Technological developments have meant that consumer purchasing behaviour and demands have changed greatly in recent years. There is greater interaction with brands across various platforms and services such as click and collect are being increasingly utilised by consumers who want the benefit of online purchasing together with the convenience of local collection and returns facilities.
With this increase in purchasing across multiple platforms, it is important for businesses to both maximise multi-channel trading opportunities and ensure a connected approach across the various channels available, both online and in-store. However, it would appear that many retailers have not yet caught up with technological developments and the demands of modern consumers.
This was highlighted in a recent survey conducted by Opinium Research which found that providing consumers with a connected shopping experience is becoming increasingly important in terms of ensuring customer satisfaction and maintaining loyalty. The survey found that 53% of consumers believed that retailers were failing to connect their online and store shopping experience, and that 61% would consider changing retailers because of this factor.
Another issue raised by the survey was that 28% of consumers found that queries or requests could not be adequately dealt with by retail staff due to them not having access to the required information. Added to this, 54% of consumers felt that retailers failed to provide a personalised service. Furthermore, the findings also showed that around 63% of consumers believed that retailer systems showing inaccurate stock levels was unacceptable. These findings put focus on the crucial need for staff to have fast access to accurate information and stock visibility so as to provide customers with an efficient service.
With this in mind there are a variety of steps businesses can take to ensure systems and sales channels are truly integrated and that customers are provided with the connected, personal and optimal shopping experience they evidently desire.
One Integrated System For Seamless End-To-End Connectivity
Whilst working across numerous platforms is important, there still remains the challenge of ensuring information on front and back end systems is correct and that all sales channels provide up to date stock levels to consumers. Failure in this regard can lead to a loss of custom both in the short and long term, as customers do not hang around after a failed experience.
Working with one fully integrated system can save time, increase efficiency, reduce errors and provide businesses with the structured end-to-end management needed to stay on top of their operations. Full marketplace integration provides the synchronisation required to display correct stock level availability across multiple channels and marketplaces which eliminates over selling. What’s more, this improved interaction across multiple channels enhances brand reliability and provides for better overall customer satisfaction.
Additionally, an integrated CRM system can be used to effectively record customer interactions and purchasing habits, providing staff with the accurate, up-to-date information needed to efficiently assist customers. With this information readily accessible, staff can better provide the personalised experience customers want. Such a system can also help businesses to maximise additional sales opportunities through the linking of customer’s previous purchases to ‘recommended items’, thus further improving the personalised nature of the retailer/customer relationship.
Fast, Accurate Fulfilment And Straightforward Returns
Another challenge is ensuring accurate, fast and efficient delivery of goods purchased online, as many shoppers have bad experiences with fulfilment of their orders. This can lead to non-returning customers and negative comment (particularly on social media) which can harm a brand and result in further loss of trade. Errors with deliveries will also lead to more goods being returned and profit margins reducing.
Using a system that provides comprehensive courier integration functionality helps ensure that speed and accuracy are at the forefront of your fulfilment processes, errors are reduced and customer satisfaction is enhanced. A more efficient fulfilment and despatch process will pay dividends on a daily basis but especially during seasonal peaks due to a streamlined system’s ability to cope with higher demand. Additionally, flexibility in delivery options enhance the customer experience, with the speed of next day delivery as well as the convenience and connected approach of click and collect services being increasingly popular options.
Another area that can affect customer experience is the process of returning unwanted goods. Not all returns are for a negative reason, particularly with online sales where customers may order more than one size to check the fit. Therefore, having a straightforward and user friendly returns process is particularly appealing to online customers, so this is another area that businesses need to carefully consider. The greater connection consumers desire can also be achieved through offering the ability to return items bought online to a store conveniently located to them. Making enhancements to these areas improves customer service, generates loyalty and can help maximise sales.
Adapt And Integrate
Greater consumer expectations and the rise in e-Commerce mean businesses need to adapt in order to keep up with increased, more complex demand through integrating systems across platforms and effectively utilising customer information.
Failure to do this can mean that a customer’s experience with a retailer becomes disconnected and lacking in the personalised knowledge and service they crave. As such, brand reputation can be damaged, customer loyalty weakened and customers ultimately lost to competitors. Therefore, to avoid this, businesses should strive to bring their online and offline channels closer together, or risk being left behind.