Digital Maturity in Retail: How Leading Brands Stay Competitive with Customer-Led Growth

A customer on their couch with their credit card orders something on their phone

In this interview, digital experience expert Devon Upton shares how leading brands expand their feedback programs to achieve digital maturity in retail.

Retail is considered one of the most mature verticals in the digital experience space. And it’s no wonder why. Remaining competitive in retail requires a digital-first mindset. In fact, by 2023, ecommerce will account for more than $6.5 trillion in sales, representing 22% of all global retail sales, and by the year 2040, it’s estimated that 95% of all purchases will be through ecommerce platforms.

Leading retail brands understand that capitalizing on digital optimization requires more than a functioning website and a social media presence. Truly differentiated retailers prioritize the online customer experience, knowing it impacts sales in every channel.

We sat down with digital experience expert Devon Upton to talk about how leading retail brands are providing intuitive and seamless digital experiences, and how Medallia’s DX maturity model is an invaluable tool for helping them get there. Devon works directly with some of the world’s largest retailers to strategize and scale digital customer experience programs.

How are leading brands thinking about digital maturity in retail today?

Retail is not a one-size-fits-all space, so a lot of my customers think about maturity very differently. That said, most of my clients are well beyond the “beginning” phase, and somewhere in the “integrating” or “innovating” phase. They have listening posts in place on key customer journeys, they’re engaging customers on different channels, and they’re integrating feedback data with other tools to create a holistic view of the voice of the customer.

The most mature retail brands I work with are approaching experience as one of their top differentiators, and ultimately, they’re asking themselves one big question: How can we use customer experience data to transform the way people think about our brand?

When I meet with these retailers, they’re asking me questions like, How can we democratize our data so teams can act on it quickly? How can we use the data we have to personalize every interaction for our customers? How can we engage customers in the moment on the digital channel?

By the time retailers are asking these questions, they have executive buy-in. The entire company is centered around the idea that excellent customer experiences will drive business growth. This is a big step for a company to take, so I see fewer retailers at this stage. But those who are see stunning results.

Can you talk more about those results? What are some business outcome differences between a mature vs. an immature program?

At Medallia, we talk about the concept of “customer-led growth.” Customer-led growth is an approach where brands collaborate with their customers to identify areas of improvement. It’s like we’re all on a team, working to make the experience better.

The secret to customer-led growth is we’re not burdening the customer by constantly asking for their input and opinion. Instead, we’re getting smarter about how, where, and when we collect customer data, and then we’re actioning it effectively, in a way that’s relevant to end users.

A great example of customer-led growth is expanding your program beyond just feedback. Don’t get me wrong — feedback is the lifeblood of any experience program — but survey fatigue is real. Some of the most mature retailers are leveraging digital experience analytics alongside feedback. For example, identifying high customer engagement and then using that data to trigger a promotional offer in real time, as the customer is browsing through your products.

Customer-led growth may sound hard, but the good news is, it’s really not. It’s just a matter of getting the data you need, and then setting up processes so you can consistently leverage that data across the organization.

How are you seeing leading retailers leverage customer data? What does that look like?

In the most mature programs, we see retailers taking customer data from every arm of the business, and using it to predict, automate, and unify the customer experience across every journey. The results can impact every imaginable business goal, from decreasing operational costs to increasing customer lifetime value.

One of my favorite examples to bring up is a client who gave their contact center team access to session replays from customers’ digital experiences. So whenever a customer called in to the contact center, the agent could pull up the relevant session replay and truly empathize with the customer while resolving the issue much more quickly. Brands who have an eye to this omnichannel experience — who can take one data source and distribute it across multiple teams — are the true leaders into today’s experience marketplace.

In your opinion, how is the digital experience space evolving? What do you think leaders need to prioritize to remain competitive?

The digital experience space, especially for retail, is always changing. The best retailers I work with recognize that fact, and are working to become as agile and flexible as their customers need them to be. They’re also focusing on anticipating their customers’ needs and consistently creating those personalized experiences that emotionally resonate with customers. Because when it comes down to it, how a customer feels about your brand is your brand identity. End of story.

Want to learn more about the four phases of digital maturity in retail? Download Medallia’s Digital Experience Maturity Curve, a step-by-step guide for creating an experience program that takes into account every digital signal and activates the entire organization with digital insights.