers evaluate traditional quality measures such as value and cleanliness as well as new convenience measures including mobile apps and curbside pickup. This evolution has been accelerated by technology introductions, the global pandemic, and a rising cost of living.

Steritech presented respondents with a list of customer experience factors in retail environments and asked them to choose up to 5 that they valued most for in 4 retail vertical segments: convenience stores, grocery stores, traditional retail stores (department/big box stores), and retail service outlets (auto care, personal beauty/health services, etc.) 

  • Value
  • Speed of Service
  • Customer Service / Staff Disposition
  • Product Availability
  • Food Quality (excluding retail service outlets)
  • Food Taste (excluding retail service outlets)
  • Store Appearance
  • Store Design / Organization
  • Physical Safety (feeling safe and secure)
  • Bathroom Cleanliness
  • Loyalty Programs / Coupons
  • App/Mobile Ordering
  • None of the Above

Value for money, product availability, and customer service/staff disposition ranked highly across all categories, while speed of service was at the top in 3 out of the 4. However, the top drivers were different for each vertical.

Nearly half of convenience store customers (45%) are looking for value for their money, while 60% of grocery store customers placed a priority on food quality. In traditional retail, product availability was most important, with 60% ranking this as an experience factor they value highly. In retail service outlets customer service and disposition matter the most (59%).

What are people looking for in their experiences

The financial impact of online reviews and social media

Digital channels have become a popular method for consumers to amplify their experiences,  both good and bad. Today's buyers can broadcast their experiences to much wider audiences with a simple click of a button.

These social shares significantly influence their peers' choices. Just under half (41%) of respondents check online reviews or ratings before visiting a location. But perhaps more importantly, 52% believe online reviews give an accurate representation of an establishment.

It's also interesting to note that customers are more inclined to share their good experiences with brands over bad ones.

  • 23% would leave a negative review online after a bad experience; even more – 29% – would leave a positive review after a good experience
  • A negative experience would result in 15% of respondents posting on social media; however, a positive experience would inspire 19% to share a post on social media

One industry study found that a single negative online review can cost a business up to $3,000 annually. When combined with the data revealed here, Steritech estimates that negative online reviews take a collective $200 billion bite out of businesses' results every year.

What customers would do

The bottom line: negative experiences carry a long-lasting cost

Given those online review statistics, it's fair to say that negative experiences have a substantial impact on the bottom line. However, they are not the only contributor. When combined with other actions that consumers take, the potential revenue impacts of a single poor experience extend long past the initial transaction and the location where it occurred.

After a negative brand experience:

  • 45% would visit the location less frequently
  • 39% would never visit the brand again
  • 37% would spend less money in-store / online
  • 34% would spend less time in-store / online
  • 30% would dissuade others from visiting that location/brand
  • 25% would visit other locations of that brand less frequently
If a store doesnt meet expecations

Positive experiences have more power than negative ones

While the results of a negative customer experience can ripple for some time, the findings of this survey show that retailers may be undervaluing the tremendous effect that a positive experience can have on future buying behavior, customer loyalty, and brand perception.

Respondents reported that after a positive experience:

  • 59% would visit a store more frequently
  • Over half (53%) would recommend the brand to others
  • More than 1 out of 3 would spend more money in-store / online
  • 24% would visit that brand exclusively
If a store doesnt meet expectations

Overlooked factor: Consistency at every touchpoint

Consistency may be another overlooked factor, especially in multi-location brands. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of respondents say that they expect a brand to provide the same experience from one store to the next.

Another area of consistency vital to a positive experience is the staff: 74% of respondents say that an establishment’s employees are a reflection of that brand’s values. In the current labor market, this should be top of mind for retailers when filling customer-facing roles.

Consistency is also critical even when the brand may not have total control, such as with third-party delivery services. More than half of respondents (55%) blame orders gone wrong on the establishment they ordered from, while only 28% fault the delivery service. For brands, this underscores the importance of aligning with partners that understand their business, values, and customer needs to ensure the best experience from start to finish.

Create customer experiences that drive growth and promote customer loyalty

Consumer preferences are shifting quickly, and while some hallmark values such as value for the money remain top of mind, to reap the rewards of increased sales, customer loyalty, and brand perception, retailers would be well-served to focus on crafting experiences that meet and exceed their customers' expectations.

For more information and useful tools to develop and enhance operational practices that can support the delivery of consumer expectations and your ideal brand experience, explore Steritech's assessment services. Through on-site coaching and robust reporting and business intelligence via our proprietary OnBrand360® customer portal, Steritech partners with brands to close performance-impacting gaps and create customer experiences that drive sales and growth, promote customer loyalty, and reduce risk.

To discover how Steritech can help you deliver on your ideal brand experience every time, everywhere, send us a message or give us a call at 1-800-868-0089 today.

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