The Consumer Confidence Gap: Why the Digital First Generation Needs the Human Touch

Posted by
Erin Kang
LivePerson Contributor
Thursday, June 26, 2014 - 13:49

The consumer confidence gap: You’re shopping, you have intent to buy, but you just aren’t 100% sure … Have you ever done all the research, know how to make your purchase (you really don’t need support), yet, you just need that extra nudge of encouragement?

Some of us want reassurance that the color is on par with the latest trends, that our choice is perfect for a certain occasion, or that we can return the item if we have a change of heart. We need a little extra boost to finalize and feel good about our purchases—whether in-store or online. It’s the human touch, that friendly added assurance, which encourages us to buy—and walk away both happy and satisfied.

We call this the consumer confidence gap, and one of the most effective ways to bridge the online shoppers’ confidence gap is none other than live digital engagement. Why? Well, sometimes you just want the support or validation from another human being to help you make that decision. It’s that simple.

The Consumer Confidence Gap Spans Industries

On the surface, automation and ecommerce seem to take away from personal communications. Yes, consumers may appreciate the custom email greeting or login screen, but it has become expected in exchange for personal information.  If you’re like me, that limited personalization no longer excites you. In today’s sea of self-service, it’s the companies that raise the bar to support customers with an actual human connection that win long-term brand love and loyalty by instilling purchase confidence.

Take Amazon for example. The leader in self-service recently launched Mayday support, which puts a live representative at customers’ fingertips whenever they need help with features, troubleshooting, and more. The Mayday button speaks to the essential ingredient in the overall experience: the human interaction.  It’s not surprising that Amazon is extending this key feature to their  newly released Fire phone. Mayday offers the uniquely human element that makes consumers confident in their ability to get the most from the product.

The need for human support and assistance is not only prevalent with larger or more complex consumer electronic purchases. It’s a necessity across industries.


Whether you’re shopping online or in-store, the human touch is essential when it comes to retail. Style trends come and go, and sometimes, we just need that outside opinion on the right pattern or the perfect fit.

A prime example: The other day I was shopping for a new pair of jeans in-store, only to find frustration. As I tried on 8+ pairs of jeans in the fitting room, I found myself wanting another perspective. Are these flattering? Should I size up or down? Yet, no one was there to help me. I actually walked out of the fitting room in the jeans I was trying on to find a human being to help me. The dressing room is where I needed the most support, and obviously I was intending to make a purchase. I ended up ditching the jeans, frustrated.

The same moments exist online, presenting a huge opportunity for brands to provide meaningful assistance and encouragement to their digital customers. Brands need only to observe and identify when a customer wants to be helped, and then provide friendly advice in the same digital channel. Take Ted Baker-- they treat their digital storefront just like their “high-street” boutiques, offering personalized style advice through live chat.


Sometimes, human support online can prove almost more beneficial than over the phone or in-person. In one example featured in the LivePerson Connect community, a live chat agent was able to help a Travelzoo customer plan a 30th birthday trip to NYC—and save the customer hundreds of dollars. By reviewing the customer’s recently viewed pages, sharing offers that they could both view at the same time, then checking out together, the agent secured an ideal trip while making sure the customer was getting the best possible deal.

Financial Services

According to Forrester, more than three-quarters of adults are banking online—checking their account balances, transferring funds, paying bills and more. Consumers want the convenience of digital, but that does not mean we still don’t need the added human touch, especially while making important financial decisions. Even when abundant FAQ information is available online, a direct conversation helps consumers choose which banking plan is the best fit for them based on income, spending habits, savings goals, etc. These are major life decisions—wouldn’t you want to speak with a real person?

The desire to connect with a real person during banking transactions was articulated to me again and again when I interviewed people down in Wall Street not too long ago. See what they had to say about their banking preferences:  

In a CIO article, Customer Experience Means Never Having to Repeat Yourself, Bank of America’s director of ecommerce, architecture and consumer segments technology discusses how consumers take experiences from other industries, and expect that same level of services when it comes to personal banking: "They're comparing us to Apple and Amazon and the premium customer-service organizations."


For a final example, think back to the last time you purchased a new phone or upgraded your mobile plan. You likely researched options and looked for offers online, but when it came to making a final decision, opted to discuss. Most consumers need a conversation with a live representative to chat about available options, examine the fineprint, confirm their choice, and put the final plan into motion.

How to Fill the Confidence Gap? Look to Employees First.

When consumers step into your store and speak with an associate, that conversation becomes the center of their brand experience. Consumers’ relationship with your brand, and confidence in purchases from your brand, hinges on a meaningful human connection.  Because consumers form relationships with the people who represent your brand, employees are your greatest asset.

So, how do you build opportunities for engagement, in-person and digitally?

Commit to a customer-centric business model. Examine the customer experience at every touchpoint, and in every department. To start, put customer service at the heart of each job function—from IT through marketing, sales and service. For best practices, look to Zappos’ on-the-job service training for all employees, or Intuit’s commitment to D4D (design for delight) company wide. Think of Apple’s retail stores—the whole store is built for service! Prospects can play with actual devices to make a decision on which they want, and customers have “Genius” support on-demand.

Consider the following digital confidence boosters to merge the in-person and online experience, and build customers’ confidence in purchases and your brand.

  • Engage shoppers lingering on a checkout page. Use a photo and first name of the representative waiting to help them so they feel the human connection.
  • Consider pushing rich-media assets to customers to give them a better look and feel of the product
  • Remind customers about the fabulous deals or fashionable items waiting in their shopping cart with contextual content.
  • Incentivize a final purchase with an offer on items waiting in the cart or on a wish list.
  • Encourage shoppers to invite friends to like your brand or make purchases with referral offers. This digital tactic enables existing customers to fill a confidence gap for those in their own network.
  • For high-value customers, consider offering video chat for rich, one-to-one customer service and personalized shopping assistance


What are the sure ways companies across industries are building your confidence? As a brand, what are your biggest challenges?

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