VOICE OF EXPERTS
Top CX Trends for 2019 – Customer Experience in E-commerce
Guest Blog by Nivesh Jain, an award-winning digital marketing leader
Customer Experience (CX) often has a far-reaching impact on sales, irrespective of the nature of your business. In the context of e-commerce, this impact assumably quadruples and the significance of CX has often been emphasized by all e-commerce leaders from Jeff Bezos to Jack Ma.
In the ongoing digital age, a customer has access to the experiences of her peers, even before engaging with a brand herself. Publicly available reviews and comments about a brand are known to profoundly influence the purchase behaviour of first-time customers. The fact that customers are more likely to talk about bad experiences than good ones, coupled with the crazy amplification that social media provides to brand-bashing posts, makes it imperative for anyone in the e-commerce industry to knuckle down to improve customer experience in order to stay likeable as a brand.
Like any other sector touched upon by technology, CX has been continually evolving. Here’s my take on the top trends in E-commerce CX for 2019.
#1 Omnichannel Customer Journey Management
Most online shoppers interact with brands across diverse media channels and use multiple devices to do so. So far, most brands have been attempting to map these omnichannel journeys with a conversion optimization intent, sometimes even at the expense of customer experience. I’m referring to things like irrelevant remarketing ads or intrusive messages, emails and sometimes even calls with impulse-validity discount vouchers.
I feel that brands have a responsibility to provide a good experience right from the first point of contact with a potential customer and serve relevant communication during the consideration phase. Right now, some players from industries with longer consideration phases like real-estate or certain parts of BFSI, are doing a good job in this regard by trying to educate the customer and providing them with the information they need, instead of pushing their products. This trend will extend to e-commerce and grow much more relevant in the near future.
#2 Moving from Personalized to Predictive Experiences
The last few years have seen e-commerce businesses using technology to serve personalized experiences to shoppers. I think that it is now time to move beyond simple personalization and offer predictive experiences. Taking an example outside of e-commerce, Volvo has an intelligent system that can predict when a part requires repair or replacement, and can even warn the car owner in advance, thereby avoiding unexpected breakdowns in the middle of the road.
Even FMCG has certain similar applications where the e-commerce business can remind customers about consumables that need to be reordered. Fashion could use it big time and recommend products based on personal style choices of the customer, instead of showing bland recommendations based on recent browsing history alone.
#3 Artificial Intelligence
AI is a mandatory inclusion on all such lists of trends. I would call it the present as well as future. Apart from features like chatbots, there are several applications of AI to automate operational processes and minimize human errors, thereby improving CX.
Artificial Intelligence has company-wide use-cases. Think of a common scenario where the marketing team sends a mailer describing a promotion that the product team just ended on the website, or a bestseller going out of stock because the purchasing team didn’t initiate the procurement at the right time. AI systems can easily manage the sending of such emails or even the placing of orders to replenish inventory.
#4 Getting Involved in Purchase Decisions
A sizeable chunk of e-commerce websites uses run-of-the-mill plugins and apps on their online stores to show product recommendations to users. There are cases where these suggestions are not useful or relevant; and even when they are, there is a probability of inducing a choice paradox, which not only translates into a negative experience but might even lead to the abandonment of purchase.
To ensure a good experience, e-commerce companies need to start helping customers with purchase decisions, in a purely unbiased way. For this, the website needs to understand different types of customers and treat them accordingly. For customers who seem sure of what they want (usually identified by long-tail search terms), it makes sense to present a unidirectional purchase journey with no distractions. For those who need help deciding, dynamic website navigation with easy browsing and filtering of product selections, coupled with comprehensive feed-tagging and savvy live-chat responses should do the trick.
#5 Voice Search and Smart Speakers
The rise of voice search and their virtual assistant counterparts, including Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Siri or Microsoft Cortana, presents a new CX trend that e-commerce players need to turn their attention towards. Standalone online storefronts will have to make their product feeds voice-compatible in order to be discoverable by such consumers. Even their websites will have to add features that allow customers to find products and place orders using voice commands.
#6 Real-time Tracking of Order Status
The introduction of real-time tracking by ride-hailing services was a celebrated CX improvement. Next, the food-tech industry splendidly nailed it by providing precise updates on order status, right from the kitchen to packaging to live GPS tracking of the delivery guy bringing your food.
I think the first step for e-commerce is to, at least, make out-for-delivery orders GPS-trackable and then probably progress in a direction where the entire logistical cycle is available for live-tracking, as opposed to the sporadic updates that are presently sent out by most companies. Now, this could be challenging for businesses that do not have an in-house logistics arm and rely on third-party partners, but I’m sure that as soon as one player makes a positive move, the rest will follow.
#7 Data to Enable Demand-Supply Balance
E-commerce companies can now easily collect and analyse data on consumer demand using newfangled technology. It is possible to combine search data, social media chatter and digital behaviours to predict demand for a specific brand, category or even product, with satisfying accuracy.
Demand trend data could very easily be utilized to improve supply patterns on e-commerce websites and hopefully, even completely eliminate cases of unavailability of popular products. This application of consumer data could add a new wrinkle to the way e-commerce businesses think and open-up the opportunity for smaller players to transition from drop-shipping to inventory models, thereby fulfilling orders faster and leading to an even better CX.
#8 Delivery for Unavailable Recipients
A persistent e-commerce challenge is product delivery in cases where the intended recipient is not available. If the call by a delivery executive goes unanswered, packages are either lost, inconveniently rescheduled or even returned as undelivered. In all outcomes, the e-commerce company is the worst hit, either in the form of an unwarranted refund or a negative online mention.
While players like Amazon provide options to instruct the delivery guy to leave your package with a neighbour, a larger trend is expected where e-commerce businesses and their logistics partners will jointly tackle such cases by allowing customers to whitelist friends, colleagues or anyone else, right from the office receptionist to the residential security guard, to receive a package on their behalf.
Introduction of simple OTP validations on delivery can also avoid cases of lost packages. Sub categories like furniture and groceries already allow delivery scheduling, which is a step in the right direction.
#9 Being Ethical about Data
The capabilities of technology are impressive and they’re getting better every day. Customers that are oblivious to the working of tech, get freaked out when a business seems to know things that they did not consciously reveal, and interpret it as a breach of privacy. Customers are even more suspicious and insecure because there are a few companies that have misused or compromised customer data.
Besides legislative measures like GDPR, e-commerce businesses need to start being way more transparent about what data they collect and help customers understand the boundaries of such data collection. Once the customer starts trusting you and gets comfortable sharing data, it could be used to significantly improve CX. For instance, registered customers could authorize you to track their social media activity so that the next time they comment “I want” on an Instagram post featuring a product, it automatically gets added to their wishlist.
Guest Blog by Nivesh Jain
About the Author
Nivesh Jain is an award-winning digital marketing leader who specializes in E-commerce Growth. In the last few years, he has worked with businesses of varying scales and industries, helping them maximize their revenues from digital channels along with optimizing their marketing expenditures. You can connect with him on https://in.linkedin.com/in/niveshjain