According to the Centre for Retail Research, online spending by UK consumers has now reached £52bn, representing growth of 16.2% year on year.
Nearly a third of that spend was through a mobile device, and the report predicts this market will grow to over £60bn by the end of this year.
In the UK alone, more than three million people commute for over two hours a day. Travel time, given the frantic pace of life, equals down time and many commuters will not only read, socialise and network during this time, they’re also likely to shop, pay bills or connect with a brand.
It is no surprise then, that most conversations around digital transformation, innovation and disruption at the UK’s major banks, mobile device vendors and payment solutions providers are centred around seamlessly connecting with customers via mobile and online.
From contactless, to Apple Pay, to PayPal’s new beacon technology, the UK is becoming a mobile first society, catering to mobile shoppers.
With new technology making online and mobile transactions and interactions easier, retailers have an opportunity to optimise customers’ experiences.
The customer is king – and with every conceivable tool at the their fingertips, this is truer than ever. In this incredibly competitive market, brands that want to be successful ensure they understand their customer needs and motivations for purchases.
As a reward, a transaction will turn into a valued relationship. A personalised, digital touch point will be critical to ensuring customers receive first class treatment, whether they are shopping offline or online.
So how can organisations provide personalised, effective engagement to ensure that digital natives have a seamless purchasing process from the browsing to the buying stage?
Digital first customers
First, it has to be clarified that a digital first customer is not necessarily a member of generation X or Y. Being digital-first means your first instinct is to go digital; whether to shop, to access information, nurture your professional network, read, socialise with friends and family or find a date.
And an always on, digitally savvy life doesn’t mean these consumers are happy to give up control or privacy, quite the contrary. Approach them at the wrong time, with a message not tailored to their need, and you alienate them.
However, a well timed message that solves a problem means they will appreciate your efforts and are more likely to stay on your site.
But if you force them to change the channel, just because they want to return an item or have a question, they will gravitate towards a different brand that doesn’t inconvenience their shopping experience.
Engaging with “digital firsts” is tricky, and winning loyalty is a challenge. While brands are investing in more and more solutions and technologies to stay ahead, they need to know that there is a fine line between being annoying and helpful, and invasive vs dependable.
Listen carefully and you will be rewarded
Ernest Hemingway once said he “learnt a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” Well, brands need to listen.
Look back Nokia’s press conference in 2015 when they announced being acquired by Microsoft. Nokia’s CEO ended his speech saying “we didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow, we lost”.
If brands stand still, much like Nokia or BHS did, they will lose out to competitors or disruptors that have listened to consumers and are offering them a more convenient, tailored experience.
The wrong content at the wrong time feels like spam, or worse, feels disruptive and irrelevant. No one likes the feeling that they are being blatantly approached for sales.
There is great potential for brands that understand how to gracefully engage and delight the digital-first shopper
Engaging with the right content at the right time begins on a brand’s website. Brands should differentiate their content targeting by sharing content relevant to specific visitors on their site in real time.
Brands can find out what interests customers by analysing the information visitors already provide, including keywords searched that brought them to the site, real-time behaviour and web and purchase history. These stats help to map out buyer intent along the buying cycle.
For example, if a furniture retailers’ customer service team fields a lot of questions on how to assemble items purchased, the company can use that insight to develop a how-to video guide.
Don’t forget the live person
Consumers prefer digital to connect with a brand. But this preference is only true as long as there are no questions or problems.
Web optimisation is of course a critical component, but we can’t fail consumers when they need personal assistance. An automated response can be cold, impersonal and lead to frustration. When digital firsts have spent time on the website before deciding to ask for assistance, you know they want to talk to a live person.
As interactions shift increasingly to the digital space, brands need to identify new opportunities whereby to create meaningful relationships with their customers.
Therefore, retailers need to be looking for ways to add a human touch to their digital channels, whether it’s through mobile messaging, live chat, video support or social.
With 24/7 internet access and mCommerce comes an expectation for 24/7 customer support. Moreover, slow loading websites, complicated checkout processes and unanswered questions are no longer acceptable to consumers.
Most consumers will wait an average of 76 seconds, and if help doesn’t arrive, they will simply leave.
Retailers must offer quick, intelligent, real-time help. Tools like live chat buttons, video assistance, and voice for customers that are not as digitally savvy are great options to help provide better customer assistance.
They should also ensure they continuously update FAQs on support or their contact web pages and by using insights from customer chats, they can make that content as relevant and valuable as possible.
As better payment options for mobile devices continue to transform the shopping experience for consumers, making it easier for them to shop online, retailers who want to remain competitive must consider opportunities to engage digital shoppers wherever they are and at whatever time.
By providing humanised customer service and personalised offers at the right time, with the right content and via the right channel, retailers can ensure they are ahead of the game.
There is great potential for brands that understand how to gracefully engage and delight the digital-first shopper. Brands must first ensure however, that they aren’t crossing a line or missing the mark entirely.
If they do, there is a high possibility that consumers will surely abandon, or worse, “opt out” and disengage with the brand forever. It’s about making information easily accessible when and where customers need it.