In part one of Brand Monitor's 'E-Commerce and the Social Consumer: Making Online Shopping Hassle-Free' series, we discussed two of the most common hurdles that online customers faced and what retailers can do to make online shopping an enjoyable and problem-free experience. While insufficient information on brands' websites, high shipping costs, along with the worry of the product being damaged, are among the biggest reasons that discouraged people from selecting the 'buy now' option, our research highlights two other factors that can deter prospective shoppers from making a purchase via digital and social media channels. In part two, we will focus on how brands can provide better after-sales support and service to customers and the importance of offers and deals and how these can convert prospective customers to loyal shoppers.
Resolving Common Consumer Woes: Part Two
- Poor After-Sales and Customer Support:
Approachability and the constant availability of sales persons and attendants give brick-and-mortar stores that enviable edge over e-stores. Although there has been significant progress as far as social customer support by brands is concerned, customers are still daunted by questions like 'I have a problem, who do I contact?' or 'the product purchased online isn't up to my expectations, what do I do now?' According to a recent study (conducted by an Assistant Professor of Communications at New York University for Conversocial), 49% customers said that they would be far less likely to buy a product from a company if they went to their Facebook page and found a bunch of unanswered questions or unresolved complaints from customers. Statistics like these highlight the importance of offering timely and efficient online support and service to customers. Let us look at some ways how retailers can do this:
- Timely Response: Online customer support is not just about being there for the customer, it is more about responding to the customer on time or at the earliest. Here's a hypothetical situation: i)Customer notifies brand about a problem ii) brand takes time to respond or does not inform the customer that they have taken note iii) confused and frustrated customer takes to social media channels to vent his ire iv) what could have been a small, easily-resolvable issue eventually snowballs. Going by the CMO Council study, customers expect response within 24 hours after they engage with a brand online for support issues. For brands that need more time find solutions, we think a simple 'we understand your concern and are working on resolving it at the earliest' response should do the trick.
- Identify Customers in Need of Support: Not all customers will immediately reach out to the brand when faced with a problem. It is not uncommon to see customers talking about issues or asking for assistance by posting an open question on the web. In such cases, it would be wise to identify these customers by using social media monitoring tools like Brand Monitor, listening to conversations concerning your brand and focusing on those which need to be acted upon. Good customer support is resolving issues when customers contact the brand; great customer support is addressing concerns even before asked.
- Twitter is a Great Customer Support Tool: Twitter can be an excellent customer service and support platform. Most customers like the idea of 'tweeting' their concerns in a crisp, to-the-point format, using a platform that is public. For dissatisfied customers, using this microblogging site is mainly about getting the brand's attention and expecting a quick response. One company that offers unparalleled customer service via Twitter is Dell. Check out the @Dellcares handle to know how it's done.
- Where are the Special Offers and Deals?
According to a Nielsen survey, the main reason why people engage with or interact with brands and companies via social media is for special offers and discounts. North American consumers showed the strongest interest in using social media for deals (45%), followed by consumers in Asia-Pacific (34%) and Latin America (33%). Consumers getting onto social media sites with the anticipation of finding discounts and deals are often disappointed when they find none being offered and look for alternatives elsewhere. While offering discounts may translate into additional costs for marketers initially, there are long-term benefits to this. Deals and discounts mean more customers, more customers mean more sales and more sales mean healthy revenues and profits.
- Making Online Shopping a Fun Experience: Why do many people think of online shopping as a dull experience? For consumers used to browsing through traditional stores and checking out the latest sales, the idea of filling up virtual carts may not sound appealing. Offering discounts to customers who 'like' a page, or allowing them to download coupons is a great idea to add the fun factor to the online shopping experience and keep them from getting easily bored.
- Giving Consumers a Reason to Loosen Those Purse-Strings: It is a common sight to see consumers thronging traditional stores during those Independence Day or Black-Friday sales. What motivates these coupon-collectors and discount-seekers to brave those long queues is the prospect of saving money, while loading up their shopping carts. While traditional stores have been successful in luring shoppers with special offers and discounts, where e-commerce stores gain the edge is in the absence of billing queues. Yet, consumers who visit a brand's 'Shop Now' section on Facebook sometimes don't complete their purchase because of lack of discounts. Our suggestion? Featuring offers and discounts at regular intervals gives consumers a good reason to loosen their purse strings.
The inability to physically be able to handle the product and not finding sufficient information are some of the most common reasons that deter online consumers from selecting the 'buy now' option. Research shows that some of the more serious reasons included credit card security issues, high shipping costs and poor after sales and customer support. With 'high shipping costs' being the number one reason for customers to opt for traditional stores, we expect online retailers to work towards either reducing this or completely obliterating costs associated with the delivery process.
Another area where brick-and-mortar stores win over virtual shopping is the physical presence of sales personnel to answer queries and look into customer complaints. However, as seen in the case of Dell, online customer support has come a long way in terms of timely response, identification of customers in need of assistance and making optimum use of social media platforms as customer support tools. Twitter being the preferred customer support platform currently, both online retailers and customers are likely use this microblogging channel much more than before. From resolving issues, listening to complaints or simply interacting with customers, the next few years will see an increase in use of Twitter as a customer support channel. As for online deals and discounts, brands appear to be working on how they can make the virtual shopping experience more fun by increasing the number of special offers and allowing shoppers to download coupons. According to Jeffrey Grau, eMarketer principal analyst, daily deal sites like Groupon are expected to fuel substantial growth in the next five years.
The time-strapped modern consumer is social-savvy and willing to shop online. For brands, this means tremendous opportunity to up those revenues and send the sales charts soaring. The one thing that brands need to keep in mind before venturing into this space is that there's more to online marketing than fancy promotions and sales talk; converting prospective customers into loyal shoppers greatly depends on how much effort marketers put in towards making online shopping a hassle-free process.