Winning the battle for the e-commerce customer and his loyalty means staying on top of the entire purchasing experience, starting with shopping for the product, shipping to the doorstep, and even setting up in the home. The execution of an e-commerce order is critical in the process to build and retain customer loyalty.
According to Forbes, Customers switching companies due to poor service costs U.S. companies a total of $1.6 trillion. That large number should motivate businesses to do anything and everything they can to retain customer loyalty. Luckily, there are several strategies available to ensure satisfaction and customer retention.
How well are you delivering to your consumers?
OPERATIONAL BUILDING BLOCKS
From an operations perspective, there are a few areas of focus we recommend that can help keep your e-commerce customers happy and loyal.
Availability and Control of Inventory
Do you have visibility to your inventory? The number of companies without a robust inventory management system in place is shocking. 46% of small businesses either don’t track inventory or use a manual method. Knowing what you have, such as through a warehouse management system (WMS), can help you maintain order accuracy, better manage inventory levels and verify orders before they are sent out. This transparency ensures the consumer receives his correct product at the expected time of delivery.
Peaks and Valleys
Because online purchasing behavior is less predictable than brick and mortar store activity (that has well-defined hours of operations), your warehouse or fulfillment center should be prepared for orders dropping at all hours—even in the middle of the night. Swelling during weekends or around peak periods (e.g., special sales, holidays or other events) can create other challenges.
While these may be good problems to have from a sales perspective, they can create operational challenges in terms of added labor costs, fulfillment accuracy and speed. Having the right processes and technologies in place can help you better respond to these changes in your business and maintain customer satisfaction and loyalty to your services.
How well are you organizing your inventory in your warehouse? Good warehouse design saves space, money, and time. And don’t forget to predict incoming inventory as accurately as possible. President of the Warehousing Education and Research Council Kenneth Miesemer calculated just a 20% deviation on a 200,000-square-foot storage area can result inasmuch as a 400,000-square-foot shortfall or surplus.
How efficient are your pick, pack and ship processes and technologies? When volumes rise or when you need to fill custom orders, or customize your packaging and differentiate your brand, the right methods, technologies and capabilities can take your business to that next level. If you want to retain customer loyalty, make sure you can keep your promises with efficient technologies and timely deliveries.
SERVICE AND PERSONALIZATION
Communication remains the hallmark customer loyalty strategy in the online world—even if you’re not “face-to-face” with your customer.
Being accessible—such as through phone call options, email contact or live chat—goes a long way toward building a relationship with your visitors and customers. So does displaying information such as product and shipping details, your returns policy and/or guarantee.
Personalizing your packaging and including a “thank you” note are another way of building your relationship with a customer you rarely—or never—see. Tuft and Needle mattresses, for example, send a handwritten note along with their product, thanking the customer for their purchase. If that isn’t enough - they even call the customer weeks after delivery to see how their sleep has been! Now that’s dreamy service.
Shoppers who participated in the 2015 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper™ study had something to say about the importance of communication. Of the more than 5,000 respondents, 73% said that detailed product information was an important factor when searching and selecting products; so, too, was visibility to the returns policy (62%). And 59% said providing shipping costs early in the process was also important.
Give the Customer a Voice
Feedback not only helps you better understand the customer experience but it also provides your customer the opportunity to voice their opinions or concerns. This can lead to stronger relationships, a priority in your strategy to retain customer loyalty. Make sure you include your customer support email address and a phone number for people who prefer to speak to someone directly.
ON TIME DELIVERY
It’s no secret: the customer wants faster delivery, more delivery options and no added costs.
Having inventory that is close to your customer means you can reach a larger percentage of your customers more efficiently, within a shorter period of time.
White Glove Service
Do you sell luxury furniture or high-value business products that require a special last mile delivery touch? If so, a great way to differentiate your brand is through a specialized, high-touch, white glove delivery service experience. Services such as the kind FIDELITONE offer include inspection and repair before the product is delivered, room of choice delivery, assembly and clean up.
Solving problems during the product search and purchase process or throughout the delivery experience shows your customers you care. Consider multiple points of accessibility—such as easily accessible customer service contact numbers, email links or online chat—to make it easy for your customers to get in touch with you. Make sure you provide the hours in which their call will be answered as well as estimated feedback times. The more information the customer has as to when their questions will be answered, the better chance the resolution process will go smoothly. Keeping them guessing as to when you’ll get back to them will only elevate their frustration with your business.
When it comes to returned merchandise, how efficiently are you getting that inventory back into circulation? An inadequate or cumbersome returns policy can impact service levels and lead to poor return recovery rates and added labor costs.
How visible is your return policy to your customers?
In the UPS study, 67% of shoppers surveyed said they review an online retailer’s return policy before purchasing.
Also of note: the study also revealed that the average shopper expects to have about a month to return an item to an online retailer. Do you know how long the return window is for your product?
Bottom line: Happy consumers are loyal customers. These strategies can help convert and build repeat business, but when it comes to getting the right product to them on time, operational excellence is key. What is your business doing to retain customer loyalty?