People who shop across multiple channels—that’s 73% of customers—have a higher customer lifetime value (LTV) than those who shop through a single channel. And a recent study by Salesforce found that 88% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important to them as its products or services.
While businesses should prioritize creating seamless customer experiences, it’s not always obvious what that means. In this guide, we’ll explain what it means to understand your customers, the importance of seamless service, and how Stripe’s approach to unified commerce can enable businesses to create optimal customer experiences.
What’s in this guide?
- What does it mean to understand your customer?
- What is seamless service?
- How to create a seamless customer experience
- How does Stripe enable seamless service?
What does it mean to understand your customer?
The foundation for creating great, seamless customer experiences starts with gaining a deep understanding of your customers and what drives them at various stages of their buying journey.
Please be aware that this guide is for informational purposes, and it is not intended to provide legal advice. Note that privacy laws vary widely across the globe. Please talk to your legal advisors to understand how to collect and use data in compliance with your obligations under applicable laws, such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Developing a strong customer understanding may involve collecting information, including:
Attributes such as age, gender, income level, education, occupation, and family status can help you understand the specific needs and preferences of your target customers.
Your customers’ motivations, aspirations, beliefs, and lifestyle choices are psychological and emotional factors that influence their behavior.
Analyzing aggregated purchasing patterns, product usage, browsing habits, and social media activity can help you identify patterns and preferences that can inform your marketing and sales strategies.
Feedback and reviews
Monitoring customer feedback and reviews on social media, review websites, and other platforms can help you identify areas for improvement and understand your customers’ pain points and needs.
Studying your competitors’ products is a powerful way to help you identify gaps in the market and develop unique value propositions that differentiate your brand.
There are many ways to collect this information and build detailed customer profiles including:
Customer sign-up and account creation
In exchange for perks such as loyalty points, free or faster shipping, or simply the convenience of having payment details on file, businesses can prompt customers to create an account or sign up to make a purchase. This allows the business to collect basic demographic information such as name, email, and shipping address. Information such as a credit card or phone number can serve as a unique identifier to enable more accurate tracking.
Transaction history and card fingerprinting help build an understanding of product preferences and purchasing behavior. Businesses can use purchase history to recommend similar products or create personalized promotions.
Cookies can track customers’ online behavior, such as browsing history and shopping-cart contents. Businesses can use this information to personalize the customer experience and create more targeted marketing campaigns. Efforts around data-driven personalizations should be done in accordance with local regulations and privacy laws, such as the GDPR.
Market research firms
Businesses can work with market research firms to collect customer data through surveys, focus groups, and other research methods.
The next step involves organizing and connecting data. Here are some common ways that businesses do so:
Application programming interfaces (APIs)
APIs are a set of protocols and standards that allow different software applications to communicate with each other. Businesses can use APIs to integrate their customer or payments data with other applications, such as for loyalty or inventory or fulfillment. This can be done through the use of third-party software or by building custom integrations in-house.
Data warehousing consolidates large amounts of data from multiple sources, enabling businesses to get business insights and improve decision-making. With a historical record that serves as the “single source of truth,” data warehouses can provide businesses with a comprehensive view of customer behavior and preferences.
Customer relationship management (CRM)
CRM software can help companies store, organize, and track real-time customer behavior and purchase history. This can help businesses understand which stage of the buying journey a customer is at and provide personalized service or marketing to guide the customer to conversion.
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems
An ERP system is a software solution that helps businesses manage their day-to-day operations, such as inventory and fulfillment. Businesses can integrate their customer and transaction data with their inventory and fulfillment systems to optimize operations, reduce costs, and improve the customer experience.
In addition to the payments side, CRM and ERP solutions can improve the customer experience—and building a strong connection across all three layers is important for making the experience seamless.
What is seamless service?
With seamless service, all touchpoints throughout a customer’s buying journey are personalized, situationally relevant, and consistent, and the experience is effortless and free of interruptions or inconveniences.
Here are some examples of what seamless service might look like in different settings:
A store may offer in-store pickup or home delivery for orders, and customers have the option to make returns, either in-store or by mail—regardless of whether the purchase was made online, in-store, or in-app. Store associates or customer service agents can access a customer’s shopping history without needing receipts to personalize recommendations, monitor order statuses, and issue refunds.
Customers can pay by several payment methods, including: credit or debit cards; local payment methods; bank transfers; buy now, pay later options; and digital wallets. When using one-click checkout, fields are automatically filled to streamline the purchasing process. Customers can accumulate loyalty points across all purchasing channels, and—if they have opted in—they can receive personalized, targeted, and relevant promotions via digital or traditional advertising based on their recent shopping activities or customer profile.
A restaurant may offer curbside pickup for online or over-the-phone orders, and customers can order and pay at their table. Additionally, self-serve kiosks are available for placing orders to reduce the amount of time waiting at the counter. Technology improves the ordering, dining, and payment experience, including sending order updates via text, allowing customers to easily manage their reservations, and automatically recognizing customer loyalty accounts.
A hotel may ensure a smooth experience by making it easy to book and manage reservations over the phone, online, and in-app (e.g., reservation updates can be made over the phone for online bookings or online for phone reservations); offering self-serve mobile check-in and checkout; and opening direct communication with hotel agents for customer or room service via chat or SMS. Guests can add loyalty points to their reservations and place room-service orders using a mobile app, with charges automatically added to their bill. Or their room key card can serve as a payment method itself for purchases made at the hotel restaurant or bar—with a tap of their key card, their credit card is automatically billed.
How to create a seamless customer experience
Seamless service is situationally relevant, personalized, and free of friction. “Situationally relevant service” takes into account the specific circumstances of the customer and where they’re at in their customer journey, to provide the right information or assistance at the right time. It also means customers can transact with a company, switching between channels, without context being lost. By gathering and analyzing customer data, businesses can gain insights into their customers’ behaviors and needs and use this information to deliver more personalized and intuitive experiences, at the right time and place.
Here are some examples of situationally relevant services:
Integrated omnichannel customer service: A key distinction of seamless service lies in the connectivity and back-end communication between different customer-service systems. For instance, when a customer contacts support through email and later follows up via social media DM or phone, the agent should have access to the entire conversation history. This ensures that the customer doesn’t need to reiterate their concerns or provide extra context, leading to a more efficient and satisfying experience.
Personalized product recommendations and retargeting campaigns: For example, if a customer views a product online or adds it to their cart, but doesn’t complete the purchase, the company can send a follow-up email with tailored suggestions based on their browsing history or send them a coupon for the item via mobile app.
Reminders to reorder items: For example, if a customer orders a 30-day supply of coffee, the retailer they bought it from might send them text or email reminders after 20 days asking if they want to order again.
By providing targeted and situationally relevant service, businesses can improve customer satisfaction and retention, as well as increase revenue and profitability. According to a report by McKinsey, 76% of customers are frustrated when they don’t encounter personalized experiences when interacting with brands. And the same study spoke volumes about consumer behavior as a function of personalization: 78% of customers surveyed said they are both more likely to do business with a brand again if they offer a personalized experience and they’re more likely to recommend that brand to family and friends. The takeaway is clear: customers are more likely to engage with, return to, and recommend businesses that provide personalized and tailored experiences.
Businesses can start creating situationally relevant, personalized, and frictionless service by:
Auditing their buying journey
Businesses should identify all the touchpoints in the customer journey, including prepurchase, purchase, and postpurchase interactions. This will help them understand where customers may encounter roadblocks or obstacles, which will reveal opportunities to fix points of friction and add new touchpoints.
Using data to personalize experiences
Targeted marketing customizes messages, ads, and offers for specific audiences based on demographics, interests, or behaviors. The goal is to increase relevance and drive customer action through personalized content. For instance, a store can suggest related products to customers who made a prior purchase or use targeted emails to remind customers of abandoned carts. Analyzing purchase frequency can also prompt subscription recommendations or reminders to repurchase. Loyalty programs might offer personalized rewards, based on the customer’s past purchases or other characteristics.
Investing in technology to streamline processes
Businesses should simplify and streamline customer-facing processes to eliminate friction. This may involve automating processes or employing tools like CRM and ERP systems to improve order fulfillment and customer support interactions.
Continuously monitoring and improving
Seamless service is not a “set-it-and-forget-it” concern—it requires the continuous monitoring of customer feedback and metrics to identify areas for improvement and opportunities to further refine processes. This could involve conducting surveys, analyzing customer and sales data, and tracking customer satisfaction scores.
How does Stripe enable seamless service?
Stripe’s unified commerce solution addresses concerns on both the front and back ends of a business. On the customer-facing side, Stripe enables businesses to accept a variety of payment methods and support a wide range of use cases across different channels, such as online, in-store, and mobile. Stripe solutions remove friction at checkout and match how customers prefer to transact, whether that’s a specific payment type, experience, or channel. On the back end, Stripe enables unified reporting for a more holistic view of your business so that you can improve business intelligence and streamline operations such as inventory management and order fulfillment.
Here are a few ways that experience comes to life through Stripe solutions:
Support multiple channels and payment methods
Stripe offers support for emerging channels such as in-store mobile payments and tableside payments. Stripe Terminal supports a range of checkout use cases, from handheld to countertop to tableside. Businesses can manage in-store queues and offer checkout anywhere in the store, using features like Tap to Pay. Additionally, Stripe-designed smart readers can be transformed into all-in-one devices, to manage tasks like order management and loyalty in addition to payment acceptance.
For businesses looking to reduce friction at checkout, Link automatically fills customers’ saved payment details, allowing them to check out faster. Payment Links also enables businesses to create shareable links to sell across multiple channels, like chat, social, and mobile.
With Stripe Billing, you can bill and manage customers however you want—from simple recurring billing to usage-based billing and sales-negotiated contracts, allowing you to collect more revenue. Features like Smart Retries and card account updater go even further to remove friction from the customer experience around recurring payments while also helping businesses reduce billing-related churn.
Across all of this, Stripe’s support of various local payment methods and payment types allows customers to pay with their preferred method, making the payment experience more convenient.
Engineer true channel convergence
With a unified approach, businesses give customers the ability to engage across multiple channels during the buying journey. For example, with Terminal and Billing, a customer could start a subscription in-store and receive their deliveries at home. This creates a seamless experience for customers, regardless of the channels they choose to shop on.
Create consistent customer identities across channels
Stripe Payments and Terminal use the same card fingerprint and customer object across online and in-person purchases, providing a single source of truth for customer data. By creating a consistent customer identity across channels, businesses can capture a single view of customers, regardless of the channel they use to make a purchase. This enables businesses to provide situationally relevant and personalized service.
Centralize customer and payment data
Stripe Apps lets you connect and customize Stripe with the services and systems you use to run your business. Find apps on the Stripe App Marketplace or create one for your team’s specific customer workflows. Integrating with apps for marketing and sales, data and analytics, and support makes it easier to improve customer engagement, gain insights, and save time and effort. The benefits of a unified commerce reporting system also extend to store associates, who can provide better customer service when they are empowered to access more data in one place. With access to real-time data facilitated by Stripe Sigma and Data Pipeline, store associates can make more informed decisions, such as offering personalized product recommendations or identifying and resolving issues with order fulfillment.
With Stripe, businesses can provide a continuous experience as customers transact and engage across multiple channels. The result is higher conversion, increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, and higher customer LTV.
For a deeper dive into what unified commerce is, what it can do for businesses, and how Stripe powers it, read our complete guide here.
To learn more about which Stripe solutions best serve the specific needs of your customers, contact sales.