Steven Dole §

Member Article

The online customer experience

Steven Dole, sales manager at Call Centre and Marketing Fulfilment Provider 2Touch, shares his expertise in ecommerce by examining the online customer experience and the pitfalls that are to be avoided.

Ecommerce is 24/7. Whatever your offering, your website is always on and your customers should be able to enjoy and expect the convenience that it offers.

Perception

Appearance is everything: when you enter a shop you automatically take in your surroundings. Does the environment look attractive and appealing, are the prices clearly marked? The same things apply online. You need to welcome customers with an engaging site that instantly looks easy to use. ‘Look and feel’ play a big part when enticing customers to buy your products. Major online sites such as Amazon and eBay are difficult to beat on price, so how can you compete? Offering a quality service, beautifully presented products and an experience you can’t get elsewhere can act as a key point of difference, and that may be enough to entice the customer away from the competition.

Trust

What is certainly different online in comparison to the offline customer experience is the lack of a personal touch. You can’t talk to a sales assistant online - at least not easily. So to ensure trust in a product, online customer reviews provide a great platform for customer engagement. It is crucial consumers learn how well products have been received. A strong social media presence can also be helpful; Facebook and Twitter provide you with the leverage to showcase products, and again, provides the opportunity for two-way communication and the building of trust and loyalty.

I would recommend that you have one person co-ordinating all social media platforms as you do not want the messaging to become diluted. It must be consistent. If a disgruntled customer is voicing a complaint, engage, get involved and try to resolve the problem. Don’t let it escalate in public view, if you can’t solve the problem easily offer to take it offline - move to email or the phone.

To help build trust, voice contact must at the very least be offered to customers. Showcase this personal touch by supplying an email address and contact number on your website. This will help to show that there is a voice behind the brand, demonstrating that there is someone on hand to help.

Constantly build on customer trust: you must deliver a top service 24/7, with products that arrive on time and match their online description.

Customer retention

We now operate in a world where change is constant and choice is widely varied. Such is the innovative pace at which new products are brought to market, we are at risk of saturating consumers with choice, which can make it difficult to retain a loyal customer base.

What you must do is pay close attention to the customers who have bought from your site in the past. Analyse and profile your customers and suggest new items which they may find beneficial. Keep talking to your customers - find out what’s working and what could be improved. Don’t assume they’re happy just because they aren’t complaining, and if you haven’t heard from them in a while, get in touch and give them a good reason to come back.

Pitfalls

Poor fulfilment and delivery is a common flaw and the biggest consumer complaint when it comes to ecommerce. The fulfilment process should be efficient, from packaging to distribution. If a consumer receives a faulty/wrong item this should be rectified immediately.

Lack of communication or action can lead to a lack of trust; customers expect instant communication. If you have bought a product, you need to know if it has been despatched, you want the option to track it and have evidence that it’s been delivered.

If you are working with a third-party, ensure their quality control procedures are every bit as good as yours. Specialist suppliers such as payment processing and parcel carriers are all very important to the process and ignoring or underestimating their roles will almost certainly slow down the transaction. They need to be monitored continually as their actions will impact either positively or negatively on your reputation. If something goes wrong it’s you the customer will blame.

In conclusion, ecommerce is an ever-growing and ever-changing area. Indeed, we have recently seen the emergence of apps and online videos as platforms to communicate product information and reviews. As businesses continue to harness the power of social media platforms we will see further changes in the ways customers communicate and make purchases. These are exciting times and there are great opportunities for businesses that communicate with their customers and aim to offer a great experience - but get it wrong, and those customers you’ve spent years developing will be gone at the click of a mouse.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Steven Dole .

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