Changes in retail are being driven by the consumer as well as by the proliferation of new channels and the increased choice that this provides. Retailers must rethink their business models to find new ways to interact with customers in order to add more value to the overall shopping experience.
EssayLab team worked to write this article to assist in clarifying what a true multi-channel business should look like in the years to come.
Consumers are very much empowered by technology. It has never been easier to shop. They can also choose where to buy and who to buy from. It has also never been easier to lose a customer. Competitors are never more than a couple of clicks away.
It’s no longer enough to just be aware of your customer… you need to understand them and to accommodate their needs and behavior. Make it easy for consumers to find and interact with your brand (online, offline, kiosks, stores, mobile, catalogues, telephone…).
Nowadays consumers demand a good experience and won’t tolerate a bad one. You must seamlessly deliver a fantastic experience across all touch points. If you don’t, your competitors will have the chance to impress
Best practice recommendations:
- Joined-up thinking. eCommerce is all too often considered a silo, and is therefore thought of in isolation. Whether you’re developing an eCommerce solution for your business for the first time or moving on to the next site iteration, it is the optimum time to think about integrating all your channels.
- Engage your call centres. Will you provide your contact centre with the ability to take sales from customers over the phone? What happens if the sites go down or if they need additional assistance to ensure they buy the right product? It’s a great idea to enable operator supported orders.
- Assist shoppers in real time. Live chat will enable your customer contact center to help guide your customer’s choices. This can be both reactive, through a click to chat option, or proactive through rules-based live chat. In the latter case you prompt a customer with the offer of chatting to a CSR (customer service representative) when they behave in a certain way (such as adding multiple items to their basket but not checking out).
- Visibility. Develop the capability for the customer and the CSR to view the same cart concurrently.
- Collect information. In order to deliver the optimum customer service experience, funnel all customer communication into a customer contact database.
- Provision for self-service. Provide a knowledge base/dynamic FAQs that will serve the needs of self service customers who prefer not to interact with CSRs.
- Provide a store locator showing store product ranges available at each store. We recommend leveraging Google Maps to provide all contact information.
- Multichannel returns policy. Provide the ability to buy products online and return in-store. Make sure offline budgets reflect this to avoid staff resentment at extra work and don’t subtract these offline refunds from offline sales! Give the store a credit for multichannel refunds (but manage it to avoid abuse).
- Is it in stock? Allow customers to check product inventory levels at nearby stores. Save them a wasted journey. This has not been specified as part of the scope, however, we believe this should definitely be looked at for phase two.
- Multichannel commissions for staff. Make sure staff are incentivized to promote the sale of products through all your channels. Otherwise, why should they bother?
Don’t let this article scare you. With the right eCommerce Agency behind you, working through the recommendations above isn’t complicated, but it takes pre-planning and support from other departments. Taking the time to develop a multi-channel approach will positively affect your bottom line, both online and off.
Carol James, writer and editor EssayLab
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