A recent report found that retailers are missing out of £6.6bn a year by not going mobile. Alf Saggese, MD EMEA at Moxie, argues that the lack of technology uptake shows that the retail industry shows there is still huge room for improvement.
Today’s tech-savvy retail customer calls the shots, empowered to carry out transactions via the channel and device that best suits them and impatient should the experience not meet their needs. Indeed, a recent study found that the average web user has an attention span of around eight seconds. That just puts into perspective the importance of making a good impression in that short timeframe.
The difficulty for online retailers attempting to achieve such an impression is in replicating the very best in-store experience. Brick and mortar retailers have the ability to staff their stores, ensuring that help is available the minute a customer shows signs of needing of support. The importance of this cannot be understated – abandoning customers in a high street store would result in lower sales and fewer conversions, and this is no less true online, whether this is on a mobile device or desktop.
Conversion rates are the bread and butter of the online retail industry and are adversely affected by the inability to understand and address customers’ immediate needs; an immediacy that’s been exemplified by the growing focus on mobile. The emerging significance of mCommerce in the retail industry should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever half-heartedly browsed Amazon on their way to work, looking for a brief reprieve from the commute. Upon inspecting the online offerings of the UK’s top 100 omnichannel retailers, Moxie found that nearly every retailer on the list provides an optimised webpage for mobile users – a healthy nod to the mobile customer. Yet, there is still a great deal of room to improve the customer experience and increase engagement to conversion; the lack of mobile chat support for example throughout the top 100 – a group of brands which must spend millions on PPC to drive traffic to their online doors – is startling.
Findings from Moxie’s research into online shoppers’ expectations of the retail experience found that 62% of participants expected live chat to be available on mobile devices, while 82% would use it if available. With such strong figures in support of mobile chat and the prevalence of smartphones and tablets as the device of choice for shopping, it seems incredible that even the top retailers are still failing to cater to the needs of the mobile generation, with only 5% of the top 100 actually providing mobile chat.
It’s very surprising that even the top retailers neglect to address the imperative of providing customers with instant support. Moxie’s inspection of the UK’s top 100 ecommerce sites found that around 75% of the apparent “best-of-the-best” do not offer assistance via live chat on their website. This tool, which can be offered to customers at the very moment they require assistance, provides instant interactions between potential customers and staff who are able to offer assistance, and could very well be the closest retailers get to recreating the in-store experience online. It is telling that three of the top four retailers use live chat, but its lack of adoption elsewhere on the list seems like an oversight in an industry where instant gratification is key, and fast customer interaction can mean the difference between a sale and an abandoned checkout.
If the goal for online retailing, (whether it’s web- or mobile-based), is to be as satisfying as an in-store experience, then providing functionality to help customer service agents directly and immediately address the customer is an absolute must. For example, if you were a customer in a high street store and could not find what you were looking for, would you be happy if you had to wander the store, empty-handed, waiting for support? No – and this is precisely the same online, only with an eight-second attention span time limit.
This lack of technology uptake shows that while the retail industry is taking significant steps forward in addressing the evolving needs of the next-generation customer there is still huge room for improvement, even at the very top. Perhaps by adopting these technologies and showing that the customer experience should always strive to be improved regardless of the medium, the top retailers can set a new precedent in the industry that in-store experience must be replicated online. The impact on their conversion rate could well be a healthy surprise. Until then, the online customer journey can, and should, always strive to be better.
By Alf Saggese