How to Close the Gap Between the In-Store and Online Customer Experience

Posted by
Erin Kang
LivePerson Contributor
Monday, June 3, 2013 - 15:22

Shopping isn’t necessarily just about the end product, nor is it solely focused on a single need; it’s about the entire customer journey. For some, this means strolling down the aisles of a favorite shop or boutique. But for many, the digital world has altered the way consumers purchase their desired goods.

While the shopping landscape has certainly changed, many still enjoy elements of the in-store experience. They are able to model prospective items in a fitting room, and if need be, seek immediate and personalized help from a sales rep. These are the details that create a tangible gap between the in-store and online shopping experiences. Shoppers still seek certain traits of the physical, in-store experience while shopping online.

Whether online or in-store, customers will have questions. When they don’t have easy access to personalized help, they often abandon the cart and move on to the next best option (perhaps your competitor). In fact, 56% of online shoppers abandon their cart because they don’t have access to sufficient product information, according to A Global In-Depth Study of the Online Customer Experience conducted by LivePerson.

So, the question on the minds of eCommerce and marketing professionals becomes: how can we close the gap and reduce cart abandonment?

4 Steps to Personalized Customer Service Online

  1. Gauge Customer Expectations Online
    Customer expectations are higher than ever. 71% of online shoppers expect sales assistance within five minutes following a request; 31% expect service immediately. As shoppers move more purchases online, it’s more important than ever to know your customers’ online shopping habits and meet rising expectations.

    An in-store sales rep can gauge customer expectations and needs by observing physical behavior. (Is the shopper browsing? In the fitting room? Asking for accessories?) And now, digital sales representatives can leverage behavioral analytics to read online consumer behavior. In fact, by using an intelligent engagement engine, you can do even better.

    With predictive targeting, customer activity is monitored as shoppers navigate the site and then automatically and strategically identified as a prime candidate for engagement. Shoppers will expect assistance at key stages in the buying cycle, and by utilizing intuitive cloud software, eCommerce experts can pinpoint these moments and offer immediate, personalized help.

    “Firms can use predictive analytics models to reduce risks, make better decisions, and deliver more personal customer experiences.” – The Forrester Wave: Big Data Predictive Analytcis Solutions, Q1 2013, Forrester

    Expectations are high; online shoppers seek a personalized and efficient experience. eCommerce professionals must strive to gauge expectations and optimize the journey for each new site customer.

  2. Use Trendy Data to Maximize Engagement & Customer Loyalty

    Site analysts are collecting data each day. But, is your business using that data to guide the customer experience holistically? New technologies have given eCommerce professionals the ability to compile abundant personalized insights related to individual site visitors.

    Customer service experts can offer shoppers a tailored experience (and differing levels and kinds of engagement) based on previously collected data. Take inventory of what pages customers are visiting, what items they already have in their cart, what keywords they’ve clicked on to reach the site, among other activities, and then engage them in a meaningful conversation. If done right, the result is a customer experience far advanced from that of in-store.

    It’s also crucial to strategically choose channels of engagement, as well as targeted messaging. If the stakes are high (i.e. a high value customer who shows potential for abandonment), it might be smart to send him or her a voice chat (click-to-call) invitation and offer high-touch assistance. If a visitor is a returning customer, utilize existing feedback to decide how to better engage the buyer.

    By collecting and analyzing your data, you’re one step closer to “listening” to what your customers are saying, and save information for later use.

  3. Go Mobile

    Shoppers value convenience. A positive mobile experience enables preferred channel interactions with your brand. And, according to Kate Leggett of Forrester, “Mobile solutions are becoming a must-have.”

    Aside from online shopping, mobile devices are also used for research while in-store (24% according to a 2013 study conducted by LivePerson). Those viewing your website in-store are also likely closer to a purchase decision. Mobile engagement is a prime opportunity to foster the customer journey and engage the customer. One innovative way to do this is through mobile chat.

    While the above is ideal, according to Econsultancy, “mobile is particularly weak for most companies.” eCommerce professionals must look to the improved mobile experience for a fully integrated online customer experience. Only then will the customer journey be complete for online shoppers.

  4. Rich Media Engagement

    In-store retailers champion the ultimate personal touch: the face-to-face experience. With rich media engagement technologies, eCommerce pros can too.

    Many consumers want to observe a product prior to purchasing, and with good reason. In a recent blog post, we referenced skin care products, like foundation, as an example. eCommerce pros can replicate in-person engagement through live product demos, videos, file-sharing and video chat. And a customer can do it all from the comfort of his or her home, and get all their answers in a single interaction (a big perk for the online customer).

    Smart Insights recently shared direct quotes from five eCommerce retailers who saw impactful results after using video throughout the sales process. One representative from Zappos noted a heightened conversation rate, as well as organic traffic to the site.

    While Innovative engagement tools like video chat provides enriched and personalized customer experience, it also provides one-of-a-kind customer service capabilities. eCommerce pros can direct and guide a consumer to a certain product on the site with co-browsing and screen-share capabilities, just as a store clerk would in store. And to faciliate the checkout process, an agent can offer the payment screen right in the chat window. The ability to share product information and assist the customer through their shopping journey so seamlessly through rich-media digital engagement offers a compelling alternative to the in store experience.

Are you an eCommerce professional? What tactics do you use to re-create the in-store experience online? We’d love to hear from you!

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