How retailers can recreate the in-store customer experience online

The Drum 16 Oct 2020 07:00
By Courtney Wylie-16 October 2020 08:00am

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Mention Me consider the changes to retail brought on by the pandemic and spot opportunities emerging within.

Over the past six months, providing an excellent customer experience has become a key priority for multichannel and pureplay online brands. Retailers have rapidly adapted their marketing strategies in a bid to build brand affinity amid evolving consumer needs.

Despite peaking at a 66% increase year-on-year in lockdown, ecommerce sales have remained strong (particularly in sectors like food and drink, gifts, and health and beauty). It’s increasingly clear the Covid-19 pandemic has permanently changed consumer shopping habits. Even shoppers who previously only bought in-store, especially baby boomers and traditionalists, have now gone online.

But an online presence alone isn’t enough. 73% of consumers say a good experience is a key influence on their brand loyalties. To get consumer attention (and spend), multichannel retailers must reimagine their customer experience in an online setting.

Make it personal

You can’t physically see your ecommerce customers, but you can learn about them based on their on-site behaviour. These can be standard elements – such as age, gender and size – as well as more in-depth characteristics – shopping habits, average spend, biggest motivators to return.

Once you have customer segments, target your messaging based on what you know about them. Rather than show a blanket message to everyone who lands on your homepage, for example, tailor messaging to the characteristics of different shoppers. Better yet, add in personalisation, such as customers’ first names, to get their attention.

Aid product discovery

And browsing leads to impulse purchasing, something 78% of Brits are familiar with.

Aid product discovery for your customers by promoting items likely to appeal to them. If, for example, your visitor has been browsing easy care, mid-size houseplants, show similar items – other easy care houseplants – and complementary items, like plantcare products and matching pots.

Product bundles are another way to aid product discovery. Invite your customers to add relevant products to their basket to save money on buying each item individually. We particularly recommend this approach for seasonal promotions, like Black Friday.

Let customers try on products

Many online and multi-channel retailers overcome this by offering free trials and/or free and easy returns so customers can try on products at home. Pay later schemes, such as Klarna, further support this, letting customers only pay once they’re sure they’re keeping their latest purchase.

To avoid mass returns, use your data to help shape shoppers’ buying decisions. When customers return items, ask why, then feed this into your recommendations. Telling shoppers, for example, that 94% of your customers rate sizing on a particular item as a perfect fit gives confidence in the purchase and reduces the likelihood of a return.

Many eyeglasses retailers, for example, now let shoppers virtually try on their products. It’s not perfect – you might find turning your head suddenly sees your nose floating in space – but it’s significantly better than scrutinising a model with an entirely different face shape to decide if you want to wear these glasses everyday for the foreseeable. The more confident your customers feel about your products, the more likely they are to buy (and keep) them.

Ask someone queuing outside a shop today why they’re there, and the word ‘convenience’ is likely to come up. In store, you can easily turn to a shop assistant to ask when your favourite items will be back in stock, or whether they have a pair of these jeans in your size in the stockroom. That’s not so easy online. But it can be.

Good customer service is an investment worth making. 93% of people are more likely to be repeat customers at brands with excellent customer service.

It’s nothing new to say that free shipping, fast delivery and easy returns are important to consumers.

Or you can set a minimum spend threshold for free delivery. 74% of shoppers buy more to qualify for free shipping. Including a minimum spend can also support product discovery, as customers add smaller items to their basket to qualify.

Continue the experience offline

But then I opened the box.

Instantly, my irritation at the six-day delay was forgotten. I’ve since recommended the brand to three others.

Incorporate small touches into yours that will make your customers smile. Add a handwritten note. Promote your brand mission. Include an in-pack insert featuring the same offer as online (we work with to offer this service to our clients).

Delivery is the first time new customers experience your brand offline. Make it count.

Asking for customer feedback is an effective way to build brand affinity, improve your products and services, and support new customer acquisition.

Even negative feedback is, well, positive. Not only can it inform how you provide a better product and service, but it also builds more meaningful customer relationships. Customers who give negative feedback to brands that act on it are more likely to return and order again than those who give no feedback at all.

Raising the bar of the online customer experience

The pandemic has forced brands to reconsider their customer experiences and raise the bar. Even once it’s over, consumers will continue to expect consistent, memorable experiences. The brands that deliver them, based on understanding their customers and serving highly targeted journeys, will be the ones to prosper.

Courtney Wylie, vice-president of product and marketing at Mention Me.

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