Conor McGrath, Head of UK and Nordic Clients at parcelLab shares online retail accessibility tips to help elderly and vulnerable customers.
The novel coronavirus outbreak has had a significant impact in the retail world, perhaps more imminently apparent than other sectors. Many ‘non-essential’ high street stores have been forced to close their shutters and the only window shoppers now have to browse and shop through is the digital screen that sits in their pocket or on the computer in front of them.
Naturally, this is good news for pureplay ecommerce players, multi- and omni-channel retailers, who now have the opportunity to provide inspiration and fulfil more orders online than may have ever been possible before; they can provide a service that shoppers can’t currently get anywhere else.
Of course, this is nothing new for the younger Gen Y (millennials) and Gen Z (centennials) demographics – they are already a dab hand at seeking out shopping inspiration online and carry out most of their shopping orders via their smartphones. But what are online retailers doing to help the older generations, the elderly and vulnerable, who are suddenly having to cope and adapt to a new world order that is completely alien to many of them?
We must take our hats off to many of the major UK retailers, who have introduced a number of new measures to help these people with dedicated in-store shopping hours, a range of alternative delivery options and updates to make their websites more user-friendly and easier to navigate. But this is just one part of the puzzle and there’s a whole other piece to fill the gap – and that is the post-purchase communications phase.
For the vulnerable and elderly, online shopping as their only means of purchasing essential goods is completely new and unchartered territory for many of them. It’s likely that many who fall into this demographic are used to having a carer, friendly neighbour or family member around to help them with all things digital. But these new lockdown and social distancing measures have changed all of that and many are finding themselves left to fend for themselves when it comes to shopping online and keeping track of their order from the moment of purchase right through to when it arrives on their doorstep.
Online retailers need to step in and offer the helping hand these customers might need as they navigate this new process. Yes, that includes the pre-purchase phase to help them find what they need as easily as possible, the actual moment of purchase, contact and delivery information. But elderly and vulnerable people will want to know more than anyone where their parcel is at each stage of the journey and when it is expected to be delivered, including any unforeseen delays, especially if it is essential goods.
Keep in touch with them throughout the entire delivery period by updating them regularly and in real-time on the status of their order, straight to their email inbox or via text message, without them having to navigate a series of complicated web links and pages. Offer them expert advice and tips on how to use the new product they have just purchased – through videos, how-to guides or recipe ideas. Feel good content like this helps to build a sense of community, which many will be craving during this period of isolation.
The key message is: Communicate communicate communicate. It’s all about building confidence and reducing the number of customer service enquiries, which are already stretched at this time. By delivering these new or first-time customers an exceptional customer experience and showing them just how straightforward the online shopping experience can be, then you might just change the habits of a lifetime and have them coming back again and again, well after the nationwide lockdown has been lifted.
By Conor McGrath
Head of UK and Nordic Clients