How Tech can Elevate Customer Experience for small Retail Businesses

We know that small retailers are hugely valued for the personalised service and bespoke products they offer. Whilst these attributes should of course remain a key focus, there are distinct opportunities for independent retailers to leverage technology in a way that enhances the overall customer experience.

Our research at the start of the year revealed a recognition of this among independent retailers, with technology topping the list (30%) of investment priorities over the next 12 months. The challenge lies in identifying where to best target that investment, and how it might be deployed to reap the greatest rewards.

Elevating personalisation

Undeniably, the best customer experiences are those that feel personalised and memorable, and we’ve seen larger retailers adopting technologies like Generative AI to drive tailored interactions with their customers. For example, AI-powered virtual shopping assistants use natural language processing to understand customer queries, providing an interactive shopping experience.

This shift towards hyper personalisation has led to an uptick in consumer expectations; separate research Amex conducted recently revealed that over two-fifths (43%) of shoppers expect to receive only targeted communications from retail brands.

There are opportunities for smaller retailers to invest in a scalable way to enable more personalised customer interactions. For example, automated emails triggered at specific points in customers’ buying journey, or based on browsing history or previous purchases. This can enhance and underpin the naturally more personal approach smaller retailers take with customers.

Upgrading loyalty programmes

Tech can also be used to drive the impact and effectiveness of loyalty programmes, with many larger brands leveraging customer relationship management software to better track and analyse customer data. There are scalable ways that SMEs can follow suit with similar software and using data analytics to help them better analyse customer behaviour. This helps inform business decision making, but also supports the creation of personalised offers and rewards.

According to our research, 20% of consumers believe that using an app over a physical card is the most important aspect of any loyalty scheme. This preference for digital from tech-savvy customers is an opportunity for small retailers to send personalised offers, notifications and rewards directly via online platforms, enhancing brand experiences.

Making checkout more seamless

Developments in frictionless shopping driven by bigger retail players have revolutionised the industry, transforming customer experiences. For SMEs with an e-commerce presence, allowing customers to create accounts so that personal details don’t need to be manually re-entered each time they visit, or offering a choice of payment options, can make the checkout experience more friction-free. When it comes to the in-store experience, technology of course plays a part, but our research reaffirmed the value of helpful and friendly staff to driving improved customer loyalty.

Consumers are keen to continue shopping small and support independent businesses, that much is obvious from our research. They value their shopping experience with these retailers and recognise their importance to local high streets. When deployed in the right way, technology has a role to play in elevating those experiences even further.