With online purchasing increasing and more people working from home, buyers are engaging with brands digitally across multiple channels. As a result, e-commerce needs to go omnichannel. What’s more, context, real-time communications, AI, social chat bots and robust contact centers are all necessary to meet rising customer demands in this growing space.
Let’s look at customers, technology, and the overall playing field to highlight why the e-commerce experience must improve customer communications in this new normal.
Loyalty Is the Name of the Game
Did you know over 50% of customers will leave a brand after just one bad experience? Customers who actively engage with a brand have a tendency to be more loyal and will likely choose to spend their money supporting those brands. In return for this loyalty, today’s customers expect brands to engage with them on their terms—in a timely manner, via text, voice, social, online chats and even video. More importantly, once customers reach out, they expect conversations to transition seamlessly between channels, with an inherent, ongoing understanding of their context.
At the same time, fraud is a concern at the beginning of the customer journey. Online fraud is growing at 30% and expected to reach $48Bn by 2023. So authenticating users is a key first step to ensuring that no one is impersonating a new customer.
Customers Are Everywhere—and Impatient
The number of ways for businesses and customers to communicate has increased dramatically over the past five to 10 years. And each customer has a unique and varied preference for how they want to communicate. For example, according to the Vonage Global Customer Engagement Report 2020, 35% of consumers prefer the cell phone, while in-app messaging (11%), email (18%), texting (4%), messaging apps (10%), and other methods all have their fans.
Organizations need to provide and support the right type of communication. At this point, omnichannel is table stakes. But this adds another element to the equation—time. Overall, customers have on-demand expectations driven by a right-here, right-now mentality.
Businesses need to respond in a timely manner; otherwise, customers will think they don't care. Some channels work best for time-sensitive use cases, such as SMS for package delivery confirmations or updates on a new stock of goods on Whatsapp, while email shines for less urgent uses like delivering receipts.
Delivery and Shipping Expectations
A challenging aspect of the customer engagement lifecycle is the fulfillment stage. Given today’s digital age, customers expect almost immediate delivery. Being mobile-first has made automating many of these processes more interactive and immediate.
Companies can now:
- Automate and send instant notifications, alerts, and appointment reminders via SMS or IVR
- Provide real-time delivery and tracking information over multiple channels, ranging from social to voice
- Connect customers directly with an individual delivery person via a mobile device, leveraging text and voice for more personalized interactions
- Provide agents with real-time dashboards for a comprehensive view of delivery status, payment confirmations, and customer comments
Real-time technology and increasing transparency and play into customer expectations and can help build confidence in brands. Delivery tracking and last-mile notifications are becoming increasingly important in e-commerce and logistics.
The demand for contextual communications has grown in the past 10 years.
Yet only two out of 10 people believe that businesses are effectively communicating with their customers. Businesses need to step up contextual customer communications within their e-commerce experiences. With efficiency gains and superior customer experiences, context in conversations will allow for seamless buyer journeys that drive business.
The Playing Field
Digital Immigrants to E-Commerce
“Digital immigrants”—brick-and-mortar, on-premises stores that are increasingly transitioning to e-commerce due to rising real estate and overhead costs—are expanding their reach into online platforms. Now, these “click-and-mortars” need to try to recreate in-store experiences for online customers. Additionally, with increased online shopping and higher standards for customer service, customer inquiries about orders, stock availability, store hours, and more are growing. Digital brands need to amp up their e-commerce customer experiences, as well as data and tracking capabilities.
The increase in on-demand services and remote work/stay at home has also seen the segmentation of essential and non-essential goods, creating two buckets of support services e-commerce and retailers will have to provide.
Groceries are a big part of this. Online grocery delivery is a growing market and has become more relevant with COVID-19. Vonage has helped grocery companies looking to digitize for grocery delivery as more and more people make food purchases online. And as people adapt to it, there will be a sizable number of users who will continue using online grocery delivery post-pandemic. Moreover, more grocery brands are creating e-commerce stores and using different delivery providers. It provides companies an additional avenue to earn revenue with a marginal tech investment.
E-Commerce Tech Raises the Bar for Real-Time Shopping Experiences
Advancements in technology have led individuals to expect information at their fingertips. They want to receive information quickly within the context of their channels.
Their expectations have driven more communications methods and channels, such as:
- Increased use cases of advance notifications, such as SMS for delivery notifications
- Increased use of bots, such as CLI-based like Slack or Chat bots like OneReach.ai, Msg.ai, and more, that assist in purchasing or supporting decisions
- The rise in chat apps—Whatsapp and Viber platforms
- New analytical capabilities to examine and understand the data trail for an adaptive customer journey
- Natural language processing to automatically interpret meaning and deliver context into every conversation
AI and communications APIs are changing how businesses and customers interact. The way companies deploy these solutions will determine success with their customers.
Creating In-Store Experiences Online
With limitations in physical interactions, retailers are looking to bring the in-store experience online with personalized virtual appointments and experiential content through live streaming. This creates a huge opportunity to use video to build on customer acquisition, engagement, and loyalty. With enhancements in virtual reality (VR) and the ability to showcase products from anywhere, retailers can reach more customers at scale and avoid real estate costs. Customers can “experience” being in-store without weaving through other shoppers or having to travel long distances. Expect to see more in-store experiences recreated online in new and exciting ways.
IT Teams Are Looking to Move to the Cloud
IDC notes that the demand for cloud-based contact center solutions is outpacing the demand for on-premises solutions, and with good reason. By moving your communications from legacy, on-premises systems to cloud-based software, you can experience greater reliability, global carrier connectivity, and robust security.
Modern businesses are turning to cloud communication providers to:
Eliminate lengthy configuration processes innate with legacy contact center systems
Empower developers with easy-to-use APIs to add real-time communications features into applications without having to build backend infrastructure and interfaces
Stamp out maintenance, licensing, and professional services expenses by discontinuing legacy systems
Rely on a secure, global infrastructure to easily expand telecom usage needs on-demand, without additional time or expense to update hardware
Existing online retailers and brick-and-mortars, looking to transition into the e-commerce space, need to bring context, real-time updates and transparency to fulfill the modern shopper’s expectations. Fortunately, communications APIs have become easily accessible with robust omnichannel capabilities that allow brands to easily build unique and satisfying customer journeys to make shoppers come back or more.
Learn how to enhance your customer’s journey by adding personalized communication channels and alerts to your e-commerce platform. Vonage Communications APIs gives you a way to connect using text, chat, calls, and video. Find out more about APIs for retail and e-commerce here.