On Cyber Monday (Nov. 27, 2017), NRF estimates over 120 million people in the U.S. will go online to conduct some of their holiday shopping. While most consumers see this day as the beginning of the holiday shopping season, retailers know the season is really the culmination of months of hard work and preparation.
To help retailers prepare for customer expectations for the 2017 holiday shopping season, Radial and CFI Group teamed up to conduct a survey of online shoppers to find out what they expect from retailers during the holiday shopping season. Based on the results of this survey, there are at least five ways retailers can boost e-commerce sales during the 2017 holiday season.
1. Provide Access to Live Agents Via Online Chat
Thirty-six percent of online shoppers prefer to chat with a live agent for customer service when making a purchase.
Your customers continue to grow more comfortable with chat support during the online purchase process. On Cyber Monday alone, 45 million shoppers will want to chat with a live agent about their potential purchase. And NRF estimates more than half of all holiday shoppers end up buying an item that is recommended online by the retailer, a prediction that underscores the revenue-generating power live agents can have when interacting with customers.
Make sure to double-check your staffing and overflow plans for chat support to ensure that your team will be able to handle customer inquiries. The need to ensure live chat support is even more critical during the peak holiday season. To accommodate the growing customer interest in online chat, retailers must be prepared to have live agents available to answer questions and handle customer issues.
2. Don’t Run Out of Product
Seventy-six percent of online shoppers will shop at a competitor’s website if a retailer runs out of product.
Customers are unforgiving when product is out of stock. By the time busy customers finally decide to place an order, they want to finish the task. If a product is not available, three out of four shoppers will simply move on. Your live chat agents can recommend product alternatives and salvage the sale, but ensuring product availability is, obviously, preferable.
3. Don’t Over-Promise on Delivery Dates
Forty-seven percent of online shoppers will shop with a competitor next time if a shipment arrives later than expected.
Don’t fall into the trap of overstating your capabilities. When you provide an order date, you are setting customer expectations. Customers start making plans around that delivery date. If you miss this date, there’s a good chance that you’ve lost that customer for the next order.
You should know the delivery expectations of your customers. Don’t aggressively promise to meet these expectations when you suspect you won’t be able to deliver on the promise. Instead, declare an achievable date. True, some customers will abandon the cart as a result. However, by staying within your achievable delivery dates you will alienate fewer customers and retain more business in the long term.
4. Determine Optimal Free Shipping Threshold
Sixty-five percent of online shoppers are willing to purchase additional items to qualify for free shipping.
Customers have come to expect some order level at which shipping is free. Since two out of three customers are willing to add products to their cart in order to qualify for free shipping, retailers should conduct the analysis needed to find the optimal threshold at which free shipping maximizes revenue and customer satisfaction.
Be sure to conduct at least some amount of analysis to determine what is optimal. There are a variety of advanced analytical techniques that you can apply to determine the proper threshold based on a set of given factors.
5. Capture Actionable Customer Feedback
Forty-five percent of online shoppers do not have high satisfaction with their experience contacting customer service.
Customers are generally dissatisfied with the process of connecting with a contact center, even if it’s just to place an order. Our annual contact center satisfaction study shows customer satisfaction with the contact center experience has remained low since 2014. The generally mild level of satisfaction with this interaction can be attributed to a number of factors, such as the difficulty of reaching a live agent directly, the inability of the agent to understand how to help the customer, or the lack of authority for the agent to successfully act on the customer’s behalf to resolve the problem.
Until you regularly gather and analyze your customer feedback, you will be in a poor position to take action. Even as you head into the busiest part of the retail season, make sure you establish a feedback system that can help you monitor the pulse of the customer experience. It’s also important to have a process improvement framework that allows you to immediately identify issues that arise and quickly improve the customer experience. The holiday season is a short window, so a quick feedback-to-improvement sequence will help you adjust the customer experience mid-season and re-capture revenue that would otherwise have been lost.
These five items apply to the holiday season, but they are also relevant for boosting sales throughout the year. If you continue to develop your processes around improving the customer experience, you will be able to improve customer satisfaction, increase customer retention, and grow lifetime revenue.
Sheri Petras is CEO of CFI Group, a global consulting firm specializing in citizen, employee, and customer satisfaction measurements. As one of the first CX measurement companies, CFI Group helps retailers improve operations, strengthen customer relationships, and grow their businesses.
CFI Group helps businesses prioritize improvements based on a credible metric so that you make investments where you’ll realize the greatest ROI—in customer experience, loyalty, sales, and other areas vital to your business. Let us help you optimize customer satisfaction and maximize ROI on your improvement plans.