Delivering an Online Retail Experience with In-Store Shopping’s Perks

The retail landscape has changed for good. The global pandemic forced consumers to shop in a whole new way and drastically accelerated retail digital transformation in a matter of months. Brands and consumers who may have been hesitant to buy and sell online are now embracing digital customer experiences

At the same time, consumers still want the consultative, personalized experience that they are used to in-store. Rising online retail sales, coupled with increasing numbers of customer service organizations being asked to handle more complex problems during the pandemic, puts customer service in an even brighter spotlight.

As the future of retail customer experience takes shape, it will become more important for brands to re-create the in-store experience online. But how?

Understand customers’ new needs and expectations

According to Shopify, a whopping 84% of consumers shopped online during the global pandemic, and 48.8% of consumers will continue to shop online more frequently after the pandemic is over. As this volume is expected to continue, it is imperative to consider how new online shoppers will be interacting with your brand in a digital-first world.

How do you make it easier for them to get their questions answered and surface the correct information and resources? How do you ensure you are able to deliver a seamless experience when consumers switch channels or move from in-store to online? Retailers must ensure that they are serving the consumer at a high level across the vast array of online and in-person channels to fully meet their needs.

Incorporate digital-first support strategies 

Digital-first customer experience strategies can be positive contributors to brand equity and loyalty building. Consumers that perhaps would walk into a store to check out a product or ask a question to an in-store representative now require that service in an online environment. 

Instead of tracking down a phone number or e-mail address, a chat widget or in-app messaging may be the most convenient option to get a question answered. In fact, according to Kustomer research, live chat continues to grow in popularity with consumers, now ranking as the second most popular channel to get customer service problems solved. 

Infuse service with personalization

Digital customer service doesn’t equal impersonal customer service. Customers still want to be treated like real human beings, with unique thoughts and preferences — not like anonymous transaction numbers. According to Kustomer research conducted during the pandemic, the top three most valued customer service attributes are empathy, personalization, and speed. To communicate most effectively with customers requires meaningful, personalized communications at every touchpoint, even when they aren’t interacting with a company representative face to face. 

Think of customer service teams as advisors

As e-commerce rates skyrocketed during the pandemic, more shoppers relied on customer service teams to feel comfortable and confident about their purchases. While post-transaction support such as information on order status and return initiation will never subside, CX teams can now take on more of a revenue-generating advisory role throughout the customer lifecycle. Leading brands like Glossier, Amaro and Anomalie are great examples of this advisory role in action.

It’s important to take this new role into consideration when planning out a holistic CX strategy and outlining the responsibilities of a CX organization. These shifting expectations may require more time and knowledge, but they also mean more opportunity. CX teams no longer just solve post-transaction issues; they build meaningful relationships that directly impact an organization’s bottom line.

Examine your technology

Delivering a superior digital experience that lives up to your curated in-store experience is entirely possible but requires the right technology and tools. First, make sure your technology enables truly omnichannel experiences so that your customers can communicate with you wherever they like. Whether in-store, on your website, via e-mail or on Instagram, all of your communication channels should be integrated so that you don’t miss a beat. In addition, your technology should be able to unify customer history across systems and channels with actionable data to deliver personalized, hassle-free customer experiences while boosting efficiencies among agents. 

Share information across departments

It’s extremely helpful to share any information that your CX organization collects with relevant parties throughout the organization. Perhaps a certain product gets damaged more often in transit, and the logistics department needs to reassess packaging. It could be that customers have trouble navigating your website, and the e-commerce or marketing team can assist by optimizing the site. By maintaining consistency and sharing knowledge across departments, you can deliver a unified and stellar customer experience. 

As the retail world continues to become more digital, CX organizations will only become more impactful. In an online environment, they take on the sole face of your brand, and are the metaphorical “boots on the ground” when it comes to customer sentiment and feedback. 

With the right technology tools, your business can deliver consistent, personalized, and frictionless experiences across channels, building customer loyalty and establishing a community of advocates for years to come.

Gabe Larsen is VP of growth at Kustomer.

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