Mar 9 | 5 min read

Six Retailers That Are Killing it with Customer Experience in 2020

Customer experience is becoming the main thing retailers are competing on in 2020. Here are six brands doing it the best.

Aila Staff

In its yearly report on customer experience (CX), Forrester reported that CX scores for 81% of brands stagnated in 2019. In a time when eight out of ten brands say they expect to be competing on the basis of experience, this presents an opportunity for brands to differentiate themselves from competitors. 

Here are six retailers doing just that in 2020 by making customer experience innovations in key areas.   


1. Home Depot

A booming economy and low unemployment rate are typically good news for home improvement brands like Home Depot. Capitalizing on consumer confidence, Home Depot is making DIY more desirable for consumers through an initiative called “One Home Depot.” 

This omnichannel approach spreads customer experience upgrades across a number of steps in the buyer’s journey, including: 

  • Updated search and navigation on its website
  • Expansion of its home delivery network to up to 95% of U.S. consumers
  • New in-store signage to make it easier to find items
  • The addition of pick-up lockers in its stores
  • Equipping associates with devices that show real-time inventory data, making it easier to replenish shelves and bins.

The changes appear to be working, with Home Depot reporting higher-than-expected profits for the fourth quarter, 2019. 


2.  The Vitamin Shoppe

Handing out free samples has long been a marketing technique of brick and mortar retail, particularly in supermarkets. The Vitamin Shoppe has co-opted the free sample concept and taken it a step further by personalizing and automating the experience. 

“The shopper views 15-second product videos that alternate with product images and a free samples promotional offer, and then touches the item they would like to try.” 

This self-service process takes the pressure off of consumers who would like to try a supplement, but want to avoid the sales pitch. At the same time, The Vitamin Shoppe gains valuable consumer insight data about which types of products consumers are interested in trying, and which product information they respond to. 

3. Whole Foods (via Amazon)

While long lines and high prices at the supermarket may signal a thriving business, they can also alienate the average shopper. Since being acquired by Amazon, Whole Foods has cut prices and adopted new ways of reducing lines and wait times. 

How are they doing it? Free two-hour grocery delivery service through Amazon Prime, in-store pickup lockers that shoppers can visit on their way home from work, and new price cuts—including special discounts for Prime members—all add up to a big improvement for the Whole Foods customer experience. 

4. Panera Bread

The quick-service restaurant industry in the U.S. is currently valued at over $200 billion per year, with that number expected to continue to grow. Fast-casual has replaced many consumers’ trips to fast food chains as consumers grow more conscious of nutrition. 

Few companies have capitalized on this trend like Panera Bread. Self-service kiosks, online ordering, and a large delivery network strongly position Panera to continue to win over consumers on convenience alone. 

However, with the latest foray into a coffee subscription service, Panera Bread is once again setting itself apart from its competitors. For $8.99 per month, MyPanera members get unlimited coffee in any size or flavor. 

With 40% of consumers spending upward of $25 per month, it’s hard to shrug off the value of the subscription. From a customer experience perspective, however, there’s the added benefit of not having to carefully budget out each coffee you buy. 

For Panera Bread, the service also provides a new way to get consumers into its restaurants where they might also pick up breakfast or lunch. 

5. Trader Joe’s

Consider the usual grocery store CX of large, crowded aisles where it can be difficult to find what you’re looking for; where associates are sparse and many are counting down the minutes until their shift ends.

Now compare this to a Trader Joe’s, where everything you want is contained within a few small aisles and the employees are nearly always thrilled to help you find what you need. 

The way Trader Joe’s regularly tops customer experience surveys is by keeping things simple. 

One of the first things you’ll notice in Trader Joe’s is that its employees seem to like working for TJ’s as much as its customers like shopping there. That’s no accident; employees reported a high degree of flexibility and decision-making power, while also being paid a higher than minimum wage. It’s not a stretch to deduce that happy employees translate to happy customers when those customers benefit from the best possible customer service. 

In the aisle, Trader Joe’s provides only about 4,000 SKUs compared with 40,000 for a typical supermarket. For many shoppers, this makes the trip faster and easier, as they already know that their favorite items are available.

6. Fabletics

In the wake of successful digital-native brands (think Casper, Warby Parker, and Rent the Runway), a new breed of retailer has emerged that provides the data-driven approach of e-commerce with the experience of brick-and-mortar. Kate Hudson’s Fabletics follows this format while also incorporating another booming business model: the subscription service.

To take advantage of in-aisle real estate, Fabletics innovated on a retail mainstay—the price checker. Unlike traditional price checkers, however, their Interactive Kiosks display much more than prices. Shoppers will find:

  • Real-time inventory information for different sizes and colors
  • Customer feedback in the form of reviews and “true-to-size” survey results
  • Product details, including material composition

Most importantly, the kiosks show customers the price that a Fabletics member would pay for the item, adding an incentive for in-store shoppers to sign up for the subscription service that sits at the core of Fabletics’ offerings.

Aila’s Interactive Kiosk helps retailers like Costco, Big Lots, and American Eagle boost the CX across the in-store shopping journey—from point of entry to point of sale. 

Check out the retail brochure to learn more: 

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