As the year comes to a close, we start to reflect on what’s happened in the last 12 months. Things move fast in the world of ecommerce, and this year was no exception. Between new challenges in the supply chain, fluctuations in ecommerce growth, a return to in-person retail, and more, it’s been another for the digital history books.
Just as we reflect, we also start to look ahead at what’s to come in the new year. Today, we’re looking at some new year’s resolutions for your store that will improve your customer experience.
#1 - Do more with personalization before and after purchase
Customers these days have a lot of choice when they shop online. There will always be a number of different brands to choose from, no matter how niche the product may be. That not only makes it more competitive for brands, but also more difficult for customers. Especially if there are like-for-like products with similar pricing, how do they know which is best for them?
That’s why customers are now looking at what kind of experience brands offer, not just their products. Competing on experience isn’t an entirely new concept for ecommerce, however in 2023 it’ll be more important than ever to both acquisition and retention. This is largely because of the growing expectation for more personalized experiences, alongside a strong desire from customers for greater control over their digital privacy and data.
Thankfully, ecommerce merchants are more than capable of providing both using first and zero party data. However the real key to maximizing your customer experience is using that data to personalize it throughout the entire journey. That means before they make a purchase, all the way through post-purchase and beyond.
Some ideas for how to do this:
Personalizing your entire experience with owned data will be the key to staying competitive in the new year.
#2 - Offer enhanced tracking and order management
Customers have high expectations of the brands they shop with online. However, they also want to be able to do more for themselves when it comes to their orders. 81% of customers will try to solve an issue themselves before reaching out to customer support, and 60% prefer using self-service methods of support. In recent years, customers have also become more aware of the issues that can arise with orders post-purchase - supply chain disruption being the most obvious. The problems they then face can cause them to question brand loyalty - 48% of customers say poor delivery experiences would lead them to stop shopping with a brand.
Customers want more control and information when it comes to their orders. Giving them this isn’t difficult, yet it can make a big impact on customer satisfaction and retention.
- Make it easy for customers to create an account, and for historic orders attached to their email address to be visible when they do so.
- Send frequent emails with order information, and allow customers to control how many notifications they’re sent.
- Allow customers to turn on SMS order notifications to receive updates on the go.
- Offer real-time tracking with your own branded customer portal that allows your team to add notes that give additional information about an order. Customers can then access the most up-to-date tracking info anytime they want to.
The added benefit of better self-service support is fewer customer support tickets, allowing your team to focus on issues that do require additional attention. In 2023, customers will pay greater attention to how much information they can get about their order, and how easy it is for them to manage.
#3 - Use of omnichannel to better blend in-person retail and online shopping
Throughout 2022, we’ve witnessed a return to in-person shipping and with it, a slowdown in ecommerce growth. This presents a big opportunity for merchants in the year ahead to take advantage of a pre-pandemic trend that’s making a comeback - omnichannel. To recap, this is where all channels form part of the same customer journey, rather than functioning as self-contained touch points.
Omnichannel has the ability to help merchants blend in-person and online retail in a unique way. Rather than customers shopping in-store and that entire experience only existing in a brick-and-mortar store, merchants can add digital touch points that blend the two together. Some ways to do this include:
- Offering flexible fulfillment options online, e.g. buy online, pick up in-store.
- Allowing customers to check in-store availability online.
- Give customers multiple options for returns. For example, buy online return in store, or buy in-store return online.
- Enable customers to use gift cards either online or in-store.
- Make it easy to exchange items purchased online in-store, or offer store credit that can be used either online or in-store.
- Create email segments based on location, so you can offer more tailored, local content to customers who are in the vicinity of physical stores.
- Use location based targeting as part of your social media advertising strategy, so customers local to your retail outlets get information about the omnichannel services you offer.
Creating an omnichannel experience takes time, and the reward will be a more future-proofed business that better serves all your potential customers.
#4 - Use community building and transparency through social media
It’s nothing new to say that social media is a part of the customer journey. More recently, however, its role has somewhat shifted and adapted. We’ve seen this year how more young people use TikTok and Instagram over search engines for certain topics, and the return of micro-influencers. Platforms like TikTok make it increasingly easy for users to start conversations, discuss products, and build relationships. This more community-led approach to social media means when it comes to finding new brands, they’re even more likely to trust the opinions of their peers.
If you want to get ahead in 2023, your brand has to focus on participating in these communities and conversations on social media. After all if we're talking about omnichannel as a trend for the new year, engagement on social media forms part of the customer experience. You also need to take an open and transparent approach to how you present your brand on social media. This transparency needs to carry through your customer experience. When a potential customer decides to make a purchase they can see that same attitude and commitment from discovery all the way through to checkout. That means being open about the production of your products, where you source from, labor involved, commitment to the environment, and so on. And being transparent about more individual order level information such as shipping costs, fulfillment timeframes, and how to process returns.
So, in the new year, it’s time to get more involved on the platforms your customers are engaging with. Find out where they spend their time, who they listen to, and look at the conversations they’re having with their peers and those they look to for advice. The more you engage, the more you’ll understand your target audience and the better you’ll be able to make the customer experience.
Every year brings new challenges, and new opportunities. By looking at what’s going to matter to your customers in the near future, you’ll be able to capitalize on trends and ensure your store’s long-term success.