Solid Customer Experience and Trust Are Key in Growing eCommerce
Aug 19, 2015
eCommerce has evolved from a novelty, since its inception with the World Wide Web some 20 years ago, to a practical and ubiquitous channel. It has replaced faxes, paper catalogs, and to a considerable extent, in-person purchases. Entertainment and travel have become digitized, replacing music and video stores and ticket agents. eCommerce has made considerable inroads in bricks-and-mortar retailing, enabled by faster, more reliable, and cost effective fulfillment and shipping. It now sets the pace in retail, with stores often becoming showrooms, i.e. “showrooming”, for online purchases and handling customer deliveries and returns.
However, a new Frost & Sullivan paper, “Enabling Successful eCommerce for Small Midsized Businesses”, warns that eCommerce is running into roadblocks that threaten to impede its growth. The report points out online sales conversions continue to be low, particularly on mobile devices, as compared with bricks-and-mortar retail. Consumers generally appear to obtain information online, then shop in-person, i.e. “webrooming”, or if they buy online they do so on a laptop or desktop computer.
There are several reasons for these developments. First, online shopping still has a ways to go before it can provide an excellent Customer Experience, as one would come across buying in person. Many sites are still not “eCommerce friendly” through poor design and navigation. In addition, there is still not yet the degree of knowledgeable and personable “can I help you” commonly found through web sites as there are in stores. Oftentimes customers know more about the products than the agents, which does not help with customer relationships. Too many retailers make it difficult to shop with mobile devices, as the information is often hard to find on sites accessed through them. And all too many companies process returns slowly.
As a result, too many customers abandon online shopping carts, or shop once and never return or as often. But some items, particularly those that are customizable and high-touch, will never be popular online.
Secondly, many retailers have still not grasped the need to provide or have successfully executed truly omni-channel Customer Experiences, with consistent information and service to customers across all channels. Each touchpoint, whether chat, phone agents or store clerks, must have the same and latest exchanges, interactions, and comments with and by customers.
Third, eCommerce is only as good as its people. Companies must have excellent compensation, fair hours, and quality management to attract and retain high quality, helpful, motivated, and professional staff.
Finally, and most critically, there is the issue of trust with eCommerce. Customers trust that the products they ordered are going to be delivered to them on time, damage free, with their payments handled securely, their returns taken care of promptly, and with excellent service at each step.
However, all too often the eCommerce chain breaks down. Some of the problems include items not matching the descriptions, the wrong items being sent, deliveries left unattended and unsigned for, sent to wrong addresses, and stolen or broken goods. Sometimes delivery drivers fail to note the names and addresses of the persons signing for the items or whom they delivered them to. Or they take up passing individuals’ offers to deliver the packages, accepting at face value their statements that they know the recipients, not realizing that these people may be thieves. This makes investigations by the customers or shippers (the retailers) almost impossible to conduct and conclude.
Nonetheless, there are methods that can help avoid or minimize these issues. For example, delivery companies can require receivers to show tracking numbers, record their names and addresses, and verify their identities.
But the best solution is for all parties in the eCommerce chain to look at their processes and ask themselves and their partners: “how can we make this experience better for the customers?” In short look at eCommerce from the customers' POVs: such as when they buy online. With these insights, each market player will fully understand which tasks to execute to increase customer purchases and customer loyalty.
Brendan Read is Senior Industry Analyst with over 25 years’ experience covering business, communications, staffing, and technology. He has worked in, prepared reports, and blogged on a wide range of topics including customer contact, CX, CRM, IoT, social media, supply chain, and BC/DR. He also has backgrounds in construction, manufacturing, materials, resource extraction, site selection, and transportation. He examines the broad economic, environmental, innovation, political, and social mega trends, and their impacts on businesses, markets, and society.