The days where it was possible to rule the ecommerce roost by virtue of being the only players in the market are over. In the last year or so, the ecommerce market has exploded. Today, customers have more choice than ever, which makes them much more discerning as to who they do business with.
This has led to many companies having to adapt their customer engagement management (CEM) strategies to an evolving ecommerce environment. Unlike brick-and-mortar stores where there is a face-to-face element to customer service, ecommerce stores can only build relationships through computer screens. This makes every aspect of the customer experience, from marketing to ordering and delivery, critical to overcoming the impersonality of the whole experience.
The first step for companies is to stop seeing developing an platform as a purely statistics-based exercise, but rather consider the emotional and physical experiences of their customers. For a customer to order a high-value item from some faceless online entity requires a certain level of trust. Companies must reciprocate and deal with the anxiety these customers might face.
The customer journey starts at the website. First, customers need to be able to find the website – it’s no use having a wonderful, easy-to-navigate website if no-one knows it’s there. The website must be well-indexed and user-friendly so that customers can find and purchase what they want easily.
Many companies make the mistake of focusing almost exclusively on the website without considering the next part of the customer journey – what happens once an order is placed. Today’s customers expect prompt delivery and a real-time view into what is going on with their orders. The idea that customers can wait for the gratification of ecommerce isn’t true anymore.
It’s up to companies to set and manage customer expectations so that they have a fulfilling experience that will satisfy and delight them. Communication is key here. It’s better to over-communicate and over-deliver than leave customers hanging or dealing with unfulfilled expectations.
This aspect of the customer journey isn’t easy. Companies must ensure their call centre agents are fully equipped – in terms of capacity, training and technology – to be able to understand and address customer queries.
As a provider of fulfilment services to numerous clients, the biggest challenge that we face when setting up these communication systems is that data is poor. Building the most advanced integrated CEM systems in the world won’t help if your information on stockpiles or customer addresses is wildly out of date.
With the advance of technologies like analytics, we’re seeing data become even more important in the ecommerce realm. The next frontier of customer experience is once and for all breaking through the barrier of the computer (or smartphone or tablet) screen through greater personalisation.
Anyone who’s ever received something specially chosen to appeal to their own tastes knows how powerful personalisation can be as a human experience. When it first began, Yuppiechef took advantage of this as it delivered hand-written notes with its packages. The problem is that as an online store grows its customer base, delivering that same level of personalisation becomes increasingly difficult.
Innovation is essential to delivering personalised customer service. We can already see glimpses of this in the way many companies personalise their online portals for individual customers using recommendations and targeted marketing.
In the future, we could see certain back-end technologies extend that level of personalisation to the products themselves. New printing technologies such as 3D printing, for example, may soon allow for the cost-effective printing and customising of high quality items.
Whatever the future has in store for ecommerce, one thing is clear. The customer journey will play an even larger role as more people turn to online shopping. From pre- to post-sales, companies cannot afford to ignore the wants and needs of the customers.