Longstanding retailers on our high streets can no longer rely on footfall and widespread store locations to maintain and exceed revenue expectations past 2019. It’s time to focus on bringing their eCommerce up to speed. Companies like M&S have followed this trajectory as they announced that they will close 100 stores by 2022 to support their online growth plans.
On one hand, consumers may be worried to see the closing of stores, on the other, the potential of eCommerce retail benefits the wider economy; increasing fulfilment infrastructure will still create employment, as will continued demand for high levels of customer service. Online retail has the opportunity to provide a fantastic experience in the same way as visiting a physical outlet, if companies are willing to invest what it takes to create a high performing eCommerce experience.
I recently had an experience with a global company where I made a purchase that didn’t live up to reality. Of course, I immediately went to ‘google it’ and it led me to the support pages of the website. It felt like moving through a maze and ended with me finding out I had to call someone who was then exceptionally rude. Have you ever had a customer experience like this one? Brand loyalty has to be worked for and bad online experiences can turn a customer off for life.
Customer experience has now become a defining point of the buying experience, the power has shifted from retailer to buyer and we expect more than just transactional process. Buyers are well informed, understand their rights and the products they want to buy. Growing online revenue means accounting for all of this in the digital retail space.
Companies like Schuh and John Lewis manage their digital experience by recreating their in-store one, a friendly welcome, helpful resources and a straightforward user experience, while others feel like rabbit holes with very little personality. 86% of people now say they buy online in the UK but some brands still seem content with a poor loading page time and no customer support.
Performance is everything
eCommerce retail has to keep up with the pace of digital change and performance is a key metric. If a website takes more than 3 seconds to load, visitors are highly likely to lose interest and head back to Google for another option. According to a uSwitch survery 58% of consumers (out of 2000 asked) were more likely to shop on their smartphone with only 56% saying they would head to a store. With this in mind, digital spaces need to improve on their mobile usability, creating attractive user experiences and incorporating frictionless checkouts for shoppers with 1-click to buy and easy delivery methods.
Customer Support and Live Chat
As I’ve already mentioned just because it’s online doesn’t mean the expectations of service are any lower. It’s integral to a brand success that they serve the customer and continue to go above and beyond to meet their needs, or else, lose out to the competition. Enhancements in live chat and bots have allowed businesses to deliver high levels of customer service remotely. Bots can save time and admin resource by handingly frequent queries and live chat supports customers with an immediate need.
World of Mouth
Reviews and recommendations are essential to incrrease buying trust and confidence. Building positive long term relationships with our potential customers and then asking for feedback, helps others to make similarly positive buying choices in the future. With 88% of people saying they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations there is a lot retailers can do to make it easier to customers to see the value of their potential purchase.
As consumers are increasingly going digital for purchases, high street retailers have work to do to ensure the level of customer service and experience is raised in their online spaces. This is a rapidly evolving arena and consumer expectations are high. It’s time for high street staples to take the retail eCommerce seriously.