For most retailers and their customers the online shopping process is as follows. Online stores utilise a “shopping cart” application that allows users to complete an online order form and process orders and payments. Physical products are then shipped to the customer or electronic products can be downloaded instantly.
Online stores are most successful when they are able to offer something equal or better than traditional business models. Customers want to be able to save time, save money and have a greater choice when purchasing online. They also expect similar levels of customer service and the option to deal with a real person if a problem arises.
It is in fact, one of the cheapest forms of advertising for your business. Having a website can give you an advantage, an advantage that can mean the difference between failure and success. However as with any retail business the customer service provided on line will have an impact on the success of your business.
Multi-Channel Retail is expanding the ways for customers to engage and trade with a retail business. This goes beyond a store to include such things as a website, email communications, mobile devices, call centres, self-service kiosks and/or mail.
An integrated multi-channel solution means linking some or all of these channels to provide a consistent brand experience, contextual to each channel. Develop these channels in silos and you’ll risk a poor customer experience.
It’s easy to forget that shopping online is actually just shopping. Too often retailers use the online space to push end of life stock, mark down products, and compete on price. Online retail should not be just about price or speed, rather it should be about selection, convenience, value and providing a compelling customer experience.
The online customer experience
Helpful definitions of customer service in a multichannel environment include:
- A customer’s perception of an organisation is built as a result of their interaction across multiple-channels, not through one channel, and that a positive customer experience can result in increased share of wallet and repeat business.
- A company’s ability to deliver an experience that sets it apart in the eyes of its customers serves to increase their spending with the company and, optimally, inspire loyalty to its brand.
Source: Pine and Gilmore, Harvard Business Review
Customers expect a high level of service online and do not hesitate to share their examples with their online network when their service expectations are not met. Therefore Online Retailers need to enhance their brand. Does the online customer have the same experience online as they do offline?
The convenience of e-commerce
Ecommerce brings business right to the customers’ computer or increasingly more likely, to their mobile phone, wherever in the world that might be. The advantage of secure online payments means your customers can pay, and wait for the goods to be shipped to their post box, all without having to visit a shop. This is convenient for both the business owner and their customers, and is the number one driver for customers, followed by immediacy.
- Fashion items, followed by electrical goods are the most researched products or services on social networking sites
- 36% of Australians made a purchase after researching products via social media
- 40% of online purchases are made to overseas retailers
Source: 2012 research
Online sales can potentially be made at a relatively low cost, as they don’t incur lengthy interactions with staff, savings that can potentially be passed on to your customers.
Looking to learn the fundamentals of E-business? The ARA Retail Institute provides leading accredited training options including the Diploma of Retail Management (Multichannel).
Find more information about the services provided by The ARA Retail Institute here.