In these uncertain times, trust is a must

The General Election earlier this month saw a wave of uncertainty sweep the UK – and it’s a feeling that can make people behave far more cautiously in the retail space.

In the midst of one of the most unpredictable election campaigns to date, many retailers experienced a sudden dip in figures as the nation eagerly awaited the results. Even the great John Lewis admitted both sales and footfall dipped during the run up to May 7th.

The arrival of the election highlighted just how  dramatically an uncertain environment can affect attitudes amongst consumers. And it’s not just a major political events that can cause this; any economic, cultural or environmental change can make consumers more reluctant to loosen their purse strings.

With so many variables influencing their lives, consumers crave consistency – something they can rely on to meet their expectations. And this is something retailers should be providing.

John Lewis may have experienced an election blip, but to many they’re still a standard bearer for customer-centric retail. Recently celebrating their 150th anniversary, the brand has managed to maintain an excellent image amongst UK consumers – creating a sense of trust even throughout the most challenging of times. In fact, a study by analysts Nunwood revealed that consumers identified John Lewis as the most reliable in the country.

So how do other retailers create equally consistent customer experiences? There will always be consumers that abandon baskets, but a negative experience in store will make this far more frequent. Providing a seamless bricks-and-mortar experience significantly improves brand image and keeps satisfied customers coming back.

Staff play a fundamental role in ensuring the customer leaves happy. For example, poor product knowledge can lead to consumers looking online for answers, yet it is impossible for staff to know everything off the top of their head. So why not give them the tools to bridge this gap?

Technology has the power to bring digital capabilities into the bricks and mortar environment. Not only that, but it provides a platform for real-time communication with head office; senior decision makers can share crucial data on merchandising, availability, promotions and so forth, all of which feed back into creating better store experiences for the customer.

And don’t forget these communication channels are two way; sales associates have a direct line to head office for any customer queries that arise, enabling a swift and effective response.

With the right level of communication across the business, retailers can respond to the needs of individual customers, and create the consistently impressive experiences that engender long-term trust. This way, no matter the state of the economy or the severity of the weather, they  control over the perception they give to consumers.  can still act as an umbrella to shield their customers from uncertainty whilst in their store.