Customer Service

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How to Improve Ecommerce Customer Experience in 2021

Jenna Alburger

October 20, 2021

Today’s ecommerce landscape looks much different than it did just over a year ago. In the wake of the pandemic, ecommerce customer experiences are now urgent--and customers are being won and lost online. For that reason, it’s more important than ever to understand how to improve ecommerce experience in 2021. 

In 2020, 71% of the population in the European Union bought online, up from 66% in 2019, and 64% in 2018. According to the 2021 European Ecommerce Report, this trend is expected to grow as consumers, having gained experience, see the advantages of online sales, and expect a seamless experience including a combination of online and offline interactions for their shopping.

It’s clear that ecommerce customer experiences are a vital lifeline and a matter of survival for retailers--but with customer expectations at an all-time high, it’s important to get it right. Retailers must move quickly to solve today’s challenges, while also laying the foundation for future success. 

To help us further understand today’s shifting retail landscape, we sat down with Enara Urlezaga, Global Experience Manager at Veepee-Privalia. With over 10 years of experience in CRM fields such as customer experience, loyalty, and retention, Enara is responsible for the Customer Care Department at Veepee-Privalia. 

Enara currently leads a fast-growing, multilingual team that solves customer problems and delivers outstanding service results across two markets. She ensures that the strategy and implementation are carried out in a cost-effective and scalable way.

In this article, we’re highlighting the key takeaways from our discussion with Enara. After reading, you’ll have everything you need to improve your ecommerce customer experience. You can watch the full webinar here

Understanding the current online retail landscape to improve ecommerce customer experience

The pandemic accelerated the shift to ecommerce

We kicked off our discussion with Enara by talking about the impact of the COVID-19 paramedic. The crises brought unprecedented growth to ecommerce, particularly in Spain--an important market for Veepee-Privalia. 

“The number of online buyers in Spain doubled from 2014 to 2019 and in the last year, it has had its highest growth in history with 2.7 million new buyers,” explains Enara. 

“This data shows that COVID has been a boom for ecommerce, but that the trend was already upward in previous years. We also need to take into account that despite this great growth, there is still room for improvement if we compare ourselves with countries such as the U.S. or China.”

“Therefore, it is expected that the online channel will continue to grow in the coming years, although it will probably do so at a slower rate than in 2020,” says Enara. 

It’s harder to win and maintain customer loyalty 

The shift towards online retail comes with both opportunities and challenges. Traditional retailers are going head to head with direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands, which have the advantage of cutting marketplaces, retailers, and wholesalers out of the customer sales journey. 

These modern ecommerce brands are skipping right over traditional barriers to innovation. They’re not burdened by outdated tech stacks, have direct access to customer data and feedback, and are being built with customer-centric mindsets from the start. 

So although ecommerce is experiencing online growth as a whole, the competition is heating up. “Customer expectations are increasing and they have more access to alternatives. So, it is becoming harder for companies to win and maintain loyal customers,” explains Enara. 

“We live in an era where customers can access products and services anywhere in the world at a ‘click’ distance. This means that for many companies, your competitor is no longer just your local competitor, it is also a lot of potentially best in class international companies.” 

“Customers now have far higher standards in terms of what they expect from the companies they deal with and they are less tolerant of poor service and experience. If that happens, they will in many cases, leave your company.” 

Service teams are fulfilling a broader purpose in the battle for customer loyalty

As customer loyalty becomes harder to maintain, the role of customer service teams is changing. Customer service is no longer just about resolving post-purchase issues; it’s taking on a more proactive role to improve ecommerce experiences.

“The perception of customer service has changed in recent years, but still, many companies see the customer care area as a cost center, when it should be seen as a profit center,” says Enara. 

“Every customer contact that is properly managed by an efficient customer care area has a high probability to become a loyal customer. And as we all know, loyal customers stay longer and buy more.”

“The customer care area is the face of the company and represents it in a crucial time when customers have queries, concerns, or issues. Therefore, by focussing resources in the Customer Care area, companies have an important opportunity to improve loyalty and new customer acquisition by turning the existing customers into their salesforce.” 

“And last but not least, the customer care area, can provide structured and consolidated customer insights and elevate the customer centricity within the organization,” explains Enara. 

Embracing technological change is critical to improve ecommerce customer experience

Ecommerce technology is improving every day. Enara explains that it’s important for retailers to adapt to emerging technologies, particularly as they relate to customer service. Today’s winning brands are offering faster, more convenient support through non-traditional channels like messaging and chat. 

“As we all know, what worked yesterday will not necessarily drive success today. I think that the strategies, metrics, processes, and investments leveraged in the phone-only ‘cost center’ days will not guarantee success in the current scenario.”

“Unfortunately many contact centers and companies remain married to ‘business as usual’ and to this ‘cost center’ vision. This cost center vision is focused on operational efficiency and doesn’t take into account the customer-facing view of performance.”

Enara explains that even though cost-center metrics can look good on paper, they are not always representative of success. If a retailer is only measuring metrics related to operational efficiency, there can be major blind spots in regard to customer satisfaction. 

“This is why it is so important to include ‘customer experience’ metrics such as CAST, CES, and resolution, to make sure that your operations are aligned with what customers expect from your company,” advised Enara. 

Steps to improve ecommerce customer experience

With the current ecommerce landscape in mind, we wanted to know how Veepee-Privalia improved their own ecommerce customer experience. Enara talked us through the company’s general approach, which metrics were important for Veepee-Privalia to track, what role technology played, as well as common pitfalls that retailers should avoid. 

Defining the mission and vision

To improve ecommerce customer experience, the first thing Veepee-Privalia did was define the vision and mission of the customer care area. Research shows that organizations that consistently deliver elite customer service all have a clear customer care vision and mission.” 

“We needed a shared definition and put everyone (internal and external teams) on the same page of the service we wanted to provide. The vision is a compass that always points the employees in the right direction and helps decision-making both on the strategic level and on the day-to-day operations.”

“Once this was defined, we had very clear where we wanted to go and defined the strategy to reach our goals. In our particular case, the essential KPIs to track to reach our goals not only include operational KPIs such as AHT or service levels, but also customer experience KPIs such as customer effort, customer satisfaction, resolution, and NPS for instance.” 

Overcoming issues of seasonality and scale 

Like most online retailers, Veepee-Privalia deals with issues related to seasonality and scale. The customer service team must be able to adapt to peak buying periods and seasonal pressures. Enara explains that having a team of multi-lingual agents that can service multiple markets is an advantage; it helps the team scale up or down where needed. 

“I would say that the main challenge in our business from the customer care perspective is seasonality. We have a very strong peak season starting in October until the end of January. That means that team sizing needs to be very flexible to adapt to this seasonality,” says Enara.

“Having to manage two languages in this scenario might actually even represent an advantage as we try to cover part of the operation with bilingual people so that we can mutualize and win some flexibility,” she says. 

Identifying KPIs

Metrics are fundamental to the culture and mindset at Veepee-Privalia. Enara explains that customer experience metrics are critical for both internal and external teams, and are what guides decision-making. 

“Internally we all have customer experience KPIs as one of our main goals within our OKRs. This encourages us to constantly review our processes and work together with other areas to try to improve them and make them as customer-friendly as possible.” 

“Also for the external teams, we have recently introduced CSAT goals in all channels--and this will for sure become one of our main targets in the upcoming months and years.” 

The role of messaging and chat in online retail

For Veepee-Privalia, messaging played an important role to improve ecommerce customer experience. Enara reminded us of a study from the U.S. which found that 89% of consumers want to use messaging to communicate with businesses. 

With the overwhelming majority of traffic Veepee-Privalia coming from mobile devices, meeting customers on mobile channels is a top priority. 

“Needless to say, in a mobile-first world, messaging services are one of the preferred channels of our customers. In my opinion, without any doubt, messaging services will grow quite a lot in the short future and not only in companies like ours but in all industries,” says Enara. 

Messaging improves customer experience metrics

There were two main reasons why Veepee-Privalia decided to invest in messaging channels. The first one was the clear demand for service on messaging channels, and the second was the promise of increasing customer satisfaction. 

“Demand growth came in through conversational channels, especially through Facebook Messenger. This is when we realized that we needed to prepare ourselves to handle these conversational channels,” explained Enara. 

What’s more, customers who were being helped through Facebook were generally happier. “In a nutshell, we saw that customers wanted to contact us through these channels and were very satisfied after contacting us” explained Enara. 

“Of course, this is not just about technology, but without a doubt, it is a factor with a great impact. We need technology to allow us to route contacts, create queues and assign the contacts in an efficient way.” 

“Once we found the technology, we trained the team, and nowadays, after less than a year, we have more than doubled the share of conversational channels in our channel mix, with very positive results in terms of productivity and especially CSAT,” says Enara. 

Messaging channels will experience high growth in the near future 

It’s clear that customers want to communicate with brands in the same way they communicate with friends and family. Most people would rather send a message than be kept on hold. They'd rather send a message than wait 24 hours for a response via email.

Customers appreciate the immediacy of messaging, as well as the asynchronous nature of it. Messaging doesn't require customers to be consistently active in the conversation. Instead, they can reach out with business inquiries and issues in ways that don't disrupt their schedules. This doesn't just improve the customer experience; it creates more sales opportunities. 

messaging channels improve ecommerce customer experience

According to one of the latest Deloitte Global Contact Center Survey reports, in 2019, 28% of customer contacts came from conversational channels, and the projection is that by 2023, 61% of contacts will be through conversational channels.

“That means that the real explosion will come from conversational channels such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and of course webchat,” says Enara. 

“In our case, this is something already happening today, especially since we've opened the WhatsApp channel to our members in the Privalia brand. This is a very convenient channel for our customers as it is totally integrated with their life, especially WhatsApp.” 

“It becomes very natural for them to have a conversation with us, and it also facilitates many of the procedures (such as, for instance, sending a picture).” 

The ability to send pictures, make payments, and perform other actions is part of what separates messaging from other forms of communication. Through messaging channels, brands combine the best of all types of user interfaces. 

Customers can use graphics, text, and even voice to communicate their unique needs. And as brands continue to make these experiences more intuitive, customers will continue to choose them over traditional channels. 

Are you ready to improve your ecommerce customer experience? Find out how conversational apps will deliver next-level customer experiences to your clients. Book a demo

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