Last year, CRM giant Salesforce conducted a survey of 3,600 business buyers and 12,000 consumers around the world. This research was aimed at gaining insight into how customer needs, expectations and behaviours are transforming in an increasingly digital world — especially one under the influence of recent global events.
Based on Salesforce’s report, “The State of the Connected Customer”, here are our key takeaways for how brands and online retailers can embrace the future of eCommerce today.
1. Evolve the shopping experience
The acceptable standard for digital experiences are getting higher every year. We’re no longer measuring the difference between good and bad shopping experiences, but comparing good experiences to great ones.
With customers stuck at home, stressed out over work and family, there’s just no room for unnecessary friction or barriers to conversion.
eCommerce businesses seeking a competitive edge should pay extra attention to:
- A digital-first strategy. We shouldn’t have to mention this one, but with a reported 88% of customers expecting companies to “accelerate digital initiatives due to COVID-19”, we cannot stress enough how vital digital-first engagement will be key to a brand’s success. In 2021 especially, this carries the additional weight of responsibility over individual privacy, down-to-earth human communication, and people-oriented design.
- Create seamless multi-channel and multi-device experiences. According to the report, 74% of customers use multiple sales channels while 66% use multiple devices to complete transactions. However, this goes beyond simply improving your mCommerce experience — in addition to these figures, 69% also want companies to translate their favourite non-digital products and services into digitally accessible formats.
- mCommerce, the mobile shopping experience, which comprises about half of the total US eCommerce market. Consider whether your UI has been optimised for small screens and touch interfaces, and how well you support users switching between devices. And, equally importantly, how well do you support users who don’t or can’t switch?
- Opportunities for artificial intelligence. For example, could customer-facing chatbots or powerful business intelligence tools help streamline your process and service? While a significant number of eCommerce customers are concerned about the AI ethics and bias, the research reveals 60% remain open to the use of AI to improve customer experiences.
2. Connect with your customers
Digital strategy is just one part of the total customer experience, and customers aren’t overlooking this. 71% of surveyed customers reported having made purchase decisions based on the quality of service. 91% agreed that a positive service experience would increase the likelihood of repeat purchases. And perhaps most tellingly, 78% would be willing to forgive mistakes after receiving excellent service.
More than two thirds of respondents expected brands to demonstrate empathy, however only one third experienced that as a reality. Here’s how your business can do better:
- Empower your customer service staff. Go beyond sophisticated tools and comfortable working conditions. Pay fair and liveable wages, education opportunities, and other such benefits that eliminate the human stresses that reasonably impact their performance. In a world where 66% of customers feel treated like a number, enabling your frontline teams to work at their best can mean the difference between converting a buyer or sending them to the competition.
- Unify your internal communications. 54% of survey participants reported feeling that sales, service and marketing departments don’t share information — a figure that suggests this has somehow impacted the customer experience. Like it or not, good housekeeping can influence a stronger customer offering, as your team will have the tools they need to provide outstanding service.
- Prioritise your efforts as a trusted advisor. This is a matter of practicality for business buyers, as economic changes force leaner operations and tighter budgets. A little over half the business buyers surveyed felt that sales representatives lacked the knowledge needed to offer meaningful solutions, while 84% said they’d be more likely to buy from a company that could demonstrate they understood the business goals.
3. Mind your values
Trustworthiness took the spotlight in the second half of 2020, outshining products and technology as key elements in brand appeal. That’s according to 99% of surveyed customers, who believe that companies need to improve their trustworthiness.
As we’ve seen in the fallout from governmental and corporate responses to COVID-19 and #BlackLivesMatter, as well as the ongoing conversation since #MeToo went viral in 2017, both consumers and values-driven businesses are more readily and visibly taking a stand against unethical practices, human rights violations, and performative allyship.
But what does becoming a values-driven business entail? Here’s a good place to start:
- Lead with your conscience. Commit to improving your company’s approach to equality, human rights, sustainable practices, fair wages, inclusivity, accessibility, and more. Amplify crucial messages that need to be heard and take an active stand against toxic corporate culture, even if might seem risky for the bottom line. Given that 61% of surveyed customers had stopped buying from a company whose values didn’t align with theirs, doing nothing in the face of a crisis could risk even more.
- Scrutinise your supply chain. A third of consumers and over forty percent of B2B buyers feel that companies should take responsibility for investing in the community and advocating for human and civil rights. “Business as usual” is no longer good enough when mounting evidence of slave labour, unfair treatment of workers, political interference, and concerning industry practices haunt the global production network. It’s time to invest in suppliers who align with the values of your business and that of your customer base.
In recent years, we’ve seen a trend towards smoother, frictionless online shopping experiences that offer continuity between desktop and mobile devices throughout the entire journey. This extends to more personalised customer support as customer service staff are empowered by better tools (which may include artificial intelligence), more awareness of product and industry, and fairer working conditions.
Audiences are savvier these days, not just in their shopping preferences, but when it comes to brands as well. They are more aware of personal privacy and less tolerant of unethical and unsustainable corporate behaviour.
And when their first choice fails to deliver the goods, they’re certainly not short of other places to shop.