GUEST COMMENT The essential component that's missing from your marketing strategy
Marketing teams have been working double time to keep up with both evolving consumer tastes and a changing media scene. The value of digital and social media has grown, changing the dynamics of where and how marketers spend their budget. But in the end what may set a retailers’ marketing apart from other competitors may actually be something that feels a bit more traditional: customer service.
A service mainstay like a customer contact centre may not seem to have the same impact or allure as a sleek marketing campaign, but it’s important for retailers to understand that in the end, their goal is the same: to inform and engage the customer and ensure a strong, positive brand experience.
All too often retailers are left with gaps in their brand consistency and reputation due to uncoordinated marketing and service teams, and it’s especially prevalent when it comes to the ecommerce side of their operations. A marketing team may spend countless hours refining a message, but one inadequately packed product or a mishandled customer interaction could be the sticking point that turns a loyal shopper into one that seeks out a competitor. It’s important that the core message of a brand is reflected across every consumer touch point - from brick and mortar to digital.
Here are three overlooked yet essential areas where great customer service can directly impact great marketing, and vice versa:Packaging and delivery
How a retailer packages its product is one of the most impactful ways that it can delight a customer - and for online shoppers, that package is the only physical interaction that the customer may have with the retailer. Ironically, it is also an area where retailers can often miss the mark, choosing to cut down on costs by using cheaper packaging supplies or use delivery methods that don’t fit a certain product.
Retailers such as Net-a-Porter and Selfridges go the extra mile to package items in a way that directly reflects the quality and character of their brand. Selfridges has its trademark yellow reflected on the inside of its packaging boxes and Net-A-Porter does the same with its black and white packaging and thank you notes. These types of subtle cues point to a greater marketing message that is consistent across the brand.
Which carrier the retailer chooses to deliver these packages can also make a difference when it comes to ensuring a good last-mile experience for consumers. In the UK, carriers can serve as clear differentiators from one retailer to another as there are so many to choose from. Each delivery company may ensure a different level of service, and retailers need to pay attention to contracts that guarantee certain quality standards.Speed and convenience
One of the biggest challenges both retailers and carriers face in delivering ecommerce packages is speed. Today’s shopper is mobile and fast-paced, and more and more brands are marketing to this new type of customer. There is a greater expectation that any products or services from a certain company will be executed or delivered as soon as possible.
As a result, many retailers are offering increasingly rapid delivery speeds - often as fast as next-day delivery. Toolstation is one leading retailer in this area, offering next day delivery as their standard delivery mode if ordered before 6pm.
Convenience goes hand-in-hand with this emphasis on speed. Consumers want their products as soon as possible, but they also want to be able to refund money or have questions answered immediately as well. Marketing may be emphasizing a company’s characteristic easy breezy lifestyle, but if someone is having an issue with an order and cannot get in touch with a company representative, this can ultimately be a hollow promise.
Increased communication with the customer on the platforms they use most often seems to be the best way to combat this hurdle, and these updates are beneficial throughout the entire interaction, from purchase to delivery to return. Text messages are one of the most popular ways to deliver these interactions. Tesco sends customers texts informing them of delivery date and targeted time slot. Currys return service includes capabilities to rebook return collections via text message if a pickup is missed. Very updates its shoppers on the status of returned orders, sending a text to confirm when the item is received and when they will see changes reflected in their bank statement and Very “My Account” details. Returns
The return process itself is an area where some retailers fall short because it may seem counterintuitive to focus on customers who are not satisfied with their orders. In reality, convenient returns can often create greater brand loyalty with shoppers and increase the likelihood of shoppers buying online.
We’re seeing several retailers take creative angles on this trend, most of them focusing on making it easier to return an item close to home. One of the most popular return policies is Collect+, which allows shoppers to drop an item back to local Collect+ points (usually convenience stores). Retailers such as Asos and Very are similarly offering returns to lockers close to shoppers homes. Doddle has recently partnered with Amazon to returns packages to shops located close to train stations. And Myreturns is a company solely focused on this process, offering to pick up unwanted items and return them to a retailer within 60 minutes of booking.
Another angle that shoppers seem to respond to is expanding returns windows. While most retailers offer returns within 30 days of purchase (and some others coming in on the shorter end, in as low as 14 days), Zalando.co.uk allows customers to return an item within 100 days. Wiggle.co.uk takes this a step further and allows 365 days from the date of delivery.
Most CMOs and marketing leaders don’t have direct knowledge of how these three areas can translate a marketing message into practice and customer interaction. But by emphasizing communication between marketing and customer service teams, retailers can take advantage of the detailed and thoughtful marketing strategies developed for a brand and make sure they are executed down to the final mile.John Ernsberger is co-founder and CRO of StellaService