1. Shopper & Customer

The E-Commerce Customer Experience is Ripe for an Upgrade

Like everybody else, I’ve shopped online significantly more often the last couple of years, sometimes out of necessity, sometimes for convenience and, sure, sometimes out of sheer boredom. In fact, over the past 18 months or so, I’ve bought myself three wristwatches online that, truth be told, I didn’t exactly need.

Although the popular watch brand I bought from has a great reputation in its market segment, the delivery experience left much to be desired. Each time I purchased, I opted to pay a bit extra for two-day delivery and each time, the brand subsequently informed me that my order was going to be late. With my third order, I got an email later saying that my watch wouldn’t be shipped for another 12 days.

The problem seems to be that my (formerly) favorite watchmaker thinks the brand experience ends when the customer clicks the buy button. It doesn’t, of course, and every e-commerce brand would be wise to upgrade its customer experience and take control of the entire journey, rather than essentially handing over the post-purchase experience to just any third-party logistics company or last-mile courier. One of the best ways to do that is to invest in unified analytics capabilities that provide complete visibility into end-to-end e-commerce operations.

The Post-Purchase Experience is a Crucial Part of the Customer Journey

If the watch brand I bought from had been able to link its current inventory to my order, and link both of those management systems to my personal shipping preferences in real time, it likely wouldn’t have overpromised on delivery and likely could have kept me as a high-value, loyal customer who tends to buy a new watch he doesn’t exactly need every six months or so.

My experience isn’t unique and research shows that poor delivery experiences are having a significant negative impact on brands’ reputations and ability to drive loyalty and lifetime value. A 2021 study from Loqate found that 99 percent of e-commerce retailers surveyed admit to failing to successfully deliver some online orders and that 41 percent of consumers surveyed blame retailers, not last-mile delivery providers, for late deliveries.

What my watch debacle indicated is that the brand not only didn’t have the model I ordered in inventory when I made my purchase, but also that it didn’t know that. To me, that signals that the brand’s inventory management, order management and customer experience management systems aren’t in sync, leaving the brand with little visibility into its end-to-end operations. That puts it at risk of harming its reputation, missing out on a significant portion of sales, and losing highly loyal customers like me.

Success Requires Connecting Inventory, Order and CRM Systems

Unified analytics solutions help e-commerce brands understand when they can actually get goods into customers’ hands and where shipments are at every step of the way. Brands with visibility into exactly what’s in stock, and where, can shorten shipping timelines and reduce costs by fulfilling from the most efficient location. They can also provide a better customer experience by communicating transparently in a timely fashion about order status. According to Deloitte research, 69 percent of customers will shop again with a brand that has provided “an excellent site, delivery and returns experience.”

Advanced analytics capabilities also help brands understand who is buying their products so they can craft the optimal strategy for converting and retaining different kinds of customers. A unified analytics suite might have helped the watch brand identify me as a relatively frequent wristwatch buyer and therefore a high-value customer who deserves to be offered free two-day shipping with every order.

It might also have prompted the brand to decide to ship my third order as quickly as possible, even if it cost more, as soon as it discovered it didn’t have the model I wanted readily available. Given my relatively frequent purchases, the brand might have deemed me a customer worth going above and beyond for, even if that meant overnighting my watch from a warehouse or store on the opposite coast.

Many brands are looking to save on costs right now given rising customer acquisition costs and supply chain and economic uncertainties, but there’s no better time to invest in data capabilities that enable better tracking of inventory, orders and customers. By providing full visibility across disparate systems, unified analytics solutions help brands understand customer behavior so they can target the right customers with the right offers, privileges and rewards. These capabilities empower brands with the information they need to create excellent online experiences and drive loyalty and lifetime value among the customers they’ve worked so hard and spent so much to acquire in the first place.

Gary Specter is president, go-to-market at Cart.com, the leading provider of comprehensive e-commerce solutions that enable retail brands of any size to quickly scale their businesses and easily sell across every channel. 

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