Consumer behaviour has undergone a massive shift over the past few months, and online shopping – in the region and globally – has been unprecedentedly high. As retail businesses are rethinking and strategising to adapt to a changing business environment, the RetailME webinar on ‘Redefining online customer experience’ focused on factors to delight customers on their online shopping journey.
The most exciting business opportunity in 2020 is customer experience (CX), cites Katia Kachan, general manager, Brandquad – referring to an Adobe report. “Companies that focus on building CX can reduce churn rate and increase revenues, leading to higher profits. An Oracle study indicates that 74% of senior executives believe that CX impacts a customer’s willingness to be a loyal advocate of a brand.”
The key question is, what drives consumer loyalty online?
Our poll indicated that the top three factors driving consumer loyalty online are competitive pricing (79%), consistent and reliable delivery (73%) and a variety of products (64%).
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Gaining customer loyalty online
Nader Amiri, founder of El Grocer, commented on the importance of competitive pricing. He said, “As a marketplace, we follow the same-store pricing model, which immediately removes a barrier to purchase on the part of the consumer as s/he can purchase a product online at the same price as in the store, while availing doorstep delivery. Also, we have great partners like Union Coop, Sharjah Coop, Ajman Coop that provide incentives, through regular and seasonal offers, for customers to shop online.”
“Understanding the shopper journey is the starting point, which helps us to build loyalty over time, through the constant evolution of products and by creating an easy navigation path. For instance, we enable customers to search for their complete grocery shopping list on El Grocer at one go. With time, we are also able to customise individual aisles online based on the customer’s past purchase history. Service – be that through data analytics or last-mile delivery – is also crucial to gain customer loyalty,” he adds.
“Customers value prompt delivery and reliable timelines,” agrees Gustavo Smidt, chief product officer, Namshi.com. “Loyalty comes from great experience that users can’t wait to come back. It’s not only through point collection or a reward programme. Data should be leveraged to understand where users struggle and then match their expectations to surprise them.”
Moving over to product variety that’s also crucial in delivering a great CX, Leena Khalil, co-founder, Mumzworld.com dwells on a pertinent question: “Do we have the right product that helps a mom at every step of her journey? At Mumzworld.com, we take pride in curating a rich selection with 250,000 products sourced globally. Alongside variety, since we deal with parents, building trust is crucial at multiple levels – be that products, payments or delivery. Then we focus on all other ‘bells and whistles’ to ensure a great CX online.”
“We are always experimenting with new ways to gain customer loyalty. For instance, we closely monitor social media to include popular posts by our customers in Faces’ marketing initiatives. This helps us to create loyal ambassadors, while leveraging user-generated content,” adds Nick Vinckier, head of growth for luxury beauty brand Faces, part of Chalhoub Group.
What drives customers away
The top three reasons for negative CX online, as our poll indicated, include long delivery timelines (30%), product description mismatch (23%) and low quality of website/mobile app (20%).
“Delivery was chaotic during the COVID-19 lockdown; even more challenging in KSA than in the UAE,” admits Vinckier. “What goes a long way in having a strong and trustworthy relationship with customers. In our case, we were upfront and honest with our customers about the delay in delivery timelines, and they understood.”
“We have a great last-mile team, which ensures swift delivery – almost on the same day. If online is to take a share of offline retail, alongside delivery, it must be better in terms of offering a wide product selection, convenience and pricing,” adds Smidt. “Throughout the COVID-related lockdown, we worked hard to adapt on multiple fronts improvising on courier service, payment methods and everything in between.”
Improving omnichannel CX
The number of companies investing in omnichannel CX, in the past decade, has jumped from 20% in 2012 to over 80% in 2020, shares Kachan referring to a PwC report. “According to an Adobe study, companies with a strong omnichannel customer engagement strategy tend to enjoy 10% year-on-year growth, 10% increase in the average order value and 20% increase in close rate.”
When Mumzworld launched almost a decade ago, the tools and expertise to apply global solutions to the local consumer were limited. The consumer too wasn’t ready to shop online, Khalil states. “But we have seen a big shift in the past five years as people became familiar with online shopping. As the consumer evolved, we also introduced more personalisation leveraging the customer data that also helped us to source never-seen-before products in the region. Importantly, we focus on unique customer needs to enhance CX.”
On its part, Faces has leveraged technology to scale very quickly, especially during the lockdown, strengthening its online channel, while optimising the offline experience. “COVID-19 has been a great accelerator. We launched Faces.com in Kuwait in seven days; followed by Egypt and Qatar – all within a month. Along with technology as a foundation, it is also crucial to have the mindset to make things happen. The Chalhoub Group went into a ‘start-up mode’ to quickly respond to consumer demand amid challenging times. Going forward, we will launch our mobile app very soon, as we are seeing maximum searches, mainly Arabic, happening predominantly on the App Store in the GCC,” shares Vinckier.
But the web experience can’t be compromised to create a mobile-first approach, Smidt cautions.
Amiri feels trust plays a crucial role in improving CX, which strengthens by having the right partners on the platform. “Pre-COVID, 65-70% of customers would opt to pay by card on delivery. Post-COVID, we launched online payments immediately. After a couple of transactions, customers were comfortable to add their card details on El Grocer that helped us to do contactless delivery, thereby enhancing CX. Thus, innovating to meet the new customer needs is pivotal for success.”
“Our challenge will be to deal with the new situation with a proper understanding of the new customer behaviour,” Vinckier adds. “If there was a big need for omnichannel retail, this trend would only continue, and we’ve to invest more to build channel-agnostic CX.”
“Amidst a lot of uncertainty, we have to understand the user and adapt to their needs and the situation very quickly. Every crisis brings with it an opportunity, and at Namshi, we expect to grow as more consumers are shopping online,” Smith states.
Kachan summarises the 3Cs to create a tremendous omnichannel CX – being consistent, compelling and candid.