The rise of e-commerce has been dramatic but the best could be yet to come, with estimates the global e-commerce market will grow to $US5.4 trillion in 2026. But the growth poses a challenge for retailers relying on primarily digital customer experience. Not only are digital customers more fickle but even those that want to buy may need help getting the final sale over the line. Here’s how better customer service can help.
When the world couldn’t pop to the shops in the pandemic, people turned online instead. A combination of lockdowns, disposable savings and boredom saw consumers surge online. In Australia, 73 per cent more purchases were made online in 2021 compared to 2019 and four out of every five households made at least one order online.
While the lockdowns have long-since lifted, the online habit has remained strong, whether it is buying books and shoes, to ordering skincare, to having Christmas drinks delivered to the door. In fact, the best could be yet to come for online shopping, with the global e-commerce market estimated to grow from $US3.3 trillion in 2023 to $US5.4 trillion in 2026, an increase of more than 60 per cent in just four years.
It’s an incredible growth story, but the speed of change poses a challenge for retailers now relying on the digital customer experience to deliver sales. Not only are online customers more fickle than those in store, but even those who want to buy may need help getting the final sale over the line. TSA Group General Manager Jessica Stewart says providing a positive experience online is a perplexing problem for e-commerce operators of all stripes.
“Customer service is well practiced face to face, but when it comes to digital it’s much more difficult,” Ms Stewart says. “We know this is a growing area for retailers because there is so much money riding on getting the sale over the line.”
Abandoned virtual shopping carts represent an $18 billion challenge for retailers, with more than two in three online carts abandoned before sale. Some of those abandoned carts are inevitable — the result of website visitors window shopping, favouriting, comparing products or just dreaming, with little real intention to buy. But other reasons for walking away from a potential sale are more complex, and underscore the importance of focusing on customer service on digital channels.
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Why do buyers abandon online shopping carts?
The global e-commerce research group Baymard Institute has drilled into the drivers for customers to abandon selected goods, finding that delivery cost is — perhaps unsurprisingly — a major deterrent to a final sale.
With cost of living on the rise, discovering late in the sales process that delivery will be expensive or there are previously undisclosed fees is a sale-killer. But there are more subtle deterrents as well.
Nearly one in five customers that walk away do so because the checkout process is too long or complicated, which could be addressed both through better user design and by having customer support available at the time of purchase. Another make-or-break area is the site’s returns policy. Even before a purchase is made, 12 per cent of abandonments are linked to concerns that the buyer won’t be able to get a return or refund if something goes wrong. These shoppers can often be convinced to stick around, if they have someone able to provide information, answers or reassurance.
What does that digital customer service look like?
Live chat is the first and perhaps obvious answer, although a surprising number of retailers have been slow to offer it as an option.
The Baymard Institute says live chat can be “extremely helpful” provided it is used well and available when users decide they need it — easily accessible but not interrupting the browsing process. Ms Stewart says it is particularly good for shoppers who want additional advice, like help on sizes, return policies or shipping, providing a more personalised set of answers and strengthening the relationship between customer and seller.
“Our customer experience agents provide immediate and personalised support through our digital channels,” says Ms Stewart. “We can see when a customer has paused their browsing journey which suggests to us that they may be unsure about the product page they are looking at and at this point, we can offer additional information or advice in the moment through live chat. This tailored support can address any concerns a customer may have and encourage them to complete their purchase.”
Shopify agrees, pointing to research that shows customers who engage in live chat are nearly 2.8 times more likely to make a purchase, while post-purchase group Narvar argues live chat can “remove any lingering reservations keeping them from completing their purchase and abandoning their cart”.
How can digital CX reduce the risk to retailers?
Another advantage of live customer service is the help it can provide customers unsure what they should buy.
‘Bracketing’ is the expensive habit where customers buy several versions of an item in different sizes, unsure which one will fit. Having a chat option available to help guide the choice between sizes represents a huge saving over the cost (and environmental impact) of unnecessary returns. In the US alone, it is estimated returns can represent more than a quarter of the year’s total sales.
Ms Stewart says proactive digital customer service is key to preventing abandoned carts.
“By addressing a customer’s concerns as they happen, we provide a much better shopping experience,” she says. “Our conversation frameworks provide our agents with customised support options, offering a diverse set of messaging options which suit each individual customer.
“We know when a customer prefers instantaneous support or when they want to pick up their phone and respond in their own time. This tailored technology is built to ensure support is customer-friendly, engaging and platform-specific.“
Another option to nudge potential buyers back to their carts is using a digital strategy designed to remind the buyer of what they are missing.
Retailers that use SMS to connect with customers have up to 98 per cent open rates, while follow-up email campaigns and engaging with customers on other channels can also encourage dithering shoppers over the line. Retailers who prioritise ecommerce customer service also report greater customer loyalty — a factor increasingly important given the crowded ecommerce marketplace.
Digital CX also provides important metrics to retailers, building a richer understanding of the effectiveness of customer communications and popularity of products, Ms Stewart says.
“We can very quickly identify what works and what doesn’t,” she says. “Whether it’s direct customer feedback or the types of questions our support agents receive, we can tweak the digital support we provide based on this data. This level of individualised support places customers in an informed position and removes many of the barriers to completing their purchase.”
It takes just one bad experience online for customers to give up on a retailer. Investing in better digital customer service beats wondering why all your shoppers keep wandering away.
TSA are Australia’s market leading specialists in CX Consultancy and Contact Centre Services. We are passionate about revolutionising the way brands connect with Australians. How? By combining our local expertise with the most sophisticated customer experience technology on earth, and delivering with an expert team of customer service consultants who know exactly how to help brands care for their customers.