Christmas is fast approaching and ecommerce retailers are no doubt hoping that continuing consumer confidence will help drive sales figures even higher than in previous years. The 2014 Christmas period saw record growth, with the value of online transactions increasing from £14.9 billion in 2013 to £17.4 billion, representing almost a quarter of total revenue. In stark contrast, brick and mortar sales fell 2.1%, indicating that the online market is slowly but surely eroding consumers’ desire to shop in-store at Christmas, writes Florent Aonon, head of UK sales, ITinSell.
So what does this mean for ecommerce retailers? The popularity of online shopping obviously presents a huge opportunity during the festive season but also a number of challenges, one of which is the task of maintaining customer satisfaction at a time when many businesses are feeling the strain of overloaded supply chains and delivery channels. Keeping people up-to-date about their purchases is especially important at Christmas; leaving customers in the dark about whether they will be forced to find a last-minute gift thanks to a delayed or undelivered package doesn’t add up to a very happy holiday.
It is only two years since online shopping giant Amazon found itself in a hailstorm of complaints when packages didn’t arrive on time as carriers struggled with the huge influx of deliveries in the lead up to Christmas Day. While the performance of the delivery partners was thrown into question, the true reputational damage was felt by Amazon, which attempted to smooth-over customer relations by offering compensation in the form of $20 gift cards and refunded shipping costs. Yet in the face of this cautionary tale, most retailers still have very little idea about what happens to a parcel once it has left the warehouse, continuing to rely solely on carriers to communicate information to customers.
Thankfully there is now a way for retailers to handle the entire customer relationship from checkout to delivery. Rather than allow buyers to be directed away from the ecommerce site to a carrier’s page for shipping information, retailers can integrate a branded tracking page where people can see updates about their purchase including delays or issues with the delivery. This puts the power back in the hands of the retailer, meaning they can communicate with customers regularly and accurately.
In addition to this, by taking control of the delivery update process retailers are able to pre-empt customer queries before they arise, resulting in fewer inbound calls to the customer service team. In fact by using this approach, French toy retailer King Jouet managed to decrease customer service enquiries by more than 70%.
Many companies invest significant resources into acquiring new customers, instead of focusing efforts on building trust among existing ones. Maintaining ownership of the end-to-end sales journey helps create brand loyalty, something which is invaluable when cementing a solid, long-term customer base. After all, a happier customer is more loyal, more likely to return to the website and more inclined to recommend the business to friends and family.
This festive season, lets hope that online retailers will spread the Christmas cheer by providing customers with a smooth, hassle-free delivery experience.
ChristmasMarketJena by ReneS. View original image here.