It’s no secret that taking a customer-centric approach in eCommerce is a key to success. However, at times it may be difficult to figure out what exactly your customers want. Based on various survey results customers expect an omni-channel shopping experience, personalization, delivery options and exceptional customer support.
The IBM Institute for Business Value reports that “46% of shoppers expect a store employee to use a mobile device to locate a product not available in store, up from 40% last year.” This is a clear indicator of the importance of omni-channel retail. If you have both a brick-and-mortar store and an eCommerce site, the two need to be integrated. Stock availability should be synced across channels and your POS system should “talk” to your eCommerce platform. Complete integration of these channels enables you to deliver the same shopping experience whether the customer is online or in-store.
In addition to omni-channel retail, today’s shoppers want to choose how their products are shipped. If a customer is in your store and wants to buy a product that is not available on-site, they expect that they can order the item from the store and have it shipped to store or their home. On the other hand, online shoppers want the ability to ship to store or home, and choose when the product ships. Overnight and next day shipping are increasingly popular, especially around the holidays. Offering free shipping is another critical component, as it has become so widely adopted, if you don’t offer it someone else will and they’ll get the sale.
Personalization was a hot topic of 2014, and it will remain so this year as well. In fact, IBM reports that “48% [of surveyed shoppers] expect personalized offers on retailer’s web sites, up three percentage points from last year’s survey.” Certain platforms have the built in capability to make personalized offers, which makes this achievable. With nearly half of shoppers expecting personalized product recommendations, it is crucial that you successfully segment your customers to provide relevant information to them. Internet retailer.com states that:
“More advanced practitioners are managing to connect the data that exist across their organizations, such as in enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer resource management (CRM) and point-of-sale (POS) data systems, to personalize offers in ways that lift sales. “If you don’t have a unified view of data, chances are you are not going to know what drove them to purchase before,” says Omer Minkara, research director at Aberdeen Group Inc.”
Beyond personalized product recommendations, you can track customers’ buying habits and send out email campaigns based upon them. For example, if a client makes a purchase on the second Wednesday of each month around lunch time, you can send them an email in anticipation of the sale or if the strayed from their pattern, you can send an email on Thursday recommending a product they have viewed.
Finally, in the age of social media, it is vital that you provide exceptional customer support for your shoppers. Bad reviews and negative comments live forever, and can deter future shoppers from using your site. One recurring complaint from shoppers is a slow response time. If you take too long to respond, customers may reach out to you through different channels. You don’t want your Facebook page to turn into a help center peppered with customer complaints and negative reviews. Be sure to invest in your customer service department and encourage quick responses. A great customer service can save an unhappy customer from ending your business relationship.
2015 continues to follow the customer-centric approach, but is even more important this year. By adopting an omni-channel strategy, implementing personalization and various delivery options, and delivering excellent customer service strategy, you can effectively compete in the digital commerce ecosystem in 2015.