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Bridging the Gap Between Ecommerce and Real-World Experience | CXBuzz Expert Panel

While the face of shopping has been forever changed by the onset of online marketplaces, computerized warehouses, automated tracking, real-time reviews, and all the general facets of eCommerce, the customer remains at the heart and center of the experience. The sector may have opened a new avenue, adorned with convenient Buy Now buttons, timely reminder emails, and personalized discount codes, but how does the average shopper fit into this digitized version of retail?

With the familiarity and security of real-world experience being a major consideration for customers, the eCommerce experience is stepping up to recognize and meet their expectations in shopping for the same products. What can we learn from the disparities between the two experiences? We asked our experts on what to pay attention to and how to bridge this gap.

Denyse Drummond-Dunn, President & Business Catalyst at C3Centricity

We are collecting far more data in eCommerce than we are using and often doing so in an underhand way. Here are what I call the five most prevalent sins of the dark side of online shopping today:

1. Requesting credit card details for a free trial, in the hope that people forget and can be automatically billed because we forget to cancel.
2. Making it impossible to say no. Companies make it impossible to say no, either by making the “no” button small and pale, or by wording the choice as impossible to admit (No I don’t need more traffic!)
3. Getting more data than customers intended to give. Asking for information before being able to contact the company, or spreading information requests across multiple screens, making email the first so you get added to an email list you didn’t subscribe to.
4. Invitation to click or download something the customer doesn’t want, through confusing highlighting or positioning on screen. This is often used when requesting cookie approval.
5. Making it impossible to cancel or unsubscribe. From hiding details within verbose text, to the small, light fonts, or even not including an unsubscribe button, companies keep people on their lists even when they don’t want to be.

John Goodman, Vice Chairman at Customer Care Measurement & Consulting

The gap between ecommerce and real-world experience is much narrower than once believed. For instance, CCMC’s new, rigorous Delight Study has found that 48% of delight events experienced by affluent consumers took place digitally. This is because innovative companies have found how to be enthusiastic, empathetic, transparent, and humorous online in a manner similar to in person or on the phone. Even better, these human behavioral actions are as effective as giving discounts or freebees. In e-commerce 61% of delight was via email or live chat while in physical stores 63% was in person, though even there, 11% was via email. Delight had much greater impact on willingness to pay more in ecommerce than in stores, 39% would pay more in ecommerce while only 11% would pay more in a physical store.

Luis Melo, Senior Manager at Zendesk

When customers go to a brick-and-mortar store, they expect 3 main things:
1) A clean and uncluttered space;
2) Easy-to-find products;
3) Staff at arms-length.

They expect the exact same when they go to an online store. However, most eCommerce sites have:
1) too much information (promotions, disclaimers, alerts, pop-ups, etc.) cluttering what are increasingly small screens (as customers use mobile devices more than desk or laptops);
2) poor search capabilities, forcing customers into a lot of clicking and scrolling, or digging into badly designed and structured menus;
3) hide, or make it hard to find, ways of getting in touch with customer services (to deflect contacts), and even when they make virtual assistants available, they are often unhelpful.

So, to bridge the gap between real-world and eCommerce experience, companies need to surface customers’ needs, understand their expectations, and design experiences that are based on those, rather than their own view of the world and business interests. And then use technology to enable it.

Valerie Peck, CEO at SuiteCX

Few customers have a single preference for purchasing retail products. Different segments have different needs. Some like to ensure fit and style in store and then continue the relationship online, others enjoy the convenience of being able to order multiple products and return the ones that don’t fit the need.

All retailers should consider a complete Strategy – incorporating strategy through execution to ensure that there are no gaps in the CX and UX of a retail experience. A true multi-channel experience doesn’t have to be perfect, but it DOES have to meet the need.

For example – best practice! – L.L. Bean. I ordered something online and when it was back ordered due to its popularity, they send me an email. They had a solution in place with a choice to keep the order, cancel it, or call for additional support. I called. The rep had my info (CTI in place). She offered to look up their in-store inventory for the item and located it. She then put a note in her system to have the store follow up with me (“yeah right,” I thought) when they opened to pick and ship the item. Amazingly they called right at opening and validated me and my order, and had already picked the product off the floor. They validated the shipping address and comped the fee for my inconvenience. Shock ensued. They also asked if I wanted to cancel the backorder. I said no – with service like this I left that in place as I loved the item. It arrived 2 days later with a hand-written note. THAT is how you do it.

In addition, the Customer’s experience needs to be multi-channel. A central customer database with preference and privacy tools in place and the opportunity for a frictionless UX should be in place. For Marketing, the right message at the right time with both personalized (dear Valerie) and customized (knowing and using my individual record and preferences) makes it seamless. For Sales, in-store and ecommerce, remembering the customer payment method, and with prior permission, saving it makes it easy to say or click YES! Same for service. I know what you bought, I know how you return, and I make it easy. This is especially true for high end and more expensive items (vehicles, couture, etc.)

Victor Paulinno, Head of Customer Success at Fix Pay

Augmented reality. Delivery delays. Bitcoins. Defective products. Subscription clubs. Lack of security. Amid new possibilities and old issues, how do consumers assess their online and offline retail shopping experience?

Of all the sectors that were impacted by the pandemic over the past almost 2 years, retail deserves a prominent position. For a long time, the market had been speculating about the new directions that this sector would take and, in recent months, the turn was accelerated by the general context.

This means that many changes are here to stay. Not only that, but the consumer, awakened by a virtually unrestricted range of options – which solved many old market pains – already expects much more from the retail of the future.

Shopping journey: Understanding the purchase journey of your product or service is extremely important, since through it, you find the answers to optimize and improve all the contact points of your product/service with consumers, so that they are impacted accordingly, right at the right time, generating a positive experience and, consequently, a loyal consumer to your brand.

Communication tests: Communication with its customers takes place on several fronts, with advertising being one of the most relevant. When launching a new advertising campaign, there are numerous variables that can impact the way in which the public sees you.

Satisfaction survey: Measuring the audience’s satisfaction with your product or service is an essential part of the great mission of understanding your consumer and monitoring their needs – which are always volatile. A company can make every possible effort to ensure the success of its product, but if its customers are not satisfied, none of this will bring the desired results. Therefore, a satisfaction survey will help you to understand and measure the relationship that your consumers/customers have with your product or service.

Aki Kalliatakis, Managing Partner at The Leadership LaunchPad

There is no doubt that shopping online has created superior levels of convenience, speed, and effortlessness for customers.

Much as I loved browsing in my local bookstore with a cup of coffee in hand, most books I purchase are now online. It’s reassuring to know that I can also see what other customers have said about what is being offered through their reviews. Until Zappos came along, we never dreamed that I would buy shoes on the internet, even with a product that previously would have needed some personal involvement and trying on. So, Zappos show that it is possible for some purchases to happen online.

What’s missing online is the emotional experience that goes with many purchases that we make. A shopping mall creates a sense of community and engagement with other people, and in many cases, it also offers entertainment to go with the shopping experience – and I’m not talking about movies. How could you replicate a celebration of a birthday at a restaurant, for example, with something online? We yearn for connection other people, and there will be some businesses that will continue to only be viable in traditional retail. A friend recently published his book, but he couldn’t autograph it with a personal note on my tablet. No NFT (non-fungible token), could ever achieve that.

José Florido, Manager of Digital Transformation Team at Telefonica

The eCommerce is not a new marketing channel or a hype at all. It was created in the last century and thanks to companies like Amazon, PayPal, and Alibaba, eCommerce is becoming one of most lucrative marketing channels in the world today and is changing the way we shop, do business and, at the end of the day, the way we live.

Because of the pandemic, some customers have moved to eCommerce, mostly because of a lack of choice. With consumers spending more time at home online shopping is still on the rise, even though most of shops are open right now. This is mostly due to the disconnection that most consumers feel between eCommerce and on-site shopping experiences. Most business are trying to clone the online experience in the brick-and-mortar shops and vice versa, putting together the best of the two worlds. QR scanning, avatars, showcases, etc.… are only some examples of what is being used to meet the expectations of those customers that like to shop online but miss the interaction with the products and people before they finish the purchase, and those that were forced to use eCommerce because of the pandemic but don’t really like the online experience.

Stay tuned for more expert panels on CXBuzz!

About the author

Anna Burneika
Anna Burneika
Anna is a staff writer at CXBuzz. Her international background lends itself to 5 languages, a wide variety of interests, and a broad and bright approach to her work. Having accomplished her first degree - a BA in Communications and Political Science - at only 19 years old, she is currently pursuing her passion of Theatre with an MA in the UK.


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