The world of ecommerce has undergone remarkable transformations these last few years, reshaping the way businesses and consumers interact, transact, and experience digital marketplaces. From innovative technologies to shifting consumer behaviors, the evolution of ecommerce continues to redefine the rules of engagement and business strategies.
Aaaand there are probably 15,000 articles detailing these said changes everywhere on the internet today. While the above statement is true, it begs the question that, outside of the mechanics, what has eCommerce actually become?
All the eCommerce Pieces Fit Together
To consider the ecommerce customer experience of today, once you get past all the technical setup of the website, shopping cart software, standard operating procedures of order processing, picking, packing, shipping and delivery systems, not to mention tracking & followup software, and app to keep pace and then of course there's the marketing, SEO, CRO, ROAS, CAC's and the LTV determination of the individual customer. Once ALL THAT HOOPLAH is in place, then that's when the real work begins.
Huh? But that's when the business's eCommerce team starts thinking about vacation! That was a lot to set up and configure. There was a lot of training that went into all that. What could possibly be left?
Times, They Are A-Changin'
That's where we get to what eCommerce has actually become. Here's where it fits into the equation. After all the tech, policy and procedure is synced and ticking like a clock, eCommerce becomes what I like to call "Hyperactive Customer Service". Most eComm people are now rolling their eyes; "Oh, that's not my problem, customer service takes care of that." Is what most of them would say. I'm sorry my friend, to you and to everyone else in the field or climbing into a position within the field of online shopping, that frame of mind is SO ten years ago. It's a whole different playing field now and you'd better adapt...quickly.
So What Is "Hyperactive Customer Service"?
With the great majority of online buying performed with smartphones and tablets, mobile commerce has surged to the forefront. Consumers now expect seamless shopping experiences across various devices, prompting businesses to optimize their platforms for mobile compatibility, speed and intuitive access like never before. The shift from being solely product-focused to customer-centric, with advanced algorithms analyzing consumer data to offer tailored recommendations, personalized content, and targeted advertisements, enhancing the overall shopping experience is now the norm. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies are now reshaping the way consumers interact with products online. From virtual try-ons to immersive shopping experiences, these technologies bridge the gap between the digital and physical realms, offering a new dimension of engagement. Right? I mean, everyone in the industry understands all this, but...
What Have You Done For Me Lately?
At the end of the day, it comes down to these simple questions: What are you doing for your customers today that makes your business unique? What level of service are you offering to make your customer experience stand out? How can you give the customer everything including the shirt off your back, the blood from your veins... and still make a decent margin of profit? Remember when Zappos had that stupid idea about no questions asked returns and refunds? I sure do. I also remember how people were saying they would be out of business by Q2 after a busy holiday season from all the returns. Obviously the reality was a very different level of success that transcended the concepts of return service policies of the time and across the world.
It's All About The NEXT Order
That has to be the mindset now and like it or not, despite all your reports vomiting data about how the masses interact with your business, it's the individual, the one, the single shopper who needs to be placated. Give them unprecedented customer services, leading to a truly memorable customer experience, and you've got them. Now go get the next one, and the next, but don't stop enticing your first customer to come back and order again. Sounds expensive right? It certainly is, because now it doesn't matter what it costs to make a customer happy. If you want them to shop again then you had better be prepared to do whatever it takes. The few limits and exceptions to this rule will of course be fraudulent or outright criminal activity, but beyond that small percentage, be prepared to spend the money, put in the time and be creative to make it seamless and perfect.
There's Always A Line To Draw
Sooner or later the correlation between customer experience and costs will intersect and cross. It's why so many eCommerce businesses go out of business within two years. Cut back on services to save money and you'll lose them. Raise prices to cover skyrocketing costs and you'll lose them. Limit the opportunities for customers to reach out with complaints and you'll lose them. So what's a business to do? The answer always has to be within the consolidation of resources, extensive team training and the understanding that customer provisions and services must be part of the overall marketing budget--equal or greater to what is being spent on social media ads, Google Ad's, mass-media ad's, etc...
Coach's Closing Words Are
It's all about realistic approaches and understanding what your particular customers want and need. Stop comparing yourself to Amazon--you can't afford to float money the way they do. Cross-train your teams so that customer service needs and expectations are built into the eComm system put in place by your developers. Train everyone to serve customers according to a set and detailed policy that you have put in writing so there are no misconceptions about what is expected from each and every customer interaction. Yes, managers, directors, VP's and P's should all be ready to jump in and know what to do when crunch time hits--be it the busy holiday season or a crisis that has unfolded before your very eyes. Budget for the worse case scenario--I always advise clients to over budget for CE because if most of the customers are happy with your baseline of service, then when problems arise that require expenditure to solve, the money is available to cover the costs and keep the department in the black. Remember, that attitude should always be; "Here, let me solve that for you right now." Your customers will remember that and the next order will be yours.
As eCommerce continues to push boundaries, the future holds exciting possibilities for businesses willing to navigate the currents of change in customer expectations. Accept it, teach it, live it.