Any retailer knows it's impossible to thrive without strong connections to customers. Businesses grow by providing quality products that keep people coming back for more and inspiring them to refer their friends, family or business associates. However, the relationships that are the lifeblood of an expanding organization have undergone a fundamental shift over the past several years, thanks largely to ever-evolving technology and emerging forms of communication.
It's no longer enough for brands to just offer quality products and attentive service during a transaction. Innovation from the biggest names in ecommerce has ensured that customers continually expect smoother, more customized interactions. In the 2017 POS/Customer Engagement Survey from Boston Retail Partners, 70 percent of retailers identified personalization as their top priority for improving customer engagement.
If ecommerce businesses don't commit to establishing a deeper connection with the public, they can lose out on sales and cut off their own potential for long-term growth. To succeed in the highly competitive game of online retail, organizations need a customer engagement strategy that's implemented with powerful tools, efficient processes and a personal touch.
Facilitate the customer journey at every step
Successful engagement starts with looking at interactions from the perspective of the consumer. This positioning makes it vitally important for online retailers to have a clear vantage on the customer journey. Knowing the steps that take an individual from first browsing an ecommerce site to arriving at a purchase decision can open up tremendous opportunities: With that progression in mind, representatives can get in touch with shoppers at the most advantageous moments to make the best of the customer experience.
Organizations build a strategic approach to the purchase journey by identifying the customer personas and key segments that make up a retailer's clientele. From there, marketing and sales teams come to understand how different groups of shoppers gain an awareness of various brands. And, then decide on purchasing from one and determine whether they will return to the same site in the future. This path can be complicated, especially since today's customers often consult numerous touchpoints to gather information, and may encounter roadblocks when trying to find the right item or complete the purchase process.
Ecommerce organizations improve the process by identifying chances to guide consumers toward completing a transaction and encourage them to come back. A detailed view into the customer journey lets the marketing and sales teams refine the content they use to truly capture people's attention, and then offer the appropriate assistance at key junctures. Representatives reach out at an opportune time so customers make their way through the final steps, feeling confident about their purchase.
Communicate through multiple channels
Figures from Pew Research Center showed that 77 percent of Americans owned a smartphone and about 70 percent used at least one social media site by late 2016. The ways people talk to each other and learn about brands have undergone a seismic transformation, and that's had a huge effect on sales and customer service. To build strong relationships, organizations are increasingly expected to connect with customers through their preferred channels, seamlessly transitioning between brick-and-mortar locations, phone and digital.
Phone remains the most popular means of obtaining service, according to research conducted by The Northridge Group for its 2017 State of Customer Experience Report. Different channels have their own strengths for handling customer service needs, so businesses can boost engagement by cultivating the ability to switch between various means of communication while sharing all relevant details:
- Phone allows representatives to connect personally with customers, addressing questions about billing and working through problems in real time.
- Email is the most popular option for sending comments or suggestions to a business and often the best way to address questions that are not time-sensitive. Representatives can provide detailed explanations, including illustrations when appropriate.
- Chat is an efficient choice for instant communication, ideal for providing guidance as consumers complete setup tasks. Short-form text responses serve well for handling simple inquiries about matters like the status of a package or product installation.
- Social media provides customers an outlet for discussing their experiences. By monitoring conversations, organizations gain a clearer sense of the brand's reputation and representatives can proactively handle complaints and foster better long-term relationships.
With an omnichannel approach, an organization can routinely match its service to the needs of its customers. Successful engagement in a constantly connected world calls for a team of experienced contact center personnel on duty at convenient hours, ready to communicate through a variety of channels and multiple languages.
Take advantage of automation
While trained customer service specialists are vital to engagement, in some cases software can take over. Organizations have adopted automated processes for everything from manufacturing to fraud detection. Thoughtfully incorporating automation into the customer experience can make certain tasks simpler and more efficient while providing huge savings.
Many businesses use automation to route calls and confirm orders, while some draw on text analysis tools to reply more speedily to emails. Over recent years, chatbots have been gaining in sophistication and popularity. These programs are now capable of highly customized conversations, handling straightforward questions and requests from users with ease. That makes interactions faster and more satisfying for customers while freeing up time for representatives to focus on more complex problems.
Successfully deploying chatbots and other ecommerce technology solutions requires continual attention to the human element. Responses from customers may vary, and contact centers should be ready to turn conversations over to human agents right away. Retailers maximize the value of automated engagement by striking the correct balance between convenience and individualized care.
Leverage big data
The widespread embrace of analytics and cloud storage has made data a powerful force in today's organizations, fueling operations and planning for future expansion. By making the most of their opportunities to gather data, decision-makers can advance improvements in marketing strategy, offerings, service and ecommerce fulfillment.
With deep stores of information on customer demographics and online behavior, organizations can create the responsive, personalized ecommerce experience that users now expect. Analytics points the way for targeted marketing and sales initiatives that maximize site traffic and conversions by presenting consumers with the content and products that are most likely to capture their attention. Monitoring how users interact with a site may demonstrate a need for smoothing out the purchase path or reveal when a direct conversation through chat or social media is most likely to make an impact.
The playing field of ecommerce is full of tough competitors, and quality relationships with customers are a must for any organization entering the game. Onestop Internet empowers businesses to engage with customers by using data-driven strategies and the latest ecommerce technology. With an expert partner, retailers have all the resources they need to create an intuitive purchase path, communicate through multiple channels, automate processes and delve into analytics findings.