Customer experience in the race for retail transformation

By focusing on the most important piece of the puzzle, the customer, retailers can improve their digital experience where it really matters.

Some retailers are losing sight of the most important piece of the puzzle in attempts to drive digital transformation. I’m talking about customers. They’re the ones who use technology and determine whether it adds value to their lives.

No matter what industry you’re in, a poor customer experience is never good for business. This has become more important than ever in the digital age, where a slow online shopping site or a hard-to-navigate mobile app is all it takes to send potential customers heading for the exit. There’s little point introducing features that provide ‘wow factor’ if a customer can’t easily browse your online store and click purchase.

Cloud technologies have provided endless scale to deliver new and improved services. But none of this matters if the customer experience is poor. A customer doesn’t care what technology you’re running. They just expect it to work

A 2018 Riverbed Retail Pulse survey, asked retailers what they’re doing to improve the customer experience. Almost half (49%) said that quickly deploying new innovations and apps is a key focus. Further to this, 54% said they were monitoring and adapting experiences based on real-time shopping behaviours to improve the customer experience and keep ahead of the pack.

But worryingly, 60% said ensuring technology works properly, is a hurdle in their digital environment, signalling a need to evaluate the underlying systems driving it all.

This is a hard time to navigate new technologies in the retail world. Customers gravitate to companies that do digital well and the standards set by global competitors are pressuring local retailers into lift their game. So, it’s understandable that some businesses fall into the trap of introducing too many technology toys in an attempt to signify a point of difference.

Retailers know getting the digital experience right will lead to significant financial benefits. Getting it wrong puts future growth at risk. Forrester Research estimates 30% of companies will see a decline in digital experience quality this year and, as a result, slower growth.

Whilst analyst firm International Data Corporation (IDC) [KM1] projects that $2.1 trillion will be spent on digital transformation by 2021, it has also found more than 70% of organisations that have embarked on digital transformation journeys are struggling to achieve progress.

This is partly down to short-sightedness – deploying technology for technology’s sake, without considering how it will impact the overall user experience and key measures such as speed and ease of use.

Is the in-store Wi-Fi stable enough to support the virtual reality (VR) shopping experience we are deploying? Is my network agile enough to spin up a new store quickly if I need to? Do I have visibility into how my app is performing for the end-user? These are all questions retailers need to ask to ensure they don’t get caught up in the glitz and glamour of new technologies before considering the performance of the underlying network.

There are exciting opportunities for retailers to take customer experience to the next level with technology. And while change certainly doesn’t come easy, building networks with customers in mind will always provide the best possible experiences.

Keith Buckley is VP of Riverbed Technology A/NZ. Riverbed enables organisations to modernise networks and applications with industry-leading SD-WAN, application acceleration and performance management solutions. Learn more at




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