Whilst the high street continues to suffer from a reduced footfall, due to current pandemic restrictions, eCommerce has continued to flourish over the last several months. In fact, according to a recent report, UK eCommerce businesses reported revenue spikes in excess of 15% since April. For many retailers, the pandemic has accelerated the transition online, creating opportunities and unlocking new customers for those who do it right.
But, to succeed online, businesses must be prepared to overcome certain challenges. For example, when retailers grow, they must ensure they provide the same level of service but on a larger scale. To keep up with customer demands, retailers must carefully plan and offer full visibility and traceability across the supply chain.
Here are five key considerations for retailers when scaling up effectively:
1. Deliver on expectations
Despite the ongoing pandemic restrictions, consumers still expect their items to be delivered promptly. In fact, PFS’ recent research found seven in ten (71%) shoppers still expect their items to reach them within a week (compared to 90% normally). Breaking this down further, 14% expect their items to be delivered in no more than two days during the lockdown (compared to 29% normally) and 29% expect deliveries to take no more than three to five days (compared to 36% normally).
2. Stay in touch
Whilst some delays to delivery may be unavoidable in the current climate, it is important for brands to keep customers in the loop about any potential issues, especially during higher volume periods. This will not only improve your brand’s reputation in the eyes of customers, but can also help to mitigate high volumes within the contact centre. Over two-thirds (69%) of the silent generation agree that they are most loyal to brands who stay in touch and keep them updated on the progress of their orders compared to 56% of Generation Z.
For example, during the first few weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe, brands who were proactive in notifying customers about delays due to supply chain disruption or carrier limitations were able to set realistic customer expectations. For the most part, when adequately informed customers were much more understanding.
3. Customers like choices
The pandemic has also resulted in a more conscious consumer who will seek products based on cost and conscience. Therefore, non-traditional fulfilment methods will become increasingly embraced. For example, buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) functionality and ship-from-store technologies will allow brands to better serve customers through an improved delivery experience during normal and peak periods.
However, in order to support these technologies, businesses must have the right back-office systems in place. If these technologies aren’t supported in the right way, customers may be left disappointed. For example, if a customer orders a product online to collect in-store, but then arrives to find a stock-keeping error means the item is not available, they are likely to be extremely unhappy.
4. Make your returns process painless
If brands make the returns process difficult, customers are likely to turn away. Three quarters (75%) of all consumers believe online retailers should expect higher levels of returns than stores, because you can’t physically see the product when buying. In addition, more than three fifths (62%) of online customers expect to be able to quickly and easily return products that are ill-fitting or unsuitable.
Keeping the customer updated on their refund will make sure that the process is painless which will be beneficial for both customer and retailer.
5. Listen to your customers
Customers share their experiences. In fact, around half of consumers (49%) share negative online shopping experiences with friends and family. That’s why it is so important for brands to ensure their customer service operations are equipped to help combat this negative sharing on social platforms.
Customers also like to feel listened to, so ensuring customer service agents are provided with empathy training enables customers who directly interact with the brand to be effectively looked after. Frustrated customers who are denied the opportunity to voice their complaints through the contact centre will often take to social media forums instead. Social listening should be a priority, it’s important to act quickly to appease customer complaints and minimise long-term repercussions to your brand’s image.
Put the effort in and you will succeed
Keeping your customers engaged as your business grows will be key to success. Crucial to this engagement is communication and transparency. Making sure that you have a system and processes in place that enables visibility and traceability will ensure that brands face less pressure during peak times. It also will ensure that communication channels remain effective and fit for purpose as your brand grows.