Solving retail challenges with technology
With 78% of UK consumers using smartphones, laptops, and tablets to access the virtual high street – and online retailers such as Amazon expanding brick-and-mortar footprints in the U.S. – retailers are facing complex developments in business-to-consumer (B2C) relationships. Customer journeys are no longer straightforward, today’s shoppers expect a seamless, interconnected experience across all channels – whether in-store, online, or through social media – and customer service expectations are at their highest. Thankfully, however, technology is keeping pace with these developments by innovating multiple facets of the consumer experience, and as a technology PR agency we’re ready to help our clients rise to the challenge.
Challenge: The ‘always on’ consumer
Customers now have immediate access to retailers at their fingertips, enabling them to compare prices and explore options faster. Yet this also creates demand for constant connection, with shoppers wanting to engage with their favourite brands across multiple channels. While these digital platforms can make paths to purchase increasingly complex, they can also accelerate the process. For businesses, consumer touchpoints such as social media present an opportunity to build brand identity overnight, which is particularly beneficial for smaller retailers who are competing with large, established names. For example, brands such as Shein and Fashion Nova have gained a notable stake in consumer popularity through utilising the power of Facebook and Instagram.
Challenge: Meeting buyer demands
The expectations of customer service have risen dramatically because of technology, as shoppers want instant responses on returns, refunds, and other requests. Through virtual services such as real-time AI chatbots on brand websites, businesses can be immediately responsive. In the retail sector, 55% of executives claim that implementing AI chatbots has made substantial improvements to how fast customer issues were resolved. Moreover, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools are able to track and archive all consumer interactions, allowing retailers to fulfil buyer demands efficiently. A tracking request, for example, can be answered quickly through customer service operations with access to delivery progress.
Challenge: Protecting revenue
Despite the growing expectations for instant customer service, B2C relationships are beginning to move away from the tradition of “the customer is always right”. The update in ASOS’s refund policies is a recent case of retailers creating barriers against customer demands, with its aim to investigate suspicious buyer behaviours and crack down on ‘serial returners’. The ‘snap and send back’ trend – where shoppers share images of their outfits online before returning them to the retailer – is a prime example of such a behaviour, but via social media, ecommerce businesses can monitor and defend against this abuse of returns policies. Ultimately, retailers minimise the impact on their bottom line by doing this, enabling them to maintain competitive prices and high quality of service to loyal customers.
Challenge: Providing a personalised experience
In a digital world saturated with advertisements, consumers no longer respond to untargeted communications that aren’t beneficial to their unique shopping experience or brand relationships. Through digital platforms and advanced analytics technologies, however, retailers have access to a vast quantity of data that can inform personalisation strategies. Sainsbury’s and Tesco, for example, are overhauling their loyalty programmes in a bid to reward more than just expenditure. The fashion brand Simply Be has based its current loyalty model on engagement, as consumer insights stated that customers felt they worked too hard for rewards through points-collection schemes. These developments exemplify the growing need for retailers to place personalised consumer engagement at the forefront of marketing strategies.
B2C relationships have become not only broader but also more complex, with brands providing constant connection and maintaining their customers through a deeper understanding of consumer behaviours. To optimise the online experience for today’s shopper, retailers can implement advanced technologies to not only drive conversions, but to resolve the challenges of a fast-paced and interconnected digital world, all the while cultivating a loyal consumer base.
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