In today's global retail industry, the customer experience matters more than ever before. Why? Customers' expectations have increased.

Research companies like The Temkin Group, which focus on the customer experience, have found retailers are now willing to make even larger investments in customer experience improvements during 2015 and beyond to shrink the number of unhappy customers.

Making a bigger investment in the customer experience shows retailers and enterprises in industries like banking and finance, insurance, telecommunications, and real estate, are headed in the right direction. But the question is whether they understand what actually makes customers unhappy in the first place.

After all, if 96% of unhappy customers never complain and 91% defect to the competition, there is a critical need to understand more about what is making customers unhappy.

What Retail Customer Expect

The Temkin Group also identified three main components to a retail customer's expectations. The components include:

Functional:
Accessible:
Emotional:

The Challenges of Meeting Retail Customer Expectations

Delivering these three components is a different story because of a number of problems that are inherent in today's retail processes. As a 2014 Business Insider article noted, the reality is many shopping centers are shuttering their doors as major retailers downsize their physical locations.

Whether it is a busy holiday shopping season or even just a typical weekend, retail customers typically experience long lines, paper work, duplicate efforts on the part of retail staff, and even concern over fraud or identity theft. By the time a customer is done with their experience, they may feel confused from the chaotic environment, exhausted at the thought of all the paperwork involved, and frustrated due to the time it has taken to get through a transaction.

As a result, the customer feels they had to do a lot of the work in order to give the retailer their business, yet their expectation was for a convenient, fast, accurate and safe experience. After being diagnosed with customer fatigue, they will prescribe themselves with the competitor's solution.

Changing Traditional Retail Processes

In a 2014 report, entitled "Creating a Seamless Retail Customer Experience," The Economist's Intelligence Unit noted some key trends that are changing traditional retail processes and leading to the development of new enterprise solutions for all segments of the retail industry.

Omni-channel Operations:
Implosion of Internal Silos:
Platform Combinations:

Solutions to New Retail Challenges

New technology companies are addressing these critical challenges and rapidly evolving shopping experiences by offering solutions that bring some order to the chaotic and often fragmented retail environment. One of the main areas identified that can make a significant difference in the level of customer fatigue is to streamline the retail process and remove excess paperwork.

Eliminating Documentation

This new technology focuses on collecting identification documentation at the start of the retail transaction, which establishes the customer's identity and authenticates their presence in the transaction. This alleviates any future need to further check this aspect of the process, making less work for the customer. Using digital application forms also removes the time-consuming manual effort of filling in this type of information, which results in lower administrative costs and relieved customers.

By capturing the information from the digital application and securely uploading it to the cloud, the data is there to complete the transaction and protected from misuse or theft. Other features like optical character recognition allow a retailer to capture card images and details for future use and maintain that information in a safe manner.

Increasing Personalization

Other technology takes this foundational framework for changing the traditional customer experience and adds further functionality to help larger retailers enhance interaction. This means adding features that personalize the experience for customers, nurturing that emotional component of the customer expectations. Being able to track customer purchase behavior has been proven to be a successful strategy with retailers. Combining this aspect with a more efficient transaction process helps retailers satisfy the other components of functionality and access. Additionally, adding features that provide a way to address the trend of omni-channel platforms include mobile device management and online functionality to provide continuity and deliver personal experiences.

When traditional retail transaction processes no longer work for today's customer expectations, making effective changes involve disruptive solutions that innovate enterprise processes. The development of technological advances in the retail industry is exciting to watch, like those being created by Australian company, Vodlo. Vodlo is founded by Aniket Tapre along with cofounders Matthew Adams and Daniel Aiello who's goal is give businesses a competitive advantage in a consumer driven environment.

As the opportunity for efficient, paperless, fraud-free retail enterprises that satisfy customers grows exponentially, consumers will be better served and retail stores will become more profitable.

Published on: May 30, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.