The Balance of E-Commerce and Customer Service

The Balance of

As highlighted in a recent Nielsen study e-shoppers are quickly expecting online retailers to integrate more and more with their storefront counterparts. With increased expectations on things like real-time inventory and the ability to order online and pick up in store, brands have to quickly adapt as consumer expectations shift.

While the above are certainly heavy hitters in the e-retail game; the broader implication is that consumers are looking for the same level of speed and customer service that they receive with brick and mortar merchants.

In E-Tailing’s 17th annual mystery shopping study 100 brands were ranked based on three pillars of customer service, accessibility, efficiency and communication. Brands with the highest scores saw emails answered in as short as 30 minutes and have implemented features like one click checkout and the ability to move shopping cart items to a saved list for future shopping.

But what does this data ultimately show? Retailers are putting more and more attention into two major areas in the e-shopping experience- customer checkout and the logistics behind it.

I Want It And I Want It Now

In the wake of big online retailers like Amazon and Office Depot creating a competitive edge with their shipping speeds, online consumers have heightened expectations when it comes to the time it take to click “complete purchase” and the product showing up on their doorstep.

In the same E-Tailing study, shipping speeds have gotten faster across the board over the last three years. In 2013, the average time it took for a package to ship via ground shipping came in at about 4 days. Fast-forward to today and that number has gone down to less than 3 ½ days.

While shipping speeds are a major concern from online shoppers, a company’s return policy is equally significant. In order to further entice consumers, major brands like Zappos and Old Navy offer pre-paid return postage that can be easily printed off your order page at the time of purchase.   While the study only pointed out 38% of the participating brands offering this service, the percentage is up from 27% in the year before.

While being able to compete with shipping speeds and incentivized return policies largely rests on the size and earnings of a company, smaller brands can still compete. By featuring return policies and shipping options front and center, these companies can eliminate a sizable amount of confusion before it’s too late.

Simplify Your Checkout

Simply stated, the easier you make the ability for your customers to pay the higher your conversions will be. In another study conducted by Milo 56% of consumers expect a variety of payments options once they hit the checkout page.

While this has historically been categorized as a variety of major credit cards, consumers are looking to integrate emerging payment options like Apple Pay, Visa Checkout and even Bitcoin into the way they choose to pay online.

PayPal has enjoyed significant integration both on and off-line over the last few years. Retailers like Famous Footwear, Abercrombie and Fitch and the Home Depot now allow customers to use their PayPal accounts in lieu of other payment options. Further, The Home Depot has also added the ability for customers to one-click purchase items directly from the product page, given that they are logged into their PayPal account from that device.

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Using one click checkout has become another big game-changer in converting online consumers. E-Tailing’s mystery shopping survey found that more than 50% of participating brands are now actively using one-click purchases, a 7% increase from the year before.

Brands that are still on the fence about implementing this feature should look no further than the plethora of data available that shows in several A/B test scenarios that one click checkout consistently out-performing multi-step checkouts.

The more that online retailers can align themselves to current and emerging trends in the e-commerce world, the better position they can be in to reap the benefits of new opportunities. If you operate within the e-retail space, look to implement sooner than later and capture more market share before these trends become antiquated and new ones rise to take their place.