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In Focus: Connected, comfortable, omnichannel - reigniting a love of physical fashion retail

Hazel Morton
04 May 2021

Customer-obsessed innovator Hazel Morton leads the UK marketing team at Critizr, the business behind Europe’s leading Customer Interaction Management platform. Named in CX Network’s 30 Under 30 game-changers within customer experience, Hazel shares her insight as fashion retailers begin to gear up for a return to physical shopping.

The big picture for retail and what 2021 has in store for ‘stores’ continues to be hard to grasp. Like everyone working in the industry, I obsess over the headlines, the insight and analysis to stay a step ahead. But at Critizr, we decided to do something more.

Our business has consistently championed retail’s frontline teams as the people in prime position to drive a great customer experience. Wouldn’t these same people be able to offer the best, most accurate and up to date insight about what to expect – and what to prepare for – as physical shopping returns?

We asked over 100 of retail’s biggest hitters exactly that, and the results provide an invaluable guide to what customers want and expect as the UK’s route map out of lockdown starts to emerge. You can download the full research here, but meantime here’s a preview of what we uncovered: the hot topics, headlines and how retailers should be managing the careful reopening of our beloved high streets.

Put customer comfort at the heart of everything 

Every single person we spoke to said COVID-19 had impacted their physical customer journey – and customer comfort and safety is now at the heart of the customer experience. Whether it’s sanitizing stations, traffic controls, social distancing stickers or tech solutions like QR codes, retailers see safety and confidence as the foundation stones. Get them right and good things will follow.

Listening to customers in real-time is a vital part of creating that safe, comfortable environment. Whether it’s finding out that the sanitizer pump is blocked or hearing that a member of the team has gone over and above with their service, listening to the customer voice leads to positive action that ultimately benefits the whole business. As one manager told us:

“The voice of the customer is important because it allows us to better respond to their request and to keep a little humanity.” Retail Concession Manager, Fashion Retailer



Celebrate local connection

If a global pandemic can be said to have some silver linings, one of them is this: 72% of the fashion retailers we spoke to said their local teams have built even more of a connection to their customers since COVID-19. That’s second only to grocery.

Staying at home has been hard. We all crave human connection. Shops and our local high streets are a vital part of our community and local teams now have a unique opportunity to deliver real, human connection. Whether it’s the way customers are greeted at the door or how staff help them navigate ‘the new normal’, local teams are the eyes and ears. Now is the time to find ways to tune into their daily experience, obsess over their on-the-ground insight and build it into 2021’s customer experience strategy.

Omnichannel shopping – the new balance 

There have been high-profile casualties but some brands thrived in 2020, particularly online-only retailers. Ramping up the online operation may have been a baptism of fire for some, but the flip side is that they now almost certainly have new data and insight at their fingertips. The challenge is to integrate that into the physical store, which is perhaps why 72% of our respondents said omnichannel purchase methods were a priority for the year ahead.

This is about integrating the online and physical brand presence seamlessly, listening and interacting with customers no matter how they choose to communicate and actioning feedback at every step of the journey. It’s about bringing both together, whether that’s slick, safe, click and collect or an enhanced returns process. And it’s also about giving local teams the tools to amplify their success to boost their online reputation: sharing reviews, responding to feedback and ranking their performance against competitors.

A final thought

If the past year has taught us anything, it's that we shouldn’t try to predict the future. But we can learn from the present, investing in the ties between our customers and local teams, and ensuring these interactions shape the journey at every step of the way. That doesn’t have to be complicated. One of the comments from our research that struck me was from a CEO who simply said: “Every day we tune in and we prioritise taking action.” Words to live by.

Critizr Connection is Europe’s leading Customer Interaction Management platform. Founded in 2012 and used by over 80 of Europe’s biggest companies, it is transforming the way businesses interact with their customers, take action, resolve issues and create stronger relationships across multiple channels.




*The Critizr November 2020 Customer Experience survey consisted of a sample of 114 retailers in both the UK and France and across various industries. All data was captured between 19 October and 18 November 2020.

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