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How Customer Experience & Expectations are Changing in Retail & Hospitality

It’s no news that customer experience in retail and hospitality venues is changing. Technology is evolving, expectations are higher, and businesses are having to work harder in order to ensure they are giving consumers the ‘on-demand’ treatment that people are now so used to.

Advancements in technology and service that were not long ago ‘wowing’ customers have become the norm, therefore it’s taking more for businesses to impress and stand out from the competition.

In retail, for example, physical stores are constantly having to compete with ecommerce businesses like Amazon. The convenience and ease of online shopping allows us to find a product and complete the purchase within minutes - whether we’re at home or on the go - making it the preferred way to shop by 51% of consumers.

However, physical shopping experiences are still a source of pleasure and social enjoyment for many, and the evolution of bricks-and-mortar spaces has proven that they will still reign as the preferred source of discovery and inspiration for shopping experiences. After all, one area in which ecommerce cannot compete is the level of sensory engagement in retail stores, which, despite developments in personalisation and augmented reality online, will never be emulated there.

Nevertheless, physical venues need to progress their in-store experiences to ensure they are ahead of the game. While many stores are still adapting to technologies and upgrades such as contactless payment and loyalty schemes - basic expectations of modern retail - others are going above and beyond to surpass the desires of consumers.

The appeal of the ‘concept store’ is now very apparent, and large brands in particular are beginning to invest more into inspirational and interactive store experiences. The whole idea of this is to offer consumers a way to connect with the brand, experience more of their offering, and become a part of their community.

This concept can be related to expectations in various sectors, as we know that consumers respond very well to fulfilling experiences that elicit an emotional reaction. They want to test, taste, compare and learn - as well as leaving satisfied with a purchase. In turn, this engagement can aid the business by resulting in longer customer dwell-time, increased spend, return visits and recommendations.

Adapting to customer expectations is also extremely important across the hospitality industry, as supported by the Harvard Review’s findings that consumers spend 140% more in venues when they’ve had a positive experience. This is why customer experience is highly correlated with loyalty - one area in which bars, restaurants and the like should be investing in.

Using technology, successful businesses are now employing loyalty schemes and targeting consumers at different stages of their journeys - when a booking is made, prior to their visit, once they have left a venue, etc. This not only allows them to build a relationship with the consumer, but also enables them to collect further data for future use, such as personalised advertising and messaging to specific groups and individuals.

For example, imagine if the restaurant you were booked into greeted you with a complimentary bottle of wine after learning from data collection that it was your birthday; or perhaps a hotel you stayed at noted your booking of a fitness class and provided a free gym pass on your next stay. Advanced efforts like this achieve high levels of interest and result in increased customer loyalty, and with so many successful businesses now employing these, consumers will start to notice when they are absent. This should not be seen as a concern to operators, but rather an opportunity to interact more closely with consumers and keep them coming back.

Learn more about using integrated loyalty schemes with Startle Loyalty.

Another significant factor of customer experience in venues is the speed and ease of service. The evolution of technologies that make purchasing processes more efficient, such as self-checkouts and mobile payments, demonstrates how the industry is striving towards this more streamlined experience. What’s more, as retail and hospitality businesses now have the means to tackle issues like long queues and poor card machine receptions, the risk of frustrated customers, who aren’t seeing their needs met, is higher.

A recent report by restaurant POS service provider, Toast, found “a disconnect between restaurant owners’ and restaurant goers’ outlook towards newer restaurant technology.” In particular, they focussed on the use of handheld tablets by restaurant employees, and how this affected dining experiences. The results were that 68% of consumers agreed that the use of tablets by servers improved their experience.

Having such technologies available can now enable retail and hospitality businesses to make tasks such as taking orders, splitting bills and submitting customer requests much easier, and the findings that consumers welcome these suggest higher expectations. Before long, using tablets mobile technology and the like to streamline customer experiences will become standard, and for businesses with a disconnect to technology, this is bound to impact their bottom line.


At Startle, we understand the importance of delivering a great venue experience. That's why we developed our Music, Quiz and Display products - to help businesses provide an outstanding experience for their customers, resulting in higher customer satisfaction and, subsequently, increased revenue for the business.

We've now developed a comprehensive loyalty system for retail and hospitality businesses that makes implementing a loyalty scheme much easier. Startle Loyalty allows you to capture customer data, segment your customers, issue rewards and handle redemptions at the till. Click here to find out more!