There is no doubt that digital is set to remain a large part of consumer shopping habits, working with stores in new and innovative ways. However, your website or app being used by shoppers isn’t a given. If the user experience isn’t exceptional, shoppers now, more than ever will go elsewhere.
This dichotomy is starkly revealed in two studies out this week. Firstly, according to new research from Nuance, 51% of UK respondents say they would rather use apps or a company’s website than go into a physical branch or store to complete tasks such as shopping and banking.
However, separate research by YouGov for strategy agency Curious finds that a third of the UK public have not completed an online purchase in the past year due to a bad experience with a website or app. That figure jumps to 50% when looking at transactions made across a lifetime, proving functionality should be an absolute priority for brands when planning their online presence.
How retailers are dealing with this is also revealed this week, with M&S, Homebase and Pandora all charting new courses with both in-store and online operations to generate much needed sales in this changed consumer environment.
M&S is a clear example, opting to use live video streaming to recreate its in-store customer service using video appointments shot in store with real associates. The service aims to allow shoppers looking at homewares – to start with at least – to not only see what they are looking at, but get some expert advice and feedback from an expert in store.
This marks one of the first forays for a mainstream UK retailer in video streaming for customer service. Others are doing it – Currys PC World and British Gas, both of which I myself have used this week to name but two – but M&S using it is sure to propel its use into a much more mainstream user base.
Homebase, meanwhile, has sought to improve the usability of its recently revamped website by adding a wide variety of payment tools and methods. The thinking behind this is that many baskets on all websites are abandoned because of the payment page and so it is making it as frictionless as possible.
Jewellery maker and vendor Pandora, which has seen rapid growth of its online business across 2020, has already seen the benefits of delivering excellent customer experience – in its case looking at how to manage not only the smooth move between omni-channels, but also in being on top of live stock up-dates across those channels.
While seemingly more prosaic than live video and even adding face-powered Apple Pay, stock updates are one of the biggest demands from consumers looking to shop online. The mini-boom in sales of everything from beer to electricals driven by the EURO2020 football has seen out-of-stock levels rise to above 20% for some retailers – costing them potentially millions in lost revenues.
The omni-channel approach has also proved a boon for Joules, which has grown sales 4% across 2020/21 – driven by growth in online and through much needed diversification into gardenwares too with the purchase of The Garden Trading Company.
All these retailers are all too aware of the need to deliver the right customer experience – online and in-store and, more importantly, across both. That includes everything from a well-designed and slick site to having the right payment options to simple things such as knowing what is and isn’t in stock. And with price not the only key to repeat purchase, taking this holistic approach to experience is now more vital than ever.