Over the years, I have worked with a variety of retail clients to implement an online contact strategy. Across the industry, the story is the same. The buyer behavior is continually changing. So where are they now? To understand the changes that are going on today, we need to account for the whole picture. With the online shopping boom, the conversation that played over and over again was how to “bring the brick and mortar experience to our online shoppers.” This is a great concept and encompasses a lot of different strategies such as providing a white glove treatment for VIP clients, and the idea that “we wouldn’t let a client walk into our store without greeting them with a smile and a ‘how can I help you?’” The difference now is that shoppers no longer compare the online experience with the in-person experience. Now shoppers are demanding a completely different experience and they are ultimately in the driver seat. The question now is, how do we meet those needs while driving conversions and revenue and still remaining efficient as a retail business?
Meet the customer where and how they want
Over time, more and more people are preferring to buy online versus in-store while making a purchase on a mobile device is preferred over using their desktop. As buyers make this movement, the inverse is true for the average order value of each purchasing channel. People buy more in store than on a desktop and more on a desktop than a mobile device. So how can we encourage all our shoppers to buy more? The answer: tailor communication to them.
- In-Store – Take me for example. I’m a working mom of 3 trying to shop online for back to school outfits. The number of items and different sizes necessary to do that is overwhelming in itself but pair that with the number of choices directly at our fingertips and the task is anxiety provoking! The in-store experience is simple in that a sales associate is needed to check out, so having them there to greet me and offer help is basically a given. The clothing options are on display, so a quick glance at each item and it only takes a few minutes to get through the entire store. When selecting my items, the salesperson can assist me to ensure I find what I need and has the opportunity to point me to the sales racks and offer suggestions on outfits that would be best. With a captive audience that has already made the effort to get into the store, maximizing the sale potential is relatively straight forward.
- Desktop – Duplicating the sales process on a desktop, the choices now go from the inventory that is available in the store to this seemingly endless supply of options. I am immediately enticed to keep scrolling and searching for the perfect options. This searching can only take so long because let’s be honest, I can spend hours in front of my computer but I can easily walk away and vow to return to my shopping cart without much time lost. So how can I, as an online shopper, be helped? For this scenario, the best option is chat. Having a clear path to get in contact with an agent with the click of a button to guide me through the best options, help me select the outfits and suggest additional items that would be best to build a wardrobe is ideal. This way the client gets the items they need by taking the quickest and most efficient path and the sales associate can maximize and close the sale.
- Mobile device – We all are very well aware of in-store and desktop experiences but shopping on a mobile device is a much different process. The reason the conversion rates on a mobile device are so much lower than the other channels is that scrolling online has now become a pastime. Given the fact that on a mobile device we pick up and put down our phone for minutes, or even seconds at a time, the communication window is super short. I can shop for my children’s clothes while I’m waiting for a doctor’s appointment or waiting in line at the grocery store. Rather than take a chunk of time and dedicating it to finding what I need, I will piece together the few minutes I have, here and there, to do my shopping. Personally, I can’t remember the last time I saw someone standing and waiting for something… anything… without a phone in their hand. People are texting friends, checking their social media pages and shopping online. So how can a retailer help me and everyone else who may be on their site for only a few seconds? Meet me where I am and text me. By using messaging as a channel, the retailer’s concern of pushing the dreaded home button and shutting down the website is gone. When I get home and unpack my groceries or get out of a meeting, my message from the retailer will be waiting for me, pulling me back into the shopping funnel even if it is an hour or day later.
Not only will sales increase, but I have seen customer satisfaction increase by 15-20% on messaging channels. With no hold times or sitting stagnant waiting on a response, it’s not hard to understand why.
Whether in person, on the phone, chat or messaging, there are efficiencies to gain by strategically offering the most appropriate channel. It is useless from a customer and a business standpoint to have visitors in a store call a toll free number for assistance with their purchase. In the same way, having people call in to talk to an agent when they are on their computer or cell phone, is losing many clients. You will notice that I didn’t mention how many additional conversations an agent can handle on messaging vs chat vs phone. While it is clear from a utilization standpoint that messaging is most cost-effective, it is not the main reason to switch your contact strategy. Again, I repeat, the buyer is in the driver seat and with the competitive climate of the retail industry, it is no longer a choice to consider these communication strategies. It’s a requirement. That is not saying that chat and phone have no place in the customer support world. They absolutely do, they just have to be in the logical spots.
Opening the lines of communication to meet the client where and when they want will drive sales and ultimately lead to very loyal customers. The ultimate goals achieved!