Buying and selling online began in earnest in the ‘90s. In 1995, the year Amazon and eBay both started, the internet existed as 120,000 registered domain names. Over the next three years it grew to more than two million. Now, more than a billion websites are online.
Ecommerce has also expanded by leaps and bounds. In 2006, ecommerce accounted for approximately 3% of total US retail sales. So far this year, it’s approaching 10% and represents an almost 15% year-over-year increase compared to 2016.
While online shopping has become a bigger slice of the retail pie, the framework of ecommerce has largely remained the same for most of its history. The ways in which retailers served their customers, stayed in touch, and encouraged repeated sales primarily leaned on established promotional channels like email and advertising. Even innovations such as mobile push notifications focused on aggressively “encouraging” a customer to pay attention to your brand vs. offering an elegant and seamless opportunity for the customer to engage with you on their terms.
But in an era in of Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Slack and Uber, the old ways no longer work for users who have become accustomed to being able to communicate with each other and the world at large in real-time, across devices, whenever and wherever they want. As customer behavior evolves, so do their expectations around B2C communications.
Today’s retail shopper interacts with brands that use the platforms she relies on as fluidly as she does. Whether she thinks about it in such terms, she wants truly conversational commerce and despite the difficulties in creating a seamless interaction, it’s up to you to deliver it. “You can no longer segment yourself to service practices that only you are comfortable with,” says Amir Zonozi, Chief Strategy Officer of Social Influence at Zoomph, an engagement platform. “When a customer reaches out to you on Twitter, it needs to be solved on Twitter. When they reach out to you via email, it needs to be solved via email. Asking your customers to switch their preferred method of communication is taking your customer out of their comfort zone and should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.”
Customer Experience as the New Competitive Battleground
New digital technology has helped to push customer experience to center stage as a key differentiator between leading and lagging brands. A great customer experience builds loyalty, while a poor one increasingly means you’ve lost that shopper’s business forever. While in 2006 68% of customers with a bad experience left a company for good, by 2016, that number had topped 80%. This new breed of customer is not inclined to offer second chances.
To customers today, convenience and saving time is what drives their expectations around customer experience is driven by convenience and time savings, and they’re looking for the absolute best, which means it is personal, on-demand, always available and with instant results. Great customer experience takes investment, but the data shows that those investments pay off. A Customer Experience Impact (CEI) Report shows that 86% of consumers will even pay more for better customer experience. In an ecommerce landscape where repeat purchasers are the only ones that are cost effective to acquire, offers such as personalized service and 24/7 online chat can make the difference between a brand growing or atrophying.
You can learn more about conversational commerce by exploring Linc’s platform and solutions pages. Or take a look at how leading brands like Lamps Plus, JustFab.com and others are using automated conversational commerce strategies in their businesses today, in our resources page.