Customer experience is key for ecommerce success. Omnichannel shopping choices are in high demand and drive positive customer sentiment. Customers see opportunity in retail becoming more fragmented — to them, more choices can mean better options to find the things they want to buy, more opportunities to pay with their preferred payment methods and greater variety in the products they can choose from.
Retailers have to keep up with consumers’ increasing demands. Not just in volume of orders, but also in delivering a great customer experience that keeps shoppers coming back.
Shoppers like Amazon because it’s a safe bet. It’s always open for business, unlike a brick and mortar store. With an unrivaled stock of products and fast, reliable shipping, Amazon sets the standard for good customer experience.
Note that we said good. Not necessarily great. Amazon excels at being a utilitarian option — a fallback, in many cases — for shoppers who are tired of “out of stock” messages and order declines on other ecommerce websites. People go back to Amazon time and again because they know what to expect.
How Siloed Legacy Processes Push Your Buyers to Amazon
If you leave your customer service to chance, you leave your shoppers with few options. Just one bad shopping experience can shake confidence in your brand. It’s a big risk for smaller retailers — and just about everyone is small compared to Amazon.
Start investing in a customer experience overhaul that challenges outdated internal processes and poorly performing external resources. The path to a better, more profitable customer experience model starts by reinventing your business inside and out.
Fixing broken systems from the inside out
According to Gartner’s recent Data Quality Market Survey, businesses estimate that poor data quality costs them on average $15 million a year. Dirty data can come from anywhere: outdated information, poorly targeted market research and more. Spending money to maintain obsolete data resources quickly turns your data processes into cost centers.
Dirty data also damages your relationship with customers. Research from the University of Southern Denmark shows the impacts of bad data use in ecommerce:
- Less customer satisfaction
- Increased operational costs
- Inefficient decision-making processes
- Lower performance
- Lowered employee job satisfaction
Instead of losing business and money by relying on bad data, invest in smarter and leaner ecommerce data analytics structures. Christian Rast, global head of data and analytics at KPMG, shared his insights in the 2016 global CEO report:
“Operating in increasingly complex and dynamic ecosystems, companies can derive tremendous value from ensuring trust throughout the analytics life cycle. Those who can manage trusted analytics will have greater confidence in their decision-making and trust in their customer relationships.”
The first step in cleaning up your data practices is to sync up new, more efficient processes with the right team. Clearly defined roles in data governance with an interdisciplinary focus will help start your new venture on the right foot.
This requires buy-ins from your IT team. A common mistake well-meaning ecommerce leaders make when chasing a brand-new data governance build is rushing in with the latest cloud-based apps and software-as-a-service solutions. While these tools are essential and often promise seamless integrations and easy use for your teams, any kind of shift in technology processes needs clearance and support from your IT team.
If existing infrastructures or staffing resources can’t support it, you’re not ready for it.
Creating a winning customer-facing strategy
Once you’ve fine-tuned your internal processes, you’re ready to take on the other half of your customer experience overhaul: your audience interactions. Your newly perfected data infrastructure must effectively engage an audience. Fortunately, your customers make it easy to communicate with them. Find them where they are to deliver omnichannel shopping options, and open up a dialogue to let them tell you who they are.
Omnichannel retail is taking over how we shop. Even in an Amazon-dominated world, shoppers want variety in how they browse, sample and eventually buy. Some retailers that expand into omnichannel fail to think of their business as a synchronized unit. In fact, 44 percent of retailers still separate their in-store and online planning when building strategy, according to the 2018 Integrated Planning & Inventory Management Survey from Boston Retail Partners.
This siloed strategy is operationally inefficient and results in a distorted or incomplete view of the customer. Fragmented shopping experiences and fractured data systems are the result. Malcolm Pinkerton, vice president ecommerce & digital insights at Kantar Consulting, shared his thoughts on broken omnichannel systems in Kantar’s 2019 Ecommerce Outlook for Brands:
“The largest obstacle to unlocking true omnichannel opportunities is that most organizations remain primarily optimized to serve brick-and-mortar retailers. To win, brands must break down the silos and work in cross-functional teams — with marketing, sales, consumer engagement, ecommerce, stores, data analysis and supply chain — all working in harmony.”
Sephora proved why it’s key to break away from divergent paths of siloed omnichannel retail. Mary Beth Laughton, Sephora’s executive vice president of omnichannel retail said in an interview with Glossy that the retailer combined its physical and online teams to remedy a lack of collaboration.
“We had good relationships across our channels, but we weren’t collaborating or finding synergies, and we were maximizing business in isolation,” Laughton said. “We’re more aligned, and we can move faster across in-store, online and mobile strategies.” When it merged in-store, digital and customer service teams in October 2017, Sephora established itself as a leader in retail innovation.
Take a page from Visa’s popular advertising campaign in the 1980s: be everywhere your customers want to be. Retail giants like Target stay top of mind for shoppers through their strong omnichannel options: (BOPIS) buy online pickup in store, drive-up service and subscription services in addition to their traditional brick-and-mortar and online stores. Think of where your organization can stretch capacity to welcome new omnichannel avenues. Your customers will follow if you can lead.
When it comes to data, your customers are among your biggest assets. They’ll gladly tell you who they are and what they want—if you can fulfill a promise to better serve their shopping needs.
Every time customers browse your website, add or leave items in a cart, click on an ad, open an email, search your business name, download your app, contact call centers or leave a product review, they are signaling their wants, needs and intent. They provide stockpiles of data that can help you get to know them. Take it one step further by building a persona profiling tool for customers.
StitchFix’s style quiz is an excellent example of how customer engagement, persona profiling and data hygiene can come together to form a better retail customer experience model. StichFix customers are asked to provide a wealth of data up front to help guide their personal stylist through selecting the right fashion looks for their tastes: basic information like age and body type to more advanced intelligence like where they prefer to shop (a range of stores from Target to Neiman Marcus) and preferences on clothing and jewelry styles. StitchFix’s style quiz also shows suggested outfits for the user to rank based on their sense of style.
The entire process asks a lot of the consumer up front. Instead of feeling like working for a focus group, the style quiz keeps customers engaged and empowers them to build a more personalized customer experience. Their self-reported data also powers a more focused dataset for StitchFix’s combination of AI and human personal shoppers to work with. Stronger persona building tools help everyone win in the retail transaction: customer and retailer alike.
Banishing ecommerce siloes
Amazon looks unbeatable in most cases. To keep pace, think about how your organization currently uses data and where you can pivot to leaner and more effective processes to boost customer experience. Evaluate your team structures and ask which key roles can be added or which skill sets can stretch to accommodate essential functions in data governance. Look for new opportunities to expand your channels—but keep everything under the same umbrella.
You can prevent siloes from damaging your ecommerce business. Our ebook How Siloed Legacy Processes Push Your Buyers to Amazon can help. Get insights from industry experts on how to efficiently create and manage omnichannel retail with data that proves your time to shift to bigger and better retail ideas is now.