In April 2020, digital e-commerce jumped 49%, dubbing the spring month as “Black Friday in April.” Some retailers that already had a digital footprint were prepared—or somewhat prepared—for the surge in online shopping brought about by COVID-19, where others were left in the dark.
According to Adobe, “[o]nline shopping has become the primary means of commerce during COVID-19,” with surges in digital purchasing in apparel, groceries, home goods, and sporting equipment. Additionally, Adobe notes that purchasing on-line and picking up items curbside has also catapulted forward, with a 208% increase over the previous April.
So, what does this mean for the retail industry? Is this surge in digital consumerism just a blip on the radar? Experts don’t think so. According to TotalRetail, “[w]hile this pandemic has put a break on business activities, it has given a mandate to retail businesses to accelerate the pace of digital transformation programs and tweak their customer journey to respond effectively in these challenging times.”
Transforming the retail industry
E-commerce certainly isn’t a novel phenomenon. In fact, e-commerce has been chipping away at brick-and-mortar retail stores for years, according to Forbes, it currently only represents 12% of the retail landscape, but this is likely to increase following COVID-19.
COVID-19 has changed not only our approach to shopping, but our lives in general. Even after the impacts of COVID-19 reduce, retailers must accept that social distancing may become the new norm, for at least the time being. According to TotalRetail, “[t]he world after COVID will see a multifold surge in digital buying and online interaction with brands for continuing social distance.”
So what does this mean? “[c]ompanies that are built for e-commerce are doing well. Retailers that have not invested in digital transformation and digital commerce, or in digital-physical hybrid models, are in deep trouble.”
Making your e-commerce approach customer-centric
Let’s face it though—whether you shop online or in a physical store, customer service—now often referred to as customer experience—is a key competitive differentiator for all companies. According to American Express, 70% of Americans spend more money with a company offering above-board customer service. On the other hand, 49% of American consumers switch brands because of poor customer service, resulting in an estimated $62 billion lost by American companies, according to New Voice Media, all because of poor customer service.
So, with digital consumerism being thrust into the front seat, what do you need to know about e-commerce and positive customer experiences? Let’s look at these three best practices for implementing new technologies to help you keep apace of surging demand:
Offer personal and proactive service
Personalized services are the norm today. Consumers not only prefer, but demand personalized services thanks to companies paving the way such as Spotify, Netflix, and Amazon. And, companies that don’t prioritize personalized, proactive services will lose ground to their competition.
Here are some interesting statistics on consumer personalization today:
- 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with a company that provides suggestions and recommendations that are personal to them, based on their likes and dislikes or their shopping history.
- 80% of frequent shoppers will only shop with brands that offer distinct personalization.
- 98% of marketing professionals say that offering personalization “advances” the customer relationship.
- 80% of companies have seen a boost to their bottom line after increasing customer personalization.
Just like in the brick-and-mortar store, companies need to focus on personalized and proactive services for their online customers as well. In this case, customer service call centers augmented by voice AI can create a more personal customer service experience by authenticating callers and using natural tones to resolve tier-1 issues quickly. Voice AI is unique in that it gives your customers a consistent experience tailored to your specific brand; call scripts can be A/B tested to deliver the right message to your customers while resolving issues. And, if an issue requires human empathy, it can easily be routed to the most appropriate agent, keeping your customers happier and your agents more productive.
Provide faster and more accurate resolutions
In addition to offering personalized, proactive service to your customers, voice AI can help solve your customer’s issues faster, 24/7/365, anytime, anywhere. With voice AI, you can answer more routine questions, such as “where is my order?’ or “how can I return my product?” in seconds.
By streamlining these more common customer service issues, you not only reduce hold times for customers, but also remove the burden of mundane, tier-1 issues for your live agents, allowing them to interact with customers on more complex, creative, or emotional problem-solving requests. This not only boosts agents’ morale, but also increases customer retention and brand loyalty by giving shoppers the service they need, when they need it.
Increase conversational flexibility
With more shoppers moving online in the wake of COVID-19 and beyond, your business needs to remain flexible to deliver great customer experiences across all digital channels. With voice AI, you can have flexible interactions with customers, moving seamlessly as the conversation evolves as voice AI can jump between topics just like a human agent.
Voice AI listens, collects data, and adapts its responses to resolve issues in real-time, providing a more human-like customer experience. And, when the call needs to be escalated to an agent, it’s possible to do that too–with context–so that your customers don’t have to repeat themselves.
Whether you’re ramping-up business as the shelter-in-place orders lift or you’re trying to keep-up with current demand, being able to efficiently scale your customer service call center, without increasing costs, is mission critical. COVID-19 has given digital transformation a jump start for all industries, but especially for retail. With this, companies need to shift their approach to meet customer expectations and satisfaction, because one thing is clear “constant and rapid change is the new normal in retail.”
Visit Replicant.ai to see how you can get started with voice AI in under a week to transform customer service for eCommerce.