A multichannel retailing becomes central to the strategy of many organisations it is important to recognise that it is often customers driving change.
As more of the “digital native” generation become consumers in their own right their assumptions and expectations are already for any brand interactions to work seamlessly across whichever of their multiple devices they happen to be using, wherever they are.
Unlike much of early eCommerce which looked primarily at young demographics as potential customers, believing them them to be early adopters of technology, multichannel introduction cannot afford to be so insular. Many aspects of eCommerce have become invaluable to all types of customer and their attitudes, needs and behaviours cannot be discounted, for example in many cases, now, older customers are the ones with often high disposable income and expensive devices. The most important thing to remember is that “multichannel” is not just “eCommerce with add ons” the website is a crucial part in the deployment of a “seamless retail system”, but all channels are equally important in terms of brand interaction – and a bad user or customer experience in one can adversely affect all of the others.
Brand expectations are different based on channel, device and platform. People do not always want the same thing in different circumstances. Until you can deliver perfect multichannel offerings it can be wise to manage user expectation to limit brand damage from poor perceived performance based not on any failure of offering, but on failure to meet expectations.
Understanding The Multichannel User Experience
The ability to understand user needs, expectations and behaviour, which will be different not only between audience segments but across channels calls for more sophisticated monitoring, analysis and understanding. In addition the multitude of backend systems, whether internal, external, cloud based or belonging to partners all need to be monitored from the server level, though the services and application level up to front end delivery of components and content. It’s no use having a great front end if it cannot be displayed correctly, or if the business logic layer is sending out the wrong products – damaging your brand, your customer relationship and costing you money.
It’s not just a matter of a seamless brand experience, either. Customers need to see the same information however they interact with the retailer if trust is to be built. For example if you log into your amazon account from your pc or mobile phone the site will recognise you, items left in the shopping basket will still be there, your wishlist is accessible, your recommendations will be the same. This not only looks reassuringly familiar, but it saves shoppers time. Users who do not have to work hard to locate the things they want are more likely to part with cash.
Meeting Customer Expectations
Customers expect daily notification of order status and realtime tracking and will be quick to complain (and blame the eCommerce site/brand they ordered from) if something does not go according to the the promised schedule. Not only does this place technical demands on the eCommerce system and on integration with 3rd parties, but places much more emphasis on relationship building and who can be trusted with your brand.
Customers also expect to be able to make certain choices about their order dispatch such as “wait until entire order is ready before shipping” or “ship as soon as items are available”. They expect to be able to order items for shipping to different addresses within one transaction – and to do all of these things and others like them the system needs to be intelligent enough to understand all the implications. For example if the user wants to have one delivery is the order part picked and stored somewhere to be added to? If not what happen if one item goes out of stock just as another comes in again? Does extra time need to be built into the delivery estimate instead of just sending a standard “within 2 working days” message? Inaccuracies in all these areas lead to poor customer service and brand damage.
It is important to integrate not only the various points of search and sale that a customer may interact with directly – but those used by call centre agents, support staff, customer service etc. This can pose a challenge, especially for customers calling about delivery and availability or wanting to amend orders/return goods etc that are actually provided by a partner or other retailer.
Recent research from the Neilsen Group observed that 55% of user failures on eCommerce sites were caused by bad or missing content. The same study indicated that good experiences generate user loyalty. No real surprises there, but the financial implications were clear to see when on “web wide” tasks given to study participants (tasks where the users are not directed to use any particular site) 50% of users given a generic eCommerce task went directly to a site they already knew – bypassing the search engines entirely. Of those users 71% complete their purchase on that first site, as opposed to 29% completion rate for the first site visited that was chosen from a search results page. Money invested in understanding user needs, improving user experience and buiding trust and loyalty sees a far greater financial return than shouting in the marketplace.
Intelligence Not Data
The best monitoring will provide a retailer with business intelligence, not just data, which enables perceptive forecasting, planing and pre-emptive action. This is especially important in the current climate as successful retailers cannot just be reactive they need to lead. By the time your customers are already behaving in a certain way it will be too late- they will already be doing that with other retailers and your brand will not be seeing to be cutting edge – but this does require you to know your users well, be able to anticipate their needs and to do LOTS of testing to avoid wasted time and money.
Mcommerce is growing at an exponential rate so there is little point putting in place anything which cannot be changed quickly and easily at UI side. A phone in 5 years time may be radically different from what we know to today. If a “mobile site” has been designed for what we have now and cannot be changed it will be like looking at something designed for a green screen monitor and expecting that to deliver a satisfying eCommerce experience
Collision of gaming and retail is becoming crucial in some sectors and platforms need to be adaptable enough to cope with such complexities as using “game mechanics” to sell or personalise items. The environment is dynamic and it will cost a lot in time and money to always be playing catch up with unwieldy systems and bureaucratic processes. In order to make use of these techniques the delivery and user experience must be impeccable. The interactive nature of a gaming experience means that users are much more emotionally engaged and likely to react with greater intensity to problems they encounter. In addition, while a game based approach can be wonderful in the right circumstances using such techniques inappropriately will confuse and annoy users who just want to achieve simple goals. In addition games are often licensed from, or use components supplied by, third parties which need to be carefully individually monitored for performance and to ensure SLA compliance. Much traditional “up or down” monitoring will not be able to deliver this nuanced information.
Hybris has a demo using Facebook connect that changes the entire retailer site based on likes and dislikes – different promotions, different merchandising and so forth. This is certainly extremely powerful, but it could run into danger depending on how engaged a facebook user the customer is. If they do not keep their likes and dislikes current and wide ranging this may pose problems. However – as with the willingness to exchange information for exclusive offers etc this may turn out to be self perpetuating if users see the value in providing this type of social information about themselves specifically for retailers to use and provide them with the content they desire. Of course there is always the risk with these kinds of personalised service with balancing tailored offers and ensuring users have visibility of the entire product portfolio.
However, if you get this kind of personalisation wrong users will not be forgiving. The more “personal” a mistake is, the greater the effect. Not only will the user not buy from an organisation that causes upset in this way they will be unlikely to share information again in the hopes of “improving the service”. Social media also amplifies any personal dissatisfaction. In the past individual customers may have told their close personal network about bad experiences but now they tell the world and people form negative impressions and associations with your brand without ever having experienced it directly. A recent Kelkoo survey revealed that 1 in 5 British consumers will air grievances through review sites while the majority of people state that they are likely to discuss bad experiences online through social media as well as in person with friends.
SciVisum monitoring not only handles 24×7 mystery shopping for real Dynamic User Journeys across and between channels and platforms, but it can handle sophisticated user preference profilingand tailored content as part of that process. Our portal provides a “single point of truth” for monitoring and analysis from the very first development testing through, load testing and release management through on-going end user experience.