GUEST COMMENT Regaining the ecommerce boom by boosting customer loyalty  

Image: Fotolia

Image: Fotolia

Kim Burgess is chief customer officer at Feefo 

The pandemic changed shopping behaviours forever. Global ecommerce sales soared during Covid–19, with online sales increasing by 4% to to $26.7 trillion. In 2023, online shopping will be the norm for almost all demographics and businesses of all sizes. 

However, in the wake of the current cost-of-living crisis, consumer spending habits are shifting yet again, creating fresh challenges for retailers. People are spending less on non-essential items, meaning retailers must fight harder to stand out and capture shoppers’ attention. As a result, retail spending has gone down, with the retail industry experiencing a year-on-year drop in September.  

The good news for ecommerce brands is that 44% of consumers believe the shift to online is permanent. This provides businesses with a huge opportunity to revisit their current strategies, boost their online experience and increase their sales online. Listening to your customers must be at the heart of this. Companies that nurture and maintain customer loyalty online will be best placed to weather the storm this winter.  

The importance of listening to your customers  

People value businesses that listen to them, whether that be by responding to complaints or collecting and acting on customer feedback. 

However, many businesses make the mistake of doing a customer survey once a month and leaving it there. In today’s climate this isn’t enough. Businesses must consistently listen to feedback and adapt their customer experience (CX) with this in mind. In fact, a report by McKinsey insights found that on average, brands that regularly improve their CX, increase revenue by 10-15% and lower their costs by 15-20%.

Our own research shows that the influence of online reviews is more powerful than ever, with 97% of adults saying they read them before making a purchase. That’s why it’s so important for businesses to encourage customers to leave feedback, positive or negative. 

Right now, reviews demonstrate to shoppers that your business is real and trustworthy, which helps give them the confidence to buy from you, especially when money is tight. At the same time, your customers’ feedback will help you

 identify areas to improve or build on, which in turn will help boost loyalty with existing customers.  

Why data is your biggest asset 

Using data in the right way can allow you to create tailored shopping experiences that resonate with every customer. But you can get too much of a good thing – many ecommerce brands are overwhelmed with masses of data and unsure about how to act on it. 

This is where retailers should lean on the right technologies for support. For example,

AI-driven smart tools have the potential to collect, analyse and interpret huge volumes of data at incredible speed and scale, which can give businesses a granular understanding of the complete customer journey, including pain points, purchase triggers, and other customer behaviours. 

The most successful brands will use customer data to inform different strategies across the business. We know from working with TheVeganKind, one of the UK’s leading subscription boxes and an online only store, that they’ve used AI insights to improve their sustainability strategies.  

For example, reviews data revealed that customers wanted to know more about the company’s sustainable practices. Acting on this insight, TheVeganKind went through their entire inventory to compile a complete list of their products’ environmental credentials.  

This type of insight is invaluable for providing guidance which areas of the business you should improve on and key to boosting long-term brand loyalty.  

Trust and transparency are key for digital brands  

In 2023, brands can’t just rely on a hyper-personalised experience to build loyalty; they need to be honest too. 

For online brands, learning how to deal with complaints is particularly important. Our

own research found that in retail, a successful delivery outweighs every other consideration. In fact, delivery is nearly five times as important as a driver of positive customer sentiment than quality of product. Yet, right now almost half of UK online deliveries are delayed because of a cocktail of problems – some outside of company control. 

Communication is key. Consumers are realistic, they know that no business gets every delivery right. Customers are also generally forgiving of delivery issues if they’re kept informed about what’s going on and how the problem will be resolved. Reaching out with a transparent explanation and an apology can sometimes be enough. 

However, as staff shortages, strikes and bottlenecks continue to affect deliveries, it’s important ecommerce and retail brands have a contingency plan in place, so you can act fast to resolve complaints, without issues festering.  

While some problems with delivery have been caused by global issues, business leaders need to remain proactive. Planning how shortages or the cost-of-living crisis will affect customers and providing long term solutions is crucial. Brands that do this will reap the benefits, as almost seven in ten people will continue their purchase if they can see that the company has acknowledged a complaint and offered a solution.   

Adapting to a digital world 

As consumers adapt to a digital first world, retailers need to evolve with them and be one step ahead of their needs. This presents a unique opportunity for brands; one where they can stand out from the competition by prioritising customers and championing transparency. The businesses which invest in their CX strategies ahead of 2023, will be the ones who see customer’s returning again and again.

Kim Burgess is chief customer officer at Feefo

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