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The Age of Customer Experience: What’s In There for eCommerce Brands Today

Understand what drives eCommerce sales in 2017, and where to look to deliver the customer experience that online shoppers want.

Bad news for ecommerce brands here. You can no longer get away with inaction when it comes to the customer experience you provide. Up to 2017, the talk’s had it that the age of customer experience was coming. Now it’s absolutely clear it has arrived, so get yourself together and embrace it.

However, it’s no longer enough to be mending the customer experience in well-known and obvious areas of customer service, digital user experience and post-sale communication. Instead, there are now more components to the holistic customer experience – from the first brand encounter to checkout. The online buying audience has become more susceptible to new gadgets, shopping channels and overall digitization, and all of this has spilled over into their attitude toward online retailers.

We will cover the burning challenges that B2C ecommerce businesses need to tackle now if they are to retain and increase their share of customer wallet in this tightly packed market. To top it up, we’ve also put together some actionable advice on the directions where ecommerce brands should look to find solutions to these challenges.

Online Retail 2017: Understanding the Drivers Behind It

The global B2C eCommerce market is growing at quite a speed. The drivers of this growth are versatile, and some of them truly challenge the traditional business model as we know it.

Global online retail salesData Sources: Invesp, eMarketer

First, it’s the biggest US demographic group ever – the so-called Millennials – coming into their full maturity and spending power. Second, it’s the increasing worldwide adoption of mobile and wearable technologies, which have created a sort of commotion in retail marketing and have given birth to even more customer-facing channels. Third, it’s the speed of innovation itself, where the next big thing is being rolled out almost daily. In these unprecedented conditions, retail businesses have no choice but catch up with their customers who want fancier experiences while fiddling with their connected devices.

On a side note, this connected-ness is becoming the leitmotif of today’s retail. It has given rise to the term connected spenders, who are defined as the newly emerged customer segment ready to part with some of their pretty high discretionary income to buy online (including premium products). According to Harvard Business Review, today connected spenders account for 19% of the global population and have the potential to grow to 37% by 2025.

With such a powerful buying force at play, competition for their eyeballs (read, traffic to online stores) and wallets becomes tougher. To get ahead of the game, online retailers are expected to deliver ever more sophisticated experiences like no one else, as well as play on the old good grounds of quality, trust and value.

Millennials as Key Buying Force

Among connected spenders, Millennials are the major consumer group of online shoppers, and their psychographic is not that straightforward as you may believe. As they inherited the bourgeois bohemian mindset from their parents, their expectations from brands are rather contradictory. Affordably priced products with a handcrafted look and feel. Same-day delivery of last-minute purchases. Instantaneous customer support, 24/7.

But essentially, it can all boil down just to convenience. This magic word is key when it comes to selling to Millennials. Maybe, they are not yet ready to commit to such life-changing purchases as real estate and cars, but they do shop online on a daily basis, and they want to do it effortlessly.

Millennials as major online shoppersData Source: Goldman Sachs

To appeal to this picky cohort, ecommerce brands have to follow the latest developments in the industry, of which we’ll talk about later. Yet brands should remember that innovation for innovation’s sake is pointless unless they actually make customer experience better by addressing true pain points.

Mobile-first and mobile-exclusive experiences

The desktop is waving us goodbye as mobile usage takes over. Connected spenders are called this for a reason, and Internet retailers should respond by tapping into new opportunities that mCommerce brings them.

Mobile vs. desktop shopping

For many retailers, these opportunities are perceived rather as disruptions, and there are indeed a few ways in how mCommerce disrupts retail today, the convergence of physical and digital being among such disruptions. In 2017, however, the focus is on the emerging domain of mobile payments and cybersecurity concerns that come with them.

Digital payments

We bump into a curious case here. In fact, mobile payment vendors do not come from the banking industry. Tech giants, are retailers themselves, but no banks behind digital payments except for their card-issuing services. This challenges our perception of financial transactions enabled solely by age-long banking institutions.

From partnering with fintechs to offer single-tap payment options to releasing branded mobile wallets (just like Starbucks did), retailers can cater for mobile-bound customers and potentially boost their loyalty with specialized discounts and mobile-only special offers. As mobile payment volume is predicted to reach $274 billion by 2021, this is definitely one way to go for digital retail contenders.

Security and antifraud

Mobile security is generally one of the biggest concerns when it comes to using mobile applications loaded with personal data. To engrain trust in connected spenders’ minds and ensure no security-related issues tarnish their experience, ecommerce businesses should invest carefully and integrate only those solutions that have passed the test of credibility over time.

These include such renowned mobile wallets as Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay, which can employ transaction tokenization, fingerprint verification and secure PINs to keep fraudsters away.

Contextual Commerce

Today’s customers don’t want to be limited in their choice of shopping destinations. Expect them to want ‘everywhere shopping’ with a chance to buy a product wherever they see it. This tendency is embodied now in contextual commerce and heralds largely impulse-driven purchases from curated product reviews and social networks such as Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.

On one hand, this lowers retailers’ ownership over the shopping context to some extent and can’t guarantee brand integrity, just like in case of digital advertising. On the other hand, contextual commerce offers new, stimulating channels to engage online buyers where they are, with no need to try hard to make them come to your online store anymore. It’s also an alert to FMCG manufacturers who can receive decent side-benefits from this exposure, like in that case of the whiskey brand Jameson and an apt contextual offer placed on Spotify.

Voice Ordering

Voice ordering can also be attributed to contextual commerce in a way, as it largely depends on the customer’s whereabouts and other behavioral triggers. It is gaining traction globally with voice-operated virtual assistants ready to order for you in the blink of an eye. This idea is in tune with the craze for frictionless shopping, where you will hardly need to actually tap the device in the process.

For Internet retail brands, voice ordering means they just need to become the number-one choice among competitors to naturally spring to their customers’ mind when they are about to utter their order. While this is something of marketers’ duties to engrain it in customers’ subconscious, one of the hands-on ways is to create voice-targeted, algorithmic marketing campaigns in partnership with today’s go-to virtual assistants from Apple, Google and Amazon.

On-demand Delivery

As much as it is far from its physical version, online shopping has proven to be pretty vulnerable when it comes to successfully delivering purchases to the buyers’ doorsteps.

Missed deliveries account for one of the biggest problems in the digital shopping realm, adding to shoppers’ frustration, let alone retailers’ delivery costs. To fix this problem somehow, transport companies have started to offer on-demand deliveries. DHL is just one of them, while in Japan Yamato Transport has partnered with the tech startup DeNA to provide on-demand delivery with autonomous vehicles (the company will be testing the service up to March 2018).

Key Takeaways: So How Can ecommerce Brands Prepare?

For ecommerce brands in 2017, it must be intimidating to see so many disruptions underway. Together with the growing competition, this makes for a not so friendly business landscape.

To confront it for the sake of providing the very customer experience that customers crave, it’s first necessary to study the customers themselves – be they Millennials or, more broadly, connected spenders. Such study should be complete with buyer personas to understand the drivers and barriers in their purchasing decisions, as well as their common behavior and individual journeys. This applies equally to low-cost, medium-price, premium and luxury retailers.

Additionally, modern ecommerce just screams for broad and versatile technological partnerships with third-parties from all walks of industry – mobile application development, cybersecurity, digital payments, artificial intelligence, logistics, and more. This move will make it possible to cover the entire variety of channels where your customers can come across your brand – not only through actual ecommerce platforms, but branded mobile apps, aggregated marketplaces, social media, messengers and virtual assistant apps.

But before all of that, it’s really critical to think about getting yourself a full-fledged, dedicated customer experience team. Someone needs to take charge of the entire initiative, envision and implement technological alliances, drive changes and sustain success in customer relations. Otherwise, delegating the bits and pieces of the CX strategy to different departments with no dedicated coordinators will result in roadblocks on the way.

What’s your opinion about the latest greatest in ecommerce? Do you believe these innovations will take over and transform retail as we know it? Hit us up in comments to share your ideas.

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