Consumers expect an excellent customer experience when they shop online. And the No. 1 factor that determines whether a consumer considers a customer experience “great” is whether a merchant reduces its customers’ efforts, notes a recent Harvard Business Review report.
A slew of research bolsters that point. For example, a recent Forrester Research Inc. report found that 66% of online shoppers said the most important element retailers should consider is valuing their customers’ time. And 69% of ecommerce customers attributed a recent positive customer service experience to a quick resolution of their problems, according to a recent Zendesk report.
Time to catch up
“If retailers aren’t addressing these customer expectations yet, now is the time to catch up,” says Michael Haze, vice president of product and strategy at Shopgate, an omnichannel technology company. “That means creating frictionless experiences across ecommerce sites, mobile apps and in stores.”
While Amazon’s ability to fulfill orders quickly and easily is largely responsible for setting this new standard, the ecommerce giant isn’t as threatening to retailers as it used to be thanks to recent technological advances, Haze says. “Retailers traditionally haven’t had the time or money to keep up with Amazon in creating these frictionless experiences throughout the customer journey because it often required complete overhauls of their systems,” he says.
Even when technology has been available to make parts of the customer journey easier, implementing it has often proven difficult. For example, if a retailer wants to implement a new point-of-sale or order management system, it would have to source a vendor, identify a solution, pay someone to integrate it into its existing systems and make sure those systems are talking to each other. “The process was time-consuming and costly,” he says.
Consistent experiences and messaging
But for retailers—particularly those with direct consumer websites and physical store locations—to succeed in an omnichannel-focused ecommerce environment, they need capabilities to drive consistent customer experiences and messaging around product offering, assortments, pricing, catalogs and availability, Haze says.
“With technology that is available today, such as the Shopgate Connect platform, retailers can do that and it’s much simpler,” he says. “With a mobile shopping app, a tool that helps in-store associates better serve customers and omnichannel fulfillment technology, Connect helps retailers create frictionless customer experiences, as well as drive in-store traffic and boost revenue.”
Haze says the platform is designed to leverage the existing systems a retailer has in play and to bridge the gap between those systems and the tools Shopgate offers without taking extensive efforts to enable them all individually to talk to each other. “We start by helping retailers prioritize what they need to change from where they are now, and then we implement solutions one at a time—layering in new tools as we move through the process with them,” he says.
To do this right across the board is a transformative experience, Haze says. “This new technology may mean a retailer has to reset its stores, retrain its staff and possibly change its fulfillment,” he says. “There are a lot of pieces, but it isn’t as difficult as it once was because new technologies, like ours, help them find efficiencies in what they’re already doing.”
Retailers striving to meet these new customer expectation standards should find a technology provider that can help rather than attempt to tackle the issues on their own, Haze says. “This is a problem they don’t have to deal with,” he says. “Providers like us solve those problems for them so they can focus on their business.”