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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 Digital Commerce 360, in the first six months of 2020, online consumer spending rose 30% from the same period in 2019. And in the first month of the third quarter, July 2020, eCommerce sales were up 55% over July 2019.
If you haven’t started selling online, now is a great time to get started. And as you adapt to selling online, 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 replicate the experience shoppers are used to from your store in your online shop.
Here are some ideas for brick-and-mortar retailers looking for ways to apply their core customer service practices to their online store.
Brand values that you can digitize 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 customers in need of assistance can get immediate help, no matter your service hours.
You should also consider optimizing these services for mobile devices. A report from Conundrum Media says that 82% of customers check their smartphones before making a purchase in order to research what they’re buying, and a survey by American Express says that consumers are willing to spend 17% more with a company that has good customer service.
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 drive loyalty with these shoppers.
Communication channels matter when offering digital customer service. Social media, for example, has become a premier destination for customer service, with Facebook and Twitter among the most popular mediums. In a survey by Sprout Social, social media was the top choice for customer service method at 34%, followed by website/live chat at 25%, email at 19%, phone at 16%, and in-store at 5%.
Across these strategies, a speedy, thoughtful response can dramatically increase brand loyalty and customer advocacy. Of those surveyed by Sprout, when asked how they feel when a brand responds to them on social media in a timely manner, 70% said they are more likely to use a brand’s product or service. Another 75% said they are likely to share good experiences on their profile.
Shoppers have the option to see and touch products during an in-store shopping experience, 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.
According to the Baymard Institute, 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 centerpiece of the user’s eCommerce experience.
Put items front and center in product photos, and provide all the relevant product information. Your website should also include user-friendly, attractive website 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 your brand’s quality product sourcing and manufacturing to let customers know why your product stands out.
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 as close to an in-person experience 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 products, compared to the nearest competitor 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 its 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.
Your site could also borrow a method from brick-and-mortar stores to convey how much value a customer receives by shopping with you 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 Modern Retail. Seek, a company mentioned in the article, said that since March 2020, it has seen a 600% increase in customers using QR codes to access augmented reality tools for brands like Overstock, Nestle, and Walmart.
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 technology trends customers can appreciate are eWallet capabilities, product customization, and the gamification of online shopping.
Some popular eWallet options include Allied, Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, PayPal, and Venmo. 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 by 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 a 2019 report by Barilliance, the average abandoned cart percentage in the United States was almost 72%, and one of the top reasons why was having to create a new user account (22%), along with concerns about payment security (15%), long and confusing checkout (9%), and not being able to find a coupon code (8%).
One way to combat this problem 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 are deploying discount code boxes on your site. According to Sale Cycle, a coupon code box sends some consumers to another web page to look for coupon codes because the presence of the box indicates to them that they are missing out on a deal. 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 coupon code promoted 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 the National Retail Federation, nearly six in 10 consumers are willing to change their shopping habits to reduce environmental impact, and nearly 70% would pay an average premium of 35% for brands that are sustainable and environmentally responsible.
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 highlight if a portion of that money will go toward a relevant charity.
Another way is to incorporate your values into your “about” section for your business. 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 you pledge to donate a specified amount to a specific charity for every person who uses your branded hashtag in a social media post. Another strategy is to offer checkout donations where consumers can choose a charity that your company donates to, or they make a donation and you match it.
Whatever your brand and its 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 values upon which you have built your brand can also become the foundation for growing your online presence.