While eCommerce growth was already on the rise, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated trends as many brick-and-mortar stores shift their focus to online sales.
According to Australia Post, eight months into the pandemic, online consumer spending was strong at 72.9 percent year-on-year. And between March and October, there was a 13.7 percent YOY increase in households that shopped online (8.5 million).
If you haven’t started selling online, now is a great time to get started. And as you adapt, the customer service and principles you’ve cultivated in-store likely remain top of mind. From clear communication with customers to showcasing the quality of your products, you can create a digital experience that replicates the things shoppers are used to from your store.
Here are some ideas for brick-and-mortar retailers looking for ways to apply their core brand values and customer service practices to their online store.
Brand values that you can digitise for your customers
A key aspect of great customer service is giving shoppers clear ways to get in touch with your business.
On your store’s website, make your contact information easily accessible, and offer ways for customers to reach out should they have questions. Consider implementing chatbots that can field basic customer service questions so that anyone in need of assistance can get immediate help, no matter your service hours.
You should also consider optimising these services for mobile devices. Look to combine good customer service with mobile use by offering an efficient, informative app for your store that makes it easy to browse and search products. Make sure to include text-based customer service or even video chatting, which can help you express your core brand values and drive loyalty with these shoppers.
Communication channels matter when offering a good digital customer experience. Social media, for example, has become a premier destination for customer service, with Facebook and Twitter among the most popular options. A report from Civic Web Media found that 60 percent of customers expect brands to offer customer support through social media and 35 percent say social media is their preferred method.
Across these strategies, a speedy, thoughtful response can dramatically increase brand loyalty and customer advocacy. Civic Web Media notes that good customer care can improve customer satisfaction by 26.6 percent. And according to CPM Australia, 72 percent of customers who have positive customer care experiences tell their friends about it, with each millennial shopper sharing their sentiments with more than 20 people.
Shoppers have the option to see and touch products during in-store shopping, allowing them to evaluate the quality in real time. Online, you have to provide other ways for customers to interact with products and make their assessments through a quality digital experience.
Product pages are often the place where consumers decide whether or not to purchase the featured product. That makes the product page layout, design, and features the centrepiece of the user’s eCommerce experience.
Put items front and centre in product photos and provide all the relevant product information. Your website should also include user-friendly, attractive design and navigation. For example, your “Add-to-Cart” button should stand out and be easy to use. This is also a place to showcase why your product stands out, by highlighting details about quality product sourcing and manufacturing, for instance.
Technology can play a role in product evaluation, too. Consider showing off your products with 360-degree photos or video and augmented reality tools that give people a digital customer experience that’s as close to in-person as possible.
Many customers hunt for deals, checking price tags and coupons across store inventory to find the best match. Value-based pricing can help you convey that message to eCommerce customers. This method takes into account the market worth of each product, comparing nearest competitor prices and what a business’s core segment of buyers would willingly spend.
In order to figure out value-based pricing, a business must identify its key competitors and ensure that customers have a clear understanding of why your product is more valuable than someone else’s.
Home goods company IUIGA is a great example of using value-based pricing to support eCommerce sales. IUIGA’s “About” page says it wants to offer its customers “thoughtfully designed and premium quality everyday goods at completely transparent prices.” It goes on to detail every step of the manufacturing process and breaks down the true cost of producing its sonic silicone facial cleansing device, including how its pricing stacks up to traditional retail prices.
Customers can feel good about the value of their purchase because it’s a better value than traditional retail and because IUIGA strives to have ethical production standards.
You can borrow a method from brick-and-mortar stores to create a digital customer experience that conveys value by showing how much they saved on their e-receipt or in a follow-up email.
Updating the technology you’re using helps improve your overall customer experience, and tells shoppers you want to meet their expectations.
QR codes have been around for years, but they have seen a strong boost during the global pandemic, according to BeaconStac. Australia, for example, has seen rapid growth in QR code usage, having reached 90 percent mobile penetration.
QR codes can also offer special coupon codes or promotional items. Amazon has started putting them on its packaging, which turns its boxes into clickable links for its website.
Other digital experience trends customers can appreciate are eWallet capabilities, product customisation, and the gamification of online shopping.
Some popular eWallet options include Google Pay, Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, and PayPal. They simplify the checkout process by letting consumers complete a purchase with just one click, as opposed to entering their card information on your site. Turn your website into a game with coupon codes as the prizes, putting secret codes on different pages or “hiding” your company’s logo on pages where, if a customer clicks it, a secret coupon code pops up.
Convenience and transparency
Shoppers have come to expect online shopping to be a frictionless experience. They’ll be turned off by sites that don’t have a user-friendly checkout process.
According to Baymard Institute, the average abandoned cart percentage across industries was almost 70 percent, and the top reasons why were: having to create a new user account (28 percent), a long and confusing checkout process (21 percent), and concerns about payment security (17 percent).
One way to combat these problems is to use a payment platform that accepts a variety of payment types and allows guest checkout for customers who don’t want to register. A secure payment processor, like Square, helps you manage fraud should it arise, and assures consumers that their information is safe.
Keep an eye on how you deploy discount code boxes on your site. According to Sale Cycle, a coupon code box indicates to customers that they are missing out on a deal and sends some to another web page to search for codes. If the customers leave the page, they may not return to finish their purchase, especially if they can’t find a coupon code.
Offer a standard promo code next to the code box or have the box hidden by a link so that people with a code can still find it, but those without a code won’t notice it as easily.
According to a study by Nielsen, environmental issues are of concern to 77 per cent of Australian households. This sustainability study found that 81 per cent of respondents around the world feel strongly that part of a company’s core brand values should be to help improve the environment.
If your brand is socially conscious, don’t be shy about letting your customers know. If you care about economic transparency, for example, value-based pricing pairs socially conscious business decisions with product costs. Explain why you charge what you do for an item and emphasise that a portion of that money will go towards a relevant charity.
Another way to incorporate your brand values online is in your “About” section. Explain to consumers what social aspects are important to you, like fair trade practices, cruelty-free products, environmental sustainability, and more. Don’t just highlight these issues—be sure to indicate what steps you have taken to make sure your business aligns with them.
You can also offer ways for shoppers to partner with you on key social causes. Maybe for every person who uses your branded hashtag in a social media post you pledge to donate a specified amount to a charity. Another strategy is to offer checkout donations where customers can choose a charity that your company donates to, or they can make a donation that you match.
Whatever your brand values, the internet, eCommerce, and social media have opened up a whole host of ways to convey who you truly are and reach customers who want to support your business in the digital space. The core brand values upon which you have built your business can also become the foundation for growing your online presence and digital customer experience reputation.