Giving online customers what they want

The numbers for online growth are staggering but too many retailers are still slow to understand that they need more than just the point of sale to survive in today's world.

For traditional bricks and mortar retailers, providing a ‘Great Customer Experience’ is crucial to increasing sales revenues and building market share.

The same principles apply whether your business introduces an online channel or you’re a pure online retailer. Customers must be able to easily access detailed product and pricing information as quick as possible to close out the sale.

The key difference between your physical and virtual store is that customers have a greatly reduced window of time in the virtual world. It’s just too easy to move on to the next site if the relevant information cannot be displayed in an instant. Customers today simply expect information to be readily available at all times, on all devices.

The reality is poor customer experience hits your business where it hurts most – the back pocket. Immediate loss in sales revenues through abandoned conversions is often not the only impact.

Retaining existing buyers is a huge problem for companies with a history of poor end-user experiences. Australia’s Click Frenzy’s second online shopping event ended without a ‘meltdown’,  yet it failed to attract the massive numbers of businesses and customers of its first extravaganza, which has ingloriously been labelled the ‘sale that stopped a nation’.

Given the rise in online spending and the growth of omni-channel in many retailer’s go-to-market strategies, it is increasingly important that businesses deliver a simple and consistent, positive experience to shoppers.

A Forrester Research Study found that customers expect transactional-based pages to download on average within two seconds. Additionally, 40 per cent will wait no more than three seconds for a retail or travel web page to respond. And the impact on customer retention is huge – 79 per cent of unsatisfied online shoppers are less likely to buy from the same site again.

Additionally, the proliferation of mobile devices, especially tablets, is changing the way we search and purchase goods and services. The term Couch Commerce – mum and/or dad making purchases while sitting on the couch at night – is fast becoming part of our everyday vocabulary.  The numbers for online growth are staggering but still too many retailers are slow to accept the inevitable and tailor experiences for customers.

What are the costs of a poor customer experience?

·        Opportunity Cost – the immediate loss in sales revenue from a poor customer experience

·        Customer Retention – customers who have suffered a bad experience are increasingly likely to seek out competitors with similar priced goods

·        Overheads – no physical store, but implementing and maintaining an online presence, for example the inefficiencies of early identifying and resolving issues, can be costly

It’s a fiercely competitive environment, with retailers required to offer a consistent, integrated and robust online experience to increase sales and stop customers going elsewhere. Value, information depth, order fulfilment and site responsiveness are the critical ingredients.

Trust and loyalty is earned when the suppliers are able to tick all the boxes. To meet the challenges of a marketplace saturated with price matched goods, and wider product range, retailers must increasingly invest in innovative strategies to deliver a great online customer experience.

Price, product information and order fulfilment are synonymous with bricks and mortar shops yet multi-device availability and site responsiveness are often overlooked by retailers.

Win the battle with customer experience management

An approach retailers are using more and more to meet demands and optimise their website performance is End-User Experience (EUE) Monitoring.  A recent Research State of Retailing Online survey revealed the top priority for 51 per cent of retailers this year is site optimisation.

Typically, EUE Monitoring solutions allow business stakeholders to early detect, diagnose and report problems to ensure a seamless online performance. While there is a plethora of monitoring tools on the market, many focus on technology metrics which are not a good representation of customer experience.

To get real insight into online performance, and therefore maximise revenues, retailers need a solution that allows them to see exactly what a customer sees when accessing their online sites. EUE Monitoring puts the customer at the heart of transaction; it measures and reports on what online users are experiencing which can be quantified with service availability and performance metrics.

The advantage of real-time, end-to-end visibility of online applications – irrespective of underlying technologies – means retailers can fix problems quickly before customers abandon the site without making a purchase.

But be aware; there are product offerings claiming End-User Experience Monitoring capabilities that are at best approximations.

The onus of implementing and maintaining such tools resides typically with the client, which can be quite daunting considering the dynamics of online sites and the rise in numbers of user devices.

Utilising an effective EUE Monitoring approach in the competitive online retail space to provide a truly rewarding experience means satisfied customers, increased sales revenue and customer loyalty.

Roland Grelewicz is the founder and CTO of REMASYS.

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