For the small business, meaningful customer relationships are the differentiator that larger chains envy—and the reason loyal customers last a lifetime. Consumers turn to their local neighborhood boutiques and niche online shops typically because they enjoy the personal and knowledgeable service typically found there. As more consumers go online and mobile to research and complete purchases, it’s critical that a small businesses keep up with innovations in digital marketing while still preserving that human touch.
When I was an undergraduate student, we had a requirement to complete a summer internship. My roommate at the time secured an internship in southern California, while I was assigned one in Kalamazoo, Michigan (yes, there is really a Kalamazoo!). For the bulk of our possessions, we stored those—our furniture and books—in a storage unit while we were away.
“Your website states 50% off sale items at checkout......it’s not working! Every time I try to order online there is some issue. Fix your website! I dont want to spend 20 min on the phone trying to order. I’m spending my money at [competitor brand] instead!”
This is real customer feedback I recently stumbled across on the Facebook page of a major apparel retailer. Are they talking about your brand? 67.86% of online shopping carts are abandoned due to checkout issues (Baynard Institute, 2014). Nearly 68%! There are many, many customers out there ready to spend their hard-earned dollars, but can’t or don’t because of obstacles in completing their order.
2013 Forrester research cites customer experience as more important than price when it comes to fostering loyalty, especially in financial and retail industries. As more and more customers prefer to engage with brands online via live chat, it’s critical that brands offer their high impact customers an effortless connection to sales and service teams in order to remain competitive in today’s online marketplace.
Though the notion of free engagement software is undeniably an attractive solution at first glance, decision makers need to understand that free software isn’t always the money-saver it appears to be. For example, most chat providers lack the most important component of digital engagement technology: intelligence.
It was a news item that likely made retailers shudder around the world: According to the 2013 Holiday Retail Spending Survey (download required), 40% of consumers intended be big “showroomers” during the holiday season. If you’re a retailer who is regularly reading up on the latest industry trends, you may have a recurring nightmare that hordes of feckless customers will stampede into your store, unbox your merchandise, examine it, then order the product from your competitor before walking out your door—without cleaning up the mess they’ve made. But my friend Jason “Retailgeek” Goldberg of Razorfish shared some research by Bizrate with me that shows this fear is unfounded—really unfounded.
Most agree the cost per interaction with live chat is lower than with any other human-assisted channel. One major reason for the cost efficiency is that agents typically handle concurrent chats, whereas agents are able to assist only one customer at a time when providing phone and email support. But getting the optimal value out of that investment requires the right technology platform combined with the right operational processes and expertise.
Walking around the shops in San Francisco recently I noticed signs hanging in storefronts urging patrons to support their local businesses and Shop Small on November 30th. Started in 2010, Small Business Saturday is now recognized by 67 percent of consumers and there is an estimated $5.5 billion spent on this day! We here on the Small Business team applaud this grass-roots effort and are constantly trying to put ourselves in your shoes…and also channeling the needs of your customers.