For retailers today, what was once a simple and easy-to-map customer journey, from desire to purchase, has become increasingly complex. Consumers used to browse and then buy in physical stores, but the multiplication of shopping channels has fragmented the pathways taken to a sale, with shoppers researching and contrasting products online, testing them in-store, and sometimes making a purchase on their mobile phones. With the evolution of channels, consumers now expect to be catered for across all of them and retailers need to be sure that their presence and customer communications are carefully tailored to each medium.
Proof of the UK’s whole-hearted embrace of the omni-channel shopping experience is the continued growth of online shopping, with an estimated £52.3bn to be spent online by shoppers in 2015. This compares to £45bn spent in 2014. At the same time, ‘Click & Collect’ services have taken off in the UK, with John Lewis seeing it quickly overtake home delivery in popularity last Christmas, making up 56% of the company’s online sales.
While the growth of these services highlights the efforts that retailers are making to meet customer expectations, and increase the ease of omni-channel shopping, they have also placed additional strain on delivery infrastructure. Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise that over half of UK adults had a problem with a delivery last year, with many retailers marring an excellent customer journey in the last mile. Simple issues, such as inadequate communication systems or misaligned messaging can damage a brand’s reputation and leave consumers quickly looking for a new shopping partner.
Communication is key
Through mastering communication, retailers can demonstrate they appreciate their loyal customers, while ensuring they do not leave them waiting in frustration for deliveries that never show up. To do so, however, retailers need to use the most appropriate channels when reaching out to their customers.
While email might be well suited for the delivery of certain information – electronic receipts, for example – it is not perfect for every instance. When it comes to deliveries, email alerts can be easily missed. In fact, only 55% of customer’s surveyed in the recent eDigitalResearch survey said they use their phone to look at email while on the go. This means that retailers need to avoid this medium when sending urgent updates, but that it is well suited for receiving information that may need to be archived – such as receipts or order confirmations.
By comparison, 95% of text messages are read in 5 minutes. It is available on virtually every mobile handset in circulation (mobile phone penetration of the UK adult population was at 92% last year), making it ideal for time-critical information sharing. For shoppers who are on the move, text messaging is the most effective way of communicating status updates so they don’t miss any home deliveries or Click and Collect slots. In this instance, text messages are far more likely to be seen, resulting in fewer missed deliveries and happy customers.
As more the retail landscape changes in response to consumer demand, timely and relevant communication will be fundamental to ensuring that customer journeys are as low effort as possible. As consumers cut back on their walking (to physical stores), their favourite brands need to increase the talking and push the right communications along the right channels to their valued customers.
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