When omni-channel commerce goes wrong (part 2)The right combination for an impeccable customer experience
As I mentioned in the last article, many retailers still have not perfected their omni-channel strategy - often at the cost of customer satisfaction. The gap between what customers expect and what is provided to them, is still very wide. These differences in customer expectations and the retailer's offers can be mitigated by relatively simple measures:
Customer expectation #1: Customers want to be able to order online and offline and preferably that these two options are coordinated with one another
Often the interaction between different divisions of a company is less than ideal: customer information, offers and rebates as well as order and delivery status have to be available to customer service personnel and marketing staff, as well as offline. Logistics companies and parcel services must also be integrated into this information spiral. Uniform coordination processes, in addition to using the right software, is the lifeblood of every efficient omni-channel strategy. This also includes optimizing the online stores for new technologies, such as smartphones, tablets, smart watches or even Google Glass.
Customer expectation #2: Customers want to be properly informed about the shipping status of their order and be able to return products easily
Many retailers have developed a very cumbersome return process; customers have to submit a plethora of data and do a lot of running around in order to send their packages back. Ideally, the order would already be saved in the customer’s account so that they don’t have to look through a bunch of papers and that return labels are included in the delivered package or can be printed easily. The information about the time of delivery of larger products should be as precise as possible in order to reduce the amount of waiting time – because nobody wants to spend their entire day waiting at home for a delivery to arrive. The specification of availability and delivery time is very useful information for the customers. Furthermore, a text message or a mail that confirms the delivery to a neighbor or to the post office also provides the customer with helpful information.
Customer expectation #3: Customers want to run around less, expend less effort and avoid complicated processes – in other words:
Online customers are happy when complicated processes are simplified. There are many ways online retailers can accomplish this, many of which remain unexploited: For instance, refillable goods (i.e. the ink cartridge is empty, someone drank the last of the milk, another run in the pantyhose or the diaper subscription came in the wrong size) can be ordered (or the subscription details can be updated) directly online or by placing a QR code on the product. Paperless tickets for the smartphones for concerts, trains or flights are a fantastic option for spontaneous and environmentally-friendly customers. Another way to increase sales is by having the most recent offers sent directly to a potential customer’s mobile when they pass by a certain product or store. There is also room for improvement in the food industry: Create a grocery list online and send it to the local store – when the customer arrives, their purchase is ready for pickup.
Customer expectation #4: Customers want to order a trusted brand for the best price, enjoy free shipping and receive additional offers
Retailers are not always capable of participating in this price-war and sometimes don’t offer any other advantages that could appeal to the customer. Here are a couple of examples of options that motivate customers to shop:
- Free shipping on orders over a certain amount
- (100 day) right of contract cancellation or return
- Some companies claim to offer the best price in order to compete with the Internet Giants
- Personal discounts to encourage customer loyalty, personal address of premium customers
- Allow customers to create wish lists for weddings, baby showers and birthdays
- Offer product recommendations: customers enjoy being able to gather information in this way, social media icons can also be integrated to allow for likes and the forwarding of product recommendations
What ultimately counts for the customer is convenience, price and speed. Faulty procedures as well as long order processes, the delivery of the wrong or defective articles or the delivery to the wrong address can be compensated by offering customer benefits (like gift certificates), but this shouldn’t become the norm. An appealing customer experience is step 2 after establishing a flawless ordering process which takes the first 3 points into account.
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