E-Commerce: Where it went wrong.

Right here, right now, I want to start this conversation with a statement….

“Retailers no longer have Customers — Now Customers have Retailers”

After you stop scratching your head, asking what the f^& is this guy talking about, take a few seconds to think about the change that’s happened when we weren’t paying much attention.

Customers’ choices are no longer limited by time or space. Limitations like distance and shop hours disappeared with the advent of e-commerce and the last of the corner stores. We just failed to notice in time.

But I hear many of you say, Lou, that’s “old news”. We’ve seen that coming for years. Well, I say in reply — what the hell have you been doing about it and why aren’t you ready to take on the challenges that this change brings?

I seem smug, don’t I. Sorry, I don’t mean to be, let me explain.

Over the last 20 years (too many years) my partner and I have been Manufacturers, Distributors, Software Developers, Salespeople and most important of all, Customers. We’ve lived through, what on reflection was a lava-flow paced change in Retail that now seems to have finally arrived in the form of a massive reality check, where all of a sudden Customers somehow now hold all the cards!

Where did we go wrong?

I’ll get to that in a moment, but for now, let’s first talk about what e-tailers say their biggest pain points are. In no particular order, many agree they are…

1. Cost of Customer Acquisition

2. Cost of Customer Retention

3. Cost of matching Customer expectations

4. Lack of Customer loyalty

5. Customer Support Friction

6. Lack of Customer brand affinity

7. Lack of Customer Feedback/Trends

There are of course more! In fact, you probably have two or three more pain points you’d like to add to the list. But let’s go with these 7 for now, OK?

When presented in this way it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that at the centre of all these issues is (drum roll please) the Customer!

So if the Customer is the centre of all the problems, it figures that the Customer is the centre of all solutions.

In fact, we should understand the Customer is the centre of everything and everything starts and ends with the Customer. This is what Customer Centricity is all about.

Client-centric businesses ensure that the customer is at the centre of a business’s philosophy, operations and ideas.

To be truly Customer Centric we need to understand the customer so we can anticipate their wants, needs and preferences and by doing so create meaningful experiences which allow us to build lasting relationships with them.

So we all agree, no?

So why are even the most diligent Customer-Centric focused e-tailers losing ground? Why are their continued efforts still plagued by the same pain points even after 25 years?

My partner and I also wondered why that is. So we did some investigation. First, we asked a group of university PhD candidates to do a study, then with their help, we polled hundreds of retailers and shoppers and then after all that we went back to basics and rediscovered how our parents shopped, just to take technology out of the equation.

What did we find?

We discovered that the number one issue that either created or affects all those pain points is Communication. Or should I say the lack of Communication between Retailer and Customer? The number two issue being, a lack of enduring, incentivised connection.

Let me explain.

Before the 1990s, when my parents wanted to make a purchase, say a new suit for my Dad they simply took a trip to the family’s favourite clothing store. After consulting with Mr Storeowner, who had already outfitted our whole family, they made a trusted purchase knowing that if there was a quality issue or if for whatever reason they needed to ask for more advice or help then Mr Storeowner would not only remember who they were but also remember what they bought. He’d even sometimes throw in a little gift to sweeten the deal but most importantly he appeared more than delighted to assist whenever called upon.

And so being recognised as good customers, able to communicate with someone that listened and being able to enjoy the benefits of an enduring relationship meant my parents felt valued and because of that Mr Storeowner enjoyed the benefits of a happy loyal shopper that would surely bring him sale after sale after sale.

Loyal Customers buy from you more than your competitor. Loyal Customers would rather pay a little more to stay looked after. Loyal Customers are more likely to accept that things go wrong sometimes. Loyal Customers tell you how they feel good, or bad and most importantly Loyal Customers talk glowingly about their favourite Retailers and so bring their friends.

See, we’ve now addressed every one of the seven pain points and determined what’s required to overcome them.

To their credit, some Retailers use the current technology to take care of some of these issues and a few Retailers actually tackle most of the issues but so far, and remember we’ve done a lot of research, as far as we can tell no Retailer has done it all.

Why not? Let me explain …

Do you see the picture above? It’s not just one I chose out of the blue to look pretty or to fill the usual “piccy” spot, it’s actually a great representation of the biggest clue as to why that even when some Retailers are getting most of these things right — they still forget one thing.

See those parcels lying there? They are what Retailers would say are the result of a good sale — after all, the Customers found what they wanted, paid the amount they felt was correct and finally, it was delivered to them! Woo Hoo, fabulous result no?

No!

If you’ve looked closely you would have noticed that something is missing in the piccy… the Customer.

People!

The sales cycle doesn’t end on delivery, it’s not just a matter of dropping the parcels at the front door. It’s beyond the front door where two far more critical lifecycles intersect — the product usage lifecycle and the Customer’s own lifecycle.

And if Mr Storeowner taught us anything, it’s that if we want loyal repeat Customers, we need to be there when they need us — we need to be part of an enduring connection after the sale.

So don’t think of the sale ending at the Last Mile of Delivery, instead, think of it as the beginning of the First Mile, of discovery. The perfect opportunity to stay connected with the Customer through usage, support, warranty, recycling and most importantly the holy next sale.

People, we have to be smarter, we need to accept that consumers are looking forward to more from life and when they go shopping they’ll keep clicking till they find it. As the latest DHL TV advert tells us. “You’ve gotta keep up with the clicks!”

So it follows that now, if Customers have Retailers, then you need to be the Retailer that they turn to first. But how? Current software and processes seem to end with the sale, right?

Yes.

So how do we go beyond the bounds of all the current offerings?

– How can we learn more about our Customers over and above using Customer Relationship Management software?

– How can we generate less friction than what we’re experiencing with Customer Support software?

– How can we communicate more effectively than by using Email Marketing solutions?

– How can we build more trust and deeper brand affinity than with existing Loyalty Programmes?

Well, let’s look at the status quo, so to speak.

So although these current systems do exist and each provides a certain level of service – they do so independently and exist for the benefit of the Retailer -not the Customer. They are all designed for the Retailer to “discover more”, “keep the customer happy”, “fix problems” or “create engagement”.

It’s at best a patchy group solution and at worse — not really working to full effect.

So what do we do?

Remember folks… if we stayed connected with the Customer throughout both lifecycles – Customer and Product – in a way that both parties would benefit and realise their goals, then we would understand what the Customer is feeling at any one time and be able to address issues as they occur, or perhaps even before they occur.

The Result?- Happy, loyal Customers and far more profitable Retailers.

Allow me to recap … you’ve now seen that keeping the Customer connected well after the sale and into the product usage, support, warranty and recycling stages means that whilst issues may arise, the bond built through communication and transparency means that many shared pain points disappear or at least become less of a factor when a Customer decides to stay or buy elsewhere.

So after all that you’ve read and all that I have intimated, is there actually a solution that can help us, today?

Well yes.

And rather than this article ending up being no more than a convoluted sales pitch with me suggesting you go out and discover the Delloop solution and how it solves all of this, think of it as more of a rambling introduction to a new realm in eCommerce, one where the Retailer acknowledges that Customer is central to everything in their business and are now empowered to act on it in everything they do.

Full stop.

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