Research: How the Retail Customer Service Landscape Has Shifted

Research: How the Retail Customer Service Landscape Has Shifted TW

At this point it goes without saying, but the world shifted online rapidly in 2020. According to our recent research of over 500 US consumers, 71% reported shopping online more frequently during the past year. But what is more insightful, is how many of those respondents will continue to shop online more frequently once the world goes back to business-as-usual. Of those who report an increase in online shopping, a whopping 85% plan to continue shopping online more often in the future.

Along with this shift comes a shift in consumer attitudes. Customers no longer see relationships with retailers as transactional — they see brands as an extension of their identity. That’s why delivering an exceptional customer experience, and building relationships with consumers, is imperative for business success.

The Online Retail Opportunity

The past year’s rapid shift to digital opens up a massive opportunity for online businesses, but they must be prepared to deliver an exceptional online experience to match their in-store one. And unfortunately, right now, they are not delivering. Eighty-two percent of consumers have had a bad customer service experience with at least two retailers in the past year, and 93% of consumers think contacting retail customer service should be more convenient. This is up from 78% in 2019, meaning that consumers think customer service has been moving in the wrong direction.

The Need for Speed

The pandemic caused an uptick in inquiries for many businesses, even if their sales were down. Consumers had more questions while they could not shop in-store, and many retailers were running into hiccups when it came to shipping and fulfillment. Because of this, 42% of consumers think their time is not valued by retailers, with that number growing to 52% for consumers 65+. These individuals may not have shopped online previously, and needed more assistance than younger consumers, leading to their frustration with inevitable wait times.

On average, most consumers get annoyed after waiting just four minutes for a response from customer service, and 64% of consumers would never shop with a retailer again if they abandoned a customer service conversation before being helped. It is imperative, then, for customer service organizations to improve efficiency without impacting effectiveness.

Support teams are bogged down with manual, routine tasks that consume agents’ time and effort, and result in long response and resolution times that frustrate customers. Currently 50% of customer service agents’ time is spent searching for information and performing repetitive, manual tasks. This is no longer sustainable. Retailers should tap into the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to eliminate the menial, repetitive, and time consuming tasks with intelligent automations that can detect intent, collect relevant information, automate agent interactions, and route conversations based on customer data or request type. Intelligent chatbots are now able to deliver contextual and personalized information that feels human, and can seamlessly hand off to agents when necessary. With the right technology agents can focus on building relationships with customers and fixing complex issues in a timely manner.

Want to learn more about how to deliver on modern day retail customer service expectations? Download the full report here.

 

How Consumer Behavior Is Fueling the Future of Retail CX

How Consumer Behavior Is Fueling the Future of Retail CX TW

A whole new demographic of buyers were forced to do their shopping online in the past year, and leaned more heavily on customer service teams to feel comfortable and confident about their purchases. While post-transaction support, like order status and return initiation, likely will never subside, CX teams can now take on more of a revenue-generating advisory role, answering product questions or directing customers to better alternatives.

Kustomer talked to thought leaders in the customer experience space to understand what they think the future of retail CX looks like, how to re-create the in-store experience in an online world, and what tools and strategies brands should tap into in order to achieve this. Read on for a preview, and access the full e-book here.

The Shift to Digital-First

With most businesses closing their storefronts (at least temporarily) or minimizing capacity during the global pandemic, consumers were forced to shift their shopping online. While it is inevitable that commerce will partially shift back to brick-and-mortar once things go back to “normal”, there is now a massive new pool of consumers that are comfortable shopping online, and you can expect this increased volume of e-commerce and digital inquiries to continue. In fact, according to Shopify, a whopping 84% of consumers shopped online during the global pandemic, and 48.8% of consumers will continue to shop online more frequently after the pandemic is over.

It is imperative to consider how new online shoppers will be interacting with your brand in a digital-first world. How do you make it easier for them to get their questions answered? How do you make sure you’re able to surface the correct information and resources to a customer in their times of need? How do you ensure you are able to deliver a seamless experience when consumers switch channels or move from in-store to online?

Creating a Unified and Effortless Experience

According to Alexander Richards, Director of Partnerships & Business Development at Medallia, the future of retail involves seamless and connected shopping experiences. “For a long time now, online and in-store shopping have been treated as separate entities that fall under the same brand, and sell the same goods, usually leaving advocates frustrated. Just because a brick-and-mortar store uses one POS platform, an online store uses another, and they don’t talk to each other, this shouldn’t impede the sales and support teams. Most of all, it shouldn’t impede the customer,” says Richards. “Brands are becoming smarter, more customer-centric, and know they need to meet their customers where they are in this omnichannel world. Our jobs as technology companies are to provide solutions to enable and support these effortless experiences.”

Incorporating digital-first support strategies into the overall online customer experience will make a huge difference when it comes to brand equity and loyalty. Consumers that perhaps would walk into a store to check out a product or ask a question to an in-store representative, now require that service in an online environment. Instead of tracking down a phone number or e-mail address, a chat widget or in-app messaging may be the most convenient option to get a question answered. In fact, according to recent consumer research conducted by Kustomer, live chat continues to grow in popularity with consumers, now ranking as the second most popular channel to get customer service problems solved.

Keeping Things Personal

However, digital CX should not mean impersonal CX. Customers still want to be treated like real human beings, with unique thoughts and preferences — not like anonymous transaction numbers. According to Kustomer research conducted during the pandemic, the top three most valued customer service attributes are:

  1. Empathy
  2. Personalization
  3. Speed

In order to truly deliver the in-store experience in a digital world, retailers must not lose the human touch. Consumers expect to be treated with empathy and personalization, even when they aren’t interacting with a company representative face-to-face.

Says Blake Morgan, Customer Experience Futurist, Bestselling Author, and Keynote Speaker, “The future of retail is personalized. Retailers will use technology to create bespoke experiences that are completely tailored, at scale.”

Want to learn more from CX experts on how to recreate the in-store retail experience online? Check out the full e-book here.

 

What the 2020 Holiday Season Reveals About the New Role of CX

What the 2020 Holiday Season Reveals About the New Role of CX TW

2020 likely changed the CX industry for good, and there may be nothing more ill-advised than to ignore the lessons learned during the past year. The twists and turns were endless, but the holiday season presented a whole new set of challenges. What is already a stressful time of year, was now uncharted territory.

In an effort to understand more thoroughly how retail and e-commerce CX organizations were impacted during the 2020 holiday season, and how the customer service landscape has shifted compared to the previous year, Kustomer went out and surveyed over 100 CX professionals. Read on for a preview of our findings, and download the full report here.

New Normal, New Challenges

An increase in inquiries was not the only challenge that CX organizations faced during the 2020 holiday season. Retail and e-commerce organizations were also facing limited staff, frequent shipping issues and more challenging inquiries.

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Additionally, most of the challenges that these teams faced were even more intense than during the previous year. More than half of respondents reported that wait times, shipping issues and challenging inquiries all increased year-over-year, while just under half of respondents reported more unhappy customers, more digital inquiries, and less resources to resolve issues.

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At the same time, CX organizations were expected to provide quick AND personal support. Doing more with less was the name of the game during the 2020 holiday season, putting an immense amount of pressure on agents.

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CX Throughout the Buyer Journey

According to our research, it appears that both businesses and consumers are starting to adopt a new mindset around the role of CX. Support inquiries were split somewhat evenly across the customer journey during the 2020 holiday season, surprisingly with the least percentage of inquiries coming post-transaction.

What the 2020 Holiday Season Reveals About the New Role of CX Inline 4

The most frequent inquiries that CX teams received during the 2020 holiday season truly spanned the customer journey, with most seemingly coming pre-transaction, when consumers had questions about products they were considering.

What the 2020 Holiday Season Reveals About the New Role of CX Inline 5

As was previously discussed, a whole new demographic of buyers were forced to do their shopping online, and leaned more heavily on customer service teams to feel comfortable and confident about their purchases. While post-transaction support, like order status and return initiation, likely will never subside, CX teams can now take on more of a revenue-generating advisory role, answering product questions or directing customers to better alternatives.

It’s important to take this new role into consideration when planning out a holistic CX strategy. These more consultative conversations will require more time and knowledge. Perhaps this means that more busy work can be delegated to technology. Perhaps this means that the “measure of success” for agents must expand beyond just handle time. Perhaps it is necessary to share the information received from customers with the product or marketing teams, to improve the website experience or optimize product development.

The role of CX has transformed dramatically over the course of the past year, and some of these shifts are likely to stick for good. While this could mean more work for CX organizations, it also means that CX now has the opportunity to not only build customer relationships, but impact an organization’s bottom line.

Check out our full report for details on how inquiry volume increased, what returns season looked like, and how retailers coped during this extraordinary holiday season.

 

Introducing: CX Stories From the Frontlines

Introducing: CX Stories From the Frontlines TW

CX can be a complicated business. Whether you’re juggling dozens of channels, looking to scale, or want more insight into your team’s performance, it can be complex and intimidating to even know where to start. Do you hire more agents? Do you ask for more budget? Do you invest in new technology? Is there REALLY a magic bullet to your problems?

There is never a clear “right” answer or strategy to any given question, but it’s helpful to understand how other businesses approach their problems. And that’s why we are introducing CX Stories from the Frontlines, a blog series that will showcase how REAL brands are tackling REAL problems with Kustomer.

Have a good story to share? Reach out to marketing@kustomer.com and we’ll include you in the next iteration.

Online Fashion Company Increases Chat Adoption With Additional Entry Points

A subscription fashion service had a big goal for 2021: to increase their chat usage for their platform in order to increase efficiency. According to recent Kustomer research, chat is the second most popular channel for consumers, and among the top three cheapest for brands to manage. Kustomer performed an audit on the business’ use of chat and helped them implement chat throughout different entry points on their site. This makes it easier for customers to reach out to the support team without having to search their site or switch channels, while also increasing adoption of the method. The brand also wanted visibility into when chats were coming from web vs. app, and to be able to capture and report on missed chats. Since the project has launched, they have increased their chat penetration to 17%, putting them well on their way to achieve the 21% goal for Q1 2021.

Men’s Wellness Company Unifies Data to Simplify the Agent Experience

This leading online brand creates personalized hygiene products for men, but they were finding it difficult to locate the information they needed to service customers efficiently. Kustomer integrated with their e-commerce platform so that all of the customer’s data, including subscriptions and orders, was in one place. Next, Kustomer suppressed the unnecessary notifications from their e-commerce platform that did not add value. This allows their agents to quickly find the information they need without digging through the noise that they don’t. Finally, the brand was able to implement automations that turned some of their frequently used processes into a simple button click. Updates to subscriptions and refund processing can now be updated directly in Kustomer without having to ever leave the platform.

Online Retailer Measures Impact of Logistics Changes on CSAT

A US-based, online women’s retailer wants to improve the customer experience for their international consumer base in 2021. As part of that, they switched couriers for international orders at the end of 2020. Kustomer suggested that the brand implement a multi-query custom report to get a better sense of how they’ve been performing historically, and understand how CSAT may shift once these operational changes take place. Kustomer put together customer report templates for the brand, and the information was eye-opening for them as it had never truly been examined. These reports also put the foundational blocks in place for the retailer to keep an eye on international customer satisfaction, and shift strategies as needed.

We want to hear from you! Let us know if you’re tackling CX problems in an interesting way and we will feature you in the next CX Stories From the Frontlines.

 

Kustomer to Showcase its Customer Service Platform for Modern Retailers at NRF 2020

The retail world is coming to New York next week for the National Retail Federation’s ‘Big Show’ and we’ll be there at Booth #962. Over 38,000 attendees and more than 800 companies will be descending on the Javits Center from January 12th-14th to share perspectives, experience new technologies, and chart a vision for 2020 and beyond.

The 2010s forever changed customer expectations. And by the end of the ‘20s, we believe that the top retailers will have built lasting customer relationships by creating differentiated, frictionless customer experiences that focus as much on how they serve customers post-sale as they do on the rest of the customer journey. Retailers that unify customer data and empower their agents will better understand customers and deliver personalized experiences, however they happen to engage.

The good news is we can help. If you’re going to be at NRF 2020 Vision, our team of service and technology experts are available to discuss forward-looking customer experience strategies. In addition, we will demonstrate how the Kustomer platform can help you blow away the competition in the years ahead by providing real-time, actionable customer views, continuous omnichannel conversations, and intelligence that automates customer and agent experiences.

While you’re at our booth (#962) you can also pick up a Kustomer beanie to keep warm during the walk from the convention center to your hotel and other activities around New York. You’ll also be able to enter our twice daily drawings at 1PM and 4PM to win gift cards from leading customer service retailers we’re proud to call our clients, such as UNTUCKit, Glossier, and Away.

And of course stop by the Kustomer Stage (Hall E, Level 1) for insights on the future of retail from leaders at brands like L’Oreal, The Vitamin Shoppe, Lush Cosmetics, Williams-Sonoma, Zappos, Patagonia, and more.

If you can’t make it by the booth (#962), but still want to chat about how Kustomer can help you reimagine customer service, please contact us, anytime.

 

What Consumers Expect from Retail Customer Service

Modern day consumers don’t think of relationships with retail brands as simply transactional — they see brands as an extension of their identity. That’s why building relationships with customers, and treating them as part of the brand, is imperative for business success.

According to a new Kustomer survey, nearly eight in ten Americans say that they wouldn’t shop with a retailer ever again if they encountered bad customer service.

From social media to old fashioned emails, Americans contact retailers 125 times a year – that’s every three days. The survey of 2,000 Americans asked their thoughts and opinions on customer service practices and experiences – and found that Americans aren’t that forgiving when it comes to bad customer service experiences.

In order to remedy their relationship with retailers, 82 percent of respondents are in agreement that retailers should proactively reach out when there is a problem with an order. Those most likely to agree with this sentiment were those aged 55 to 64 and those 65 and older – at a whopping 90 and 94 percent, respectively.

One point of contention between generations, is whether retailers should know their consumers and personalize their interactions with them. Of those age 25 to 34, three-quarters said they expect this personalized communication from retailers, whereas those 65 and older disagreed with this notion at nearly 40 percent.

“It’s clear that the digital age has transformed what the modern day consumer expects from retailers,” says Brad Birnbaum, CEO of Kustomer. “The younger generation not only wants instant resolution to their problems, they also demand personalized interactions and availability across all channels. Retailers must put a customer service strategy in place, and leverage the right tools, to deliver on these expectations.”

This older generation also disagrees with the age-old expression that “the customer is always right” – at 58 percent; but over half of those 65 and older, get very frustrated when they have to repeat information to customer service – that’s 10 percent more likely than those aged 18 to 34.

Sixty-six percent of those aged 25 to 44, however, do agree that “the customer is always right.”

Perhaps speaking to this expression, over half of respondents said they would post an online review after a bad customer service experience, and another four in ten (41 percent) would take to social media to complain.

In order to avoid the hassles of bad customer service experiences, 74 percent said they would spend more money just to get better customer service.

“Customer service can impact business success from end to end,” says Birnbaum. “Delivering a bad experience could not only mean a lost customer, but also a PR nightmare. Conversely, by providing exceptional service, customers are willing to spend more time and money with your brand, building brand loyalty and lifelong customer relationships.”

Read our retail report to access the full survey results, including insights on the importance of real-time support, personalization and omnichannel service.


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Customer Service for the Digital Age

Customer Service for the Digital Age Blog Header

From transactions to experiences, see how today’s customers are changing customer service

The digital age has forever changed the way companies do business. Direct-to-Consumer brands now make up 40 percent of the manufacturers, cutting out middlemen and offering personalized, nimble services and products to their customers. Amazon has redefined our notions of speed, convenience and selection, and companies like Airbnb, WeWork and Car2Go have revolutionized the economy allowing users to exchange the downsides of ownership for the upsides of sharing.

Meanwhile, companies like Birchbox and StitchFix have built up sizeable customer bases—and built-in loyalty—through subscription box services, and companies from Glossier to Parachute are joining the $50 billion pop-up industry, creating customer experiences that unite brick-and-mortar shopping experiences with the nimbleness of online shopping. The result? A business landscape where convenience, personalized service and customer experience are king.

New Generation, New Customer Expectations

But the digital revolution has affected more than just the way that businesses interact with customers. It has also changed what customers expect from businesses. More than three quarters of Americans now own smartphones and communicate regularly through social media platforms like WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook. Modern-day consumers live in a world of interconnected platforms, instant communication, and personalized experiences—and they’ve come to expect the same from brands. And, as millennials become key customers and Generation Y gives way to Generation Z, expectations for quick, easy and customer-centric customer service will only grow.

Already, nine out of ten customers say they prefer to contact a company through messaging, 70 percent of customers say speed a top priority in their shopping experience, and 64 percent say that reducing the effort it takes to engage with a business is a key concern. Ultimately, however, the millennial customer is looking for more than just a product—however good it is, or how speedily it’s delivered. They’re looking for a customer experience, a lifelong interaction with a brand that is more about relationships than transactions.

Out With Old Customer Models, in With the New

In this new business landscape, businesses cannot rely on old models of customer interaction and support. To survive in the world of Amazon and eBay, where inventory is endless and speed is the rule, they must distinguish themselves by finding proactive and creative ways to build long-term relationships with customers over time. And to do this, they have to find new ways to identify and track the changing needs, experiences and expectations of their customers, providing fully-integrated, personalized, 360-degree support over the customer’s lifetime.

Moving from Transactions to Relationships

To provide this kind of support, companies must stop seeing customer interaction as a transaction and start seeing it as an ongoing conversation. Customers are not reducible to tickets, or to emails in a queue. They are complex human beings with a variety of motivations, and they bring a unique history to every customer service interaction.

Unfortunately, many companies are still relying on the old model of customer service, where they treat each new interaction as a separate event handled by different people across a variety of siloed platforms. In this model, there’s no way to store, share and track the customer’s history and past conversations, so customers are forced to repeat their issue to each new service agent. And this is no way to build a relationship!

Imagine if every time you met a new person, you had to tell them your name and life history all over again. It would be exhausting and insulting—and yet, it’s what companies expect customers to do each time they call with a question or problem. No wonder customers rank having to repeat information as their number one customer service complaint!

Know Your (Whole) Customer

To attract, satisfy and keep new customers, companies need to know who their customers are, where they’ve been and what they need. Understanding the context of a customer’s call—from the number of times they’ve ordered a certain product to the issues and conversations they’ve had with agents in the past—allows companies to deliver a more efficient, more personalized, and more proactive service.

Creating an omnichannel system that collects all of the customer’s history in one place transforms the customer service interaction, allowing agents to quickly identify problems, suggest solutions, and preempt future issues. Seeing that a customer has a long history of buying a certain product, for example, can allow an agent to suggest other products they might enjoy, while knowing what prompts a customer to engage with customer service can help the company direct them toward the best platform for resolving their issues. This approach doesn’t just save time by eliminating the need for unnecessary repetition. It also allows companies to build customer histories that ensure proactive, personalized and conversational service—and long-term customer loyalty.

In the modern business climate, the companies that will succeed are the ones that meet people where they are: anytime, any place, and on any channel. But the most successful companies will go beyond offering efficiency and access to a whole new philosophy of customer engagement, building systems that allow them to understand and serve the whole customer. See how Kustomer is setting the standard for customer service in the digital age in this on demand webinar.

 

How 4 Retail Brands Deliver Modern Customer Support

What are the core principles of a modern retail customer experience? Personalization, curation, agility, and community. Direct-to-consumer retail brands use owning the design, marketing, distribution, and support of their products to build deep relationships with consumers. As a result, many DTCs have transformed customer support into personalized experiences that build loyalty and lifetime value.

Luckily, Kustomer works with many of the leading DTC brands. So we’ve pulled together a few of their customer service secrets for you:

Glossier builds products with their community of fans

A lot has been written about the CX revolution led by cult-fave-turned-unicorn beauty brand Glossier. A key part of Glossier’s success has been thanks to community building (the brand was of course born out of a popular blog) and the customer experience team, called their gTeam, has been instrumental in growing and engaging this community.

Glossier’s gTeam plays a foundational role in bringing community feedback into product design. The company is known for transforming customer feedback into hit products (see: Milky Jelly Cleanser). “They help us figure out and predict all of the questions or concerns that our customers might have about the product,” explained Jessica White, the executive director of customer experience, to Glossy.

 

 

The gTeam editors also go beyond transactional support (shipping, coupons, etc) to deliver complimentary style recommendations. The editors focus on specific channels, including ones not typically covered by support teams, like FaceTime. In combination with digital tools like the Shade Finder app and content illustrating how products look across a range of skin tones, this approach has helped the beauty brand recreate the experience of shopping in a makeup store.

“Instead of limiting interactions with customer service, which is the norm in the industry, we strive to create conversations with our customers,” continued White to Glossy.

The results of this CX investment for Glossier? Reddit threads literally raving about the brand’s customer service.

ThirdLove invests in a culture of CX and smart data

ThirdLove shook up the women’s undergarment industry with personalized recommendations for every body type, money-back fit guarantees, and diverse product models. Which brings to mind the now-famous Victoria’s Secret founder story of feeling unwelcome in the women’s section of a department store and proves how CX complacency can lead to history repeating itself — disruptors becoming the disrupted.

Customer service is such an important differentiator to ThirdLove that the brand invests in Customer Experience centers designed to be great places for their support teams to work. (Proof? There’s even an office slide.) ThirdLove’s Fit Stylists who work there receive training to make customers comfortable during their journey trying and buying intimate apparel, a personal process that can make or break customer loyalty.

As the company’s co-founder and co-chief executive officer, David Spector, explains to Apparel News, “We want to provide exceptional customer experience to people. The only way to do that is with our own team.” Spector also points out that the U.S.-based Experience Center helps ThirdLove’s Fit Stylists form deeper connections with their American customers than outsourced support would.

Like Glossier, ThirdLove also incorporates customer feedback and data into its buyer journey. More than 13 million women have completed ThirdLove’s online Fit Finder tool, resulting in more than 600 data points the brand uses for product development and delivering recommendations back to customers.

Outdoor Voices invites participation in

With a brand that’s about #DoingThings, Outdoor Voices is another DTC brand thriving because of its (extremely on-Instagram) community. The Outdoor Voices Brand Reps play a key role in letting customers know what the brand stands for, why it’s different, and what each clothing item was created for. According to Muse, Outdoor Voices HQ and Brand Reps have monthly video chats to discuss brand news and initiatives.

To make contacting support simple and on brand, Outdoor Voices has a welcoming page and easy-to-navigate support page. By making its email contact “hello [at] Outdoor Voices,” the “support” vibe is swapped for a friendlier, conversational tone.

Like other leading DTCs, Outdoor Voices leverages customer support as a product and trend feedback engine. The company’s recent job posting for a Customer Experience Manager explicitly lists a requirement to “Operationalize customer data and feedback, both within the team (e.g. measure and improve Associate performance) and the company at large (e.g. make customer trends actionable).” This invites fans into the product development process, with customer support as the entryway.

LOLA designs support workflows for empowered agents

Like ThirdLove, LOLA is disrupting traditional brands in another very personal space for women: feminine care and sexual wellness. The brand’s customer service team must handle deeply personal topics from customers, often over email. To return the trust their customers have in them, LOLA’s team goes above and beyond to make sure their products are rushed to women wherever they need them. From sending tampons to a customer’s hotel via Uber, to overnighting condoms so that they arrive in time for a honeymoon, LOLA works overtime to create a memorable experience.

For a recent product launch, the Lola team took it as an opportunity to both reward loyalty and gather feedback. They sent 100 loyal customers mailers of their new Sex by LOLA products. One customer even emailed to say that she loved the products and, as a single mom, they inspired her to start dating again.

For a brand that empowers and informs women, LOLA’s team needs to be just as empowered and informed by their technology solutions to deliver great service. Context Cards enable the team to take direct actions such as modifying, cancelling, or scheduling a subscription, and checking on shipping status for an order. Clicking on “Modify,” for example, takes them directly to the customer’s subscription, where they can edit the frequency, products, etc. This makes it easier for the team to spot orders that have been placed, but may need modifications. LOLA has a search for customers who have emailed and placed an order in the past day, so that agents can make modifications to the order before it actually ships.

Key takeaways:

5 ways to deliver CX like DTC leaders

  1. Consider customer service on the front lines of community and relationship building, not simply a necessary business cost.
  2. Operationalize mining customer conversations for product feedback by support to bring product ideas back into the company.
  3. Use technology to compliment the role of support agents, through algorithm-based recommendations, self-service fit finder tools, and seamless exchanges/returns.
  4. Empower your support teams to go beyond transactional support, have social conversations, and reward loyalty.
  5. Build service conversations off a shared history and understanding that customers are people, not support tickets.

These approaches can benefit any brand, regardless of business model, because they’re key to delivering the type of service customers want and expect. Evaluate your own service operation to see how you compare to these DTCs, and then look for scalable opportunities to deliver a more modern experience — it’ll pay off in community, loyalty, and lifetime value.

Learn more secrets of DTC brand leaders in our downloadable guide.


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How Beauty Brands Can Use Customer Experience as a Differentiator

How New Beauty Brands Disrupt the Industry

The growing number of beauty brands fighting for market share are all looking for an edge. Whether it’s standout branding, a breakthrough product, or a unique story—to succeed, you have to get your customers’ attention. However, there is one surefire way of separating yourself from the pack: Service.

Download whitepaper: How New Beauty Brands Disrupt the Industry

Glossier’s gTeam is a CX Dream Team

New beauty brands have found that service can solidify relationships with their customers. Glossier’s gTeam is a best-in-class example. The dedicated staff of editors (Glossier’s special designation for service employees, rather than “agent” or “associate”) work to deliver personal, one-to-one service to their devoted fanbase.

The team works directly with the marketing and product development departments, providing advice on how to improve R&D and drive brand loyalty and repeat business thanks to their insight from working in direct contact with customers.

“Instead of limiting interactions with customer service, which is the norm in the industry, we strive to create conversations with our customers,” says Jessica White, Executive Director of Customer Experience, in a recent exclusive with Digiday.

Learn more about how Kustomer helps Glossier’s gTeam win a devoted following in this whitepaper.

Sephora’s Experience Transcends Digital and Physical

Beauty retailer Sephora has made real investments in uniting their physical and digital store operations into a single unit to deliver a 360-degree experience in-store and online. “If a customer browsed online then bought in store, we can see that. We just weren’t looking at it before, but it’s a win for both channels,” says Mary Beth Laughton, Sephora’s SVP of Digital, “We’re more aligned, and we can move faster across in-store, online and mobile strategies. Mobile is the glue that holds it all together.”

Now Sephora’s popular in-store makeovers have an added digital element. Makeup artists log each product they use in the Sephora app, so that customers can use it as a shopping list later online or at the counter. Similarly, customers can now use Sephora’s Virtual Artist augmented reality tool for to purchase the products they’ve “tried on” virtually in the app online, or find out where they’re located in-store.

Combining these teams helps drive customer loyalty, combining the perks of both channels and pooling data to deliver more-personalized recommendations and offers. “My new team brings loyalty to the forefront since we’re better positioned to understand customers across channels,” said Laughton, “Loyalty is a data-driven ecosystem, so that’s hugely powerful.”

A Truly Beautiful Experience

A smarter experience across digital and brick-and-mortar touchpoints goes a long way towards cementing your relationships with customers. In a space with as much competition and personal attachment as beauty, standing out with a next-level experience is crucial for retaining an edge over the competition. And no matter the channel, agents need to be equipped and empowered to take the experience further and truly delight your customers.

Download whitepaper: How New Beauty Brands Disrupt the Industry

The Future of Retail: Four Essential Takeaways for B2C and DTC Brands

Kustomer’s Future of Retail event brought together business leaders from leading modern B2C and direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands, featuring a majority of female founders and executives across the agenda. Together, they discussed the trends that are shaping the retail and DTC landscape today, and what it takes to compete and thrive in this world.

We covered a range of topics, from understanding the customer to creating a consistent experience in-store and online and growing a business. However, four main threads emerged from all the conversations at the event:

1) Experience is the differentiator for modern brands

Now every retail brand, digital-first or established legacy, is in competition with Amazon. It’s unlikely that most will be able to compete on choice, ease of use, or connectivity of their product ecosystem. The only sure way to win is on experience—curation, community, and content is where you’ll be able to stand out.

A simple, clear business model means you can set yourself apart with your experience and service. Lola does more than deliver all-natural feminine hygiene products, their intuitive subscription service and direct-to-consumer prices, plus their commitment to a personal and engaging experience, makes them much more appealing than mass-market brands.

Fast delivery and a good website is not enough, instead customers crave a community and a genuine experience. Women’s workwear brand Argent even calls their pop-up stores “Community Centers”, where they host events themselves and from members of the community—with the end-goal of adding value to customers’ lives. You can learn more about using pop-ups as part of your retail strategy in our report here: Digital First, Store Next.

Similarly, cycling brand Rapha received a shout out for their innovative Club Houses. Instead of traditional brick-and-mortar retail, they’re a hub for Rapha customers, where they host events, local artists, athletes, and speakers, plus organize daily rides.

As Aniza Lall, Chief Merchandising Officer at Bluefly, summarized: “Commerce, content, and community: the brands that can monetize those channels are going to succeed.”

2) You need an omnichannel approach to connect every touchpoint

From first touch and acquisition to the post-purchase experience, you need to be able to trace a solid line following your customer along each.

More brands are getting their start on Instagram like AYR, or as a source of content like Glossier, and scaling from their with a handful of products. It’s crucial to be able to capture all the information about those early fans that you can, because they will form the core of your audience and define your brand experience.

Eleanor Turner, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Argent, described the importance of connecting these dots: “Experience is such a buzzword today, but it’s really all about creating an experience that’s unique to your brand, personal, and streamlined end-to-end.”

3) Subscription is the future of customer loyalty

New, digital-first brands are shifting their business model to become part of life and rhythm of the customer. For these businesses, profit comes from retention and lifetime value, and you need to know whether or not customers are happy based on their actions, not their words. Doing so can drastically raise their lifetime value.

Men’s subscription box Sprezzabox uses a loyalty program to reward customers based on how long they’ve been a subscriber, giving them access to higher-quality items and delighting them with special offers.

Feminine hygiene brand Lola partners with other brands like Cuyana, Warby Parker, Equinox, and Harry’s to extend their value proposition and reach new audiences.

Material World has shifted their focus from being a marketplace for secondhand luxury items, to building an ongoing relationship by having customers exchange their old clothing and other items for a new pre-owned set each month. As Rie Yano, the company’s Co-Founder and CEO described, “People used to use the brands they shop for as their identity, but now identity is about how you spend your money, not what you spend it on.”

Brands like Rent the Runway and Material World provide more value for customers with a service that replaces ownership with an ongoing relationship with a brand.

4) Stay laser-focused on what your customers love.

Even as you grow, you need to keep the core facets of your brand and experience that your customers love at the forefront.

Women’s clothing brand AYR launched on Instagram and social 3 months before their product lineup fully launched, just to communicate with their customer and get feedback. It’s remained a huge driver for their business: “Our biggest win has been having a direct line to the customer. We launched our t-shirts, plus-size jeans, and eco-friendly products based solely on customer feedback.” Co-Founder Max Bonbrest also gave a big shout out to Glossier for the same reason, “Having an engaged community before you start selling a product is a huge benefit. The best example of this is Glossier, obviously.”

Similarly, Lola’s brand is built on what real women have to say about feminine hygiene. After having a number of conversations while coming up with Lola’s brand direction, founder Alex Friedman had an epiphany: “I realized that there are all these moments where stigma leads to a lack of discussion. I see our job as contributing to the conversation in those areas and extending the brand in those directions.”

Whether your brand is just getting started or has established itself over decades, the discussions at Future of Retail reiterated that success in the modern retail landscape is grounded firmly in gaining better customer understanding, and delivering a powerful, connected experience.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this event possible, we’ll have even more awesome events and informative conversations like this one coming soon!

How to Turn One-Time Shoppers Into Repeat Customers

What we learned from our webinar with DSTLD and Optimove

How do you keep customers coming back? Our latest webinar answers just that question, and features DSTLD Customer Experience Manager Laura Gramlich (read our guest post from Laura here) and Optimove Solutions Engineer Leigh Noy, hosted by our own Senior Manager of Marketing Programs Stacey Dolchin. We discussed how to build loyalty with the rush of customers that companies acquire during a busy period. Whether that’s holidays, product launches, or special events, you need to prioritize loyalty and retention to be successful.

Our conversation with DSTLD and Optimove brought up an array of useful insights for dealing with these issues, perfect for any brands looking to build a stronger relationship with first-time buyers.

DSTLD is a brand that prioritizes their end-to-end experience to turn their customers into diehard fans. By selling high-quality denim and basics directly to consumers at a fraction of the price of bigger brands, they’ve struck a chord with fashion-enthusiasts. Their unique offering drives interest, but it’s important to keep these shoppers coming back for more. DSTLD has a few strategies for this:

Individualized and Personal Customer Service: By integrating their existing shopping platforms with Kustomer, they can view orders and customer conversations together. By having this information in one timeline, it’s easy to deliver fast, intuitive assistance.

Real-time Chat: One of the highest rates of drop-off for an ecommerce site occurs when a customer has issues prior to and at checkout. After launching chat on their site, DSTLD was able to respond immediately to their customers and answer their questions, resulting in a higher conversion rate at checkout.

Post-Purchase Automation: If deliveries are delayed due to a weather event, DSTLD’s goal is to identify customers who may be affected by using Kustomer, and then reach out to those who have been affected with an automated message that allows them to easily pick the next course of action.

Improved Returns Experience: DSTLD has made their returns experience a priority, constantly innovating and scaling up in the offseason to deliver the best possible experience when demand is high. Their new process for exchanges makes completing them even easier, meaning customers receive their item even faster than before.

Optimove picked up where DSTLD left off, sharing how to retain customers and build engagement after a high-demand period. They suggest following 3 key steps to make a difference in your experience to build a bond for life with customers.

1. Detect and Reward Your VIPs: VIP’s (the top 5% of customers) are responsible for 60% of your revenue according to Optimove, so it’s crucial to find them and treat them right. Look at the journey of your current VIPs to identify future candidates, then give them early access and special offers — but don’t take your current VIPs for granted, either.

2. Create a Plan for Post-Holiday Retention: The average transaction amount during the holiday season is 30% higher for repeat customers than new customers, but newly acquired customers during the holiday are 90% less likely to return for repeat business — making it all the more crucial to have a retention plan ready.

3. Strategize for The Long Game: The chances of making another transaction increases as the number of initial transactions increase — that means there’s a real incentive and knock-on effect to converting first-time shoppers. Analyze them, and apply what you’ve learned from your multi-time shoppers to convert more first-timers into repeat customers.

Clearly there’s real value in focusing on a long-term strategy for getting customers to buy from you again and again, beyond simply making more sales. Repeat customers are more loyal and enthusiastic for your brand, and buy far more than the shoppers who just stop in when demand is high. A solid strategy, top-notch experience, and a commitment to finding and encouraging the customers who are most likely to keep coming back is what will make the difference for your business — and knowing everything about your customers makes it that much easier.

View all our webinars here.

’Tis the Season for Returns

With the Holiday rush behind us and both Black Friday and Cyber Monday a distant memory, a new season for retailers is just beginning. That’s right, when all those regrettable gifts from in-laws and mis-sized sweaters go back where they came from — with the express expectation that they’ll be returned or exchanged without a hassle. According to the National Retail Federation, 8% of total sales are returns — and that number will only rise alongside online shopping, as 1 out of every 5 items bought online is returned.

Returns are an increasingly crucial element of the customer experience. The rush and excitement of buying is replaced by frustration and boredom, and customers want the return process to be over as soon as possible. As a result of their rising frequency, customers have come to expect clear and agreeable terms — the lower the bar to return, the more likely they are to buy. UPS’s research even shows that 15% of customers will abandon their cart if the policy isn’t clear.

Providing a better return experience might feel like hiking uphill in a headwind, but the retailers that are able to overcome the logistical complications will see real rewards. Not only will shoppers be more inclined to buy, they’ll also shop some more if they have to return. UPS also found that 70% of online shoppers made another purchase when returning in-store, and 45% bought something extra when returning online.

Prioritizing the return process means connecting your view of the customer across your service teams and fulfillment partners. However, that prep will be invaluable once the return season is in full swing. Kustomer client DSTLD—a digital-first retailer that sells high-quality, affordable denim and basics—found that laying the groundwork for their exchange process in the offseason paid dividends in terms of customer experience over the holidays. “We’ve created a new process for exchanges to make completing them even easier. As a result, our customers receive their item even faster than before, giving them a better customer experience and helping us stay competitive. Then, when the winter season gets closer, we hire seasonal workers to meet the influx of demand.” Said Laura Gramlich, DSTLD’s Customer Experience Manager.

Returns are, increasingly, inevitable. But with planning, you can deliver a demonstrably better return experience, encouraging customers to shop without fear of a harrowing trial when they get to the service desk. This leads to more willingness to buy, and they may even add a few extra items to their cart as they bring back back a pair of jeans that wouldn’t have fit in middle school. And, by enabling your service teams and streamlining your view of the customer, Kustomer can make that return experience that much better. ’Tis the season!

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