As the number of shoppers for treats and chew toys has blossomed, for PetSmart, it meant it was time to unleash the right customer experience (CX) technology to remove friction from the shopping process. This includes accelerating investments in same-day delivery, appointment scheduling, and personalized emails.
Pet parents turned to PetSmart’s 1,650 stores across North America and its ecommerce site to find what they need to care for their companions. PetSmart was ready to ensure customers had great experiences, whether they were social distancing in-store or ordering online.
Beth McCormick, vice president of commerce and customer engagement technology, and her team were laser-focused on understanding customers and meeting their needs — even before Puppypalooza (or kittypalooza). I met her nearly 20 years ago when she was at American Eagle. Even then, she was on top of the technology that the brand’s young customers embrace. She credits this experience for her foundation in customer-centricity. McCormick recently spoke with me to share her perspective on the need for data to improve the customer experience — and how it helped PetSmart welcome a new generation.
How customer experience (CX) technology meets customer needs on every channel
“In retail, customers don’t care what your organizational structure is. They don’t care about the channel. They just want to be able to interact with the retailer where they want, [and] get what they want,” said McCormick. In fact, our research shows shoppers typically use nine channels to complete a single transaction – and they expect consistent brand experiences across each touchpoint.
McCormick loves figuring out new ways to meet customer needs, including buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS), or meeting shoppers outside of usual retail channels (like social media) in what’s called “shopping at the edge.” PetSmart’s team found that investments to streamline customer capabilities online or in-store at their pet salon, doggie day camp, and more improved their overall experience.
In retail, customers don’t care what your organizational structure is. They don’t care about the channel. They just want to be able to interact with the retailer where they want, [and] get what they want.Beth McCormick, vice president of commerce and customer engagement technology, PETSMART
They also found that rapid fulfillment is critical to an excellent customer experience. During the pandemic, PetSmart rapidly expanded same-day delivery through a partnership with DoorDash. “We were only offering same-day delivery in about 400 stores before the pandemic hit. So we had to make a strategic shift to a new partner and expand quickly across the chain,” said McCormick.
Retailers can learn from PetSmart’s example by anticipating customer needs and meeting expectations across channels. “You can build experiences all day,” said McCormick. “In technology, there are a million bright, shiny objects. What’s going to be most impactful to the customer [and] give them experiences that drive the connection and relationship with the brand?”
How data underpins improvements in the customer experience
Sixty-six percent of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations. Our research also found that 79% said the experience a company provides is as important as its product or services.
You can build an excellent retail experience by knowing your customer and leveraging data to personalize engagements wherever they are on their shopping journey. “Retailers have typically focused on customer transactions, not interactions,” said McCormick.
For PetSmart, data is a strategic asset that personalizes the customer experience. “Data is truly becoming that strategic differentiator that’s enabling not only the insights, but the actions, and ultimately the experiences, that we’re creating for our customer,” said McCormick.
CX technology can help every retailer
PetSmart has accelerated the digital customer experience across all channels amidst the pandemic. With a strong foundation of customer data, every retailer can deliver the personalized experiences customers expect, remove friction from the shopping process, and differentiate themselves in the market.
This blog post is part of our Becoming Retail series, where top retail leaders from great brands share how their personal values, professional influences, and industry experiences inform their leadership.