The nature of the customer experience within e-commerce has never been more vital to the life of a brand than it is at this moment. While e-commerce (buying over the internet) has been growing in leaps and bounds before the pandemic, online shopping quite simply exploded in 2020. In August and September, Digital Commerce 360 asked 100 e-commerce executives what their budgetary priorities were for the coming year and 51% reported back that e-commerce platforms were at the top of their list. So while research showed that prior to 2020, 15% of Americans purchased products online at least once a week, and 28% shopped online a few times a month, that number has expanded exponentially with the onset of the pandemic and doesn’t appear to be slowing.
At the close of 2020, e-commerce sales accounted for 14% of all US sales. And while 2020 was a year that had very specific limitations, the e-commerce landscape continues to grow and thrive. At the forefront of this growth and expansion is the customer experience. With a world of options, the ability exists to forge bonds with a brand and cultivate ongoing, consistent consumer loyalty. Successful customer interactions translate to yielding higher profits, and position a brand to enjoy success in the long term. E-Commerce customer service trends tell us that consumers value their experience over goods and services they receive. They expect highly personalized interactions which demonstrates the importance of actual connection over generic, robotic responses.
How Can You Make the E-Commerce Customer Experience Work
There are several avenues that can not only improve the customer experience but also enhance brand visibility. From social media to return/exchange instructions, to clearly articulated warranties to shipping practices to software solutions to an empowered customer service team, these factors can all make a profound impact on the customer’s experience with your brand.
Leveraging a customer-centric, omnichannel approach for e-commerce retail is key to addressing service issues, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Not only is the omnichannel system not confined to typical business hours or time zones, it imparts a personalized experience each time the customer engages with a brand. Incorporating digital-first support strategies, like utilizing a chat widget, in-app messaging, and efficient email practices will ensure that assistance and resolution are just a click away. Helping consumers resolve issues quickly and reducing the need for direct communication vastly improves brand equity and customer loyalty.
When interaction beyond self-service support is necessary, an omnichannel approach also empowers your team members. An omnichannel strategy, versus multi-channel, links all customer touchpoints for a seamless rather than siloed and disjointed experience. Whether via live chat or phone, this strategy provides context for the service agent. For example, if a customer sends an email on a Sunday night, and then reaches out again via live chat on Tuesday, omnichannel support software can capture the history of communication, no matter tha channel, in a single view. When the agent reaches out, they have a full context to immediately address the customer issue in a personalized manner. An agent who is empowered with knowledge can deliver a positive brand image while going that extra distance on behalf of both the consumer and company.
No matter what stage your e-commerce business is in (whether starting or scaling), it is important to set the foundation for success within your e-commerce customer service team.
Working the System
In addition to enhancing the e-commerce experience by establishing a comprehensive software system, there are other facets that will assist in supporting and bolstering overall customer experience. Refining and clarifying each step of every interaction, not just the product pages themselves and point of sale, will encourage and maintain those important customer impressions. Avoid hiding or minimizing information that will assist any customer in handling and resolving an issue, even if it is returning a product.
• Policy Information: Documentation gives your team a set protocol to refer to when they have questions, as well as seamless access to information needed to answer questions without delay.
• Shipping & Delivery Policies: Eliminate second-guessing with clear shipping updates and options as well as delivery notifications.
• Exchanges & Returns: Making the policies clear and understandable from the start of the shopping experience will foster customer trust and clarity in the event of a return or exchange.
• Warranties: Providing detailed and accurate product information is key. This includes clearly defined specs and descriptions of each item as well as transparent warranty information.
Consumers value brands that are honest and transparent. More and more they are gravitating toward brands that stand for something, have a strong mission or ethos, and share similar values. Social media is a powerful way to engage your customers and share your business’ victories, social justice work, and even any brand challenges. This is certainly true of last year. The pandemic created all kinds of interruptions, delays, and shortages. Communicating challenges and delays via social media became an important facet of customer relations. Your customer will always appreciate transparency and knowing what’s going on, and why, will impact their impressions of the brand and buying experience.
Proactive rather than reactive support measures are optimal. Better to anticipate needs rather than be in the position of constantly reacting to complaints or issues.
While we emerge from the limitations of Covid19, e-commerce shopping remains embedded in our new normal. It’s become part of our collective lifestyle rather than merely a novel or occasional shopping choice. It is critical that your customers receive quick, personal responses to their questions and issues in order to maintain customer satisfaction and loyalty.