Online store? Check. Customer connection? Maybe.

How to create an online experience that truly connects

4 Nov 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven mass adoption of digital technology. In fact, eCommerce has now surpassed levels not expected until 2025. While businesses have acted quickly to get online or tweak their digital offerings, this is just the first step to creating a successful online retail business. In the absence of the traditional bricks-and-mortar shopping experiences or sales reps with strong relationships, businesses need to be mindful of the risk of diminishing customer engagement. So, what do businesses need to do to stay connected with their customers and grow sustainably online?

Replicating offline customer connection online

While moving a business online allows consumers to shop anywhere, anytime, it’s not without compromises. For B2B shoppers, face-time can be crucial for developing relationships that take precedence over pricing. And for retail shoppers, the overall physical shopping experience – from décor to lighting to touching the product – helps create strong brand loyalty. With 73% of consumers saying a good experience is a key influence on their brand loyalties, businesses need to look at new ways to create customer connection. Here’s how:

Personalisation

Your website should be the digital equivalent of a warm welcome at a retail store. Thoughtful recommendations shouldn’t just upsell products but also add a personal touch that will leave a lasting impression of your brand. Thankfully, this is increasingly easy to achieve with Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI solutions allow businesses to adapt their websites based on information gathered about the user – everything from tailored product offerings to personalised offers and customised navigation. AI can create an experience so personalised that it leaves customers thinking the store was built just for them.

Exceptional customer service

Expectations are high when it comes to customer service, and chatbots are here to meet those expectations. With online shopping available 24/7, customer service needs to be available to match. Machine learning allows virtual assistants to continually evolve and improve, providing customers with relevant information and answers, all with a quick turnaround.

Removing the risk

Pre-pandemic, the ability to try on clothes or touch and feel products was the major drawcard for in-store shopping. Mid and post-pandemic, businesses have sought new ways to overcome the risks associated with online shopping. Free or easy returns have become commonplace, and internationally, services like Klarna have partnered with retailers to offer a buy-now-pay-later model. Klarna allows customers to pay for an item only once they’ve received it and are sure they’re happy with it. With more than 40% of consumers citing free and easy returns as a key driver for recommending a brand to others, removing the risk is also an important element in referrals.

Embrace technology for the at-home experience

With 62% of people quoting the inability to see, touch, feel and try out items as the reason for not shopping online, new technologies are fast overcoming these factors. These include:

  • 3D technology – allows retailers to replicate a physical interaction by examining the product from every possible angle.
  • Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR) – while not mainstream yet, AR and VR are touted as having the potential to reshape the world of retail. This technology is being integrated into shopping experiences worldwide and will eventually become a standard part of online shopping.

Make the unboxing experience count

Receiving your online purchase in a generic brown box is so 2019. These days, packaging needs to work a lot harder: it’s often the first, and sometimes only, time a customer will experience your brand, so it needs to replace the in-store experience. Packaging today is an important extension of your brand – whether it’s sleek and high-end or eco-friendly, every little bit counts. Including handwritten notes, free samples or an Insta-worthy unboxing experience all help you strengthen loyalty and provide additional customer connection. Studies have shown that nearly as many people think the packaging itself is as important as the brand they purchase from.

Bringing the offline experience online

While technology has changed the way we shop, it’s also providing the answers to delivering an enhanced experience to consumers. By bringing key elements of the offline experience to life online – personalisation, great customer service and brand touchpoints – businesses can still drive loyalty and customer connection.

Is your eCommerce site keeping up with today’s customer needs? Contact the Solutionists team for guidance today.

author:

Solutionists

date published:

4 Nov 2021