By David Senior, Sector Director – Retail, EMEA for Engage CustomerWith technology touching all aspects of our lives, smartphones and tablets are defining how we communicate and share information, says David Senior. This is as true for shopping as anything else. Long gone are the days when we would hit the High Street to browse the aisles and make our purchases. Likewise, our shopping is informed by much more than newspaper flyers, billboards or TV/radio adverts.
A wealth of information, price comparison engines and the endless potential for shoppers to find the best deals in real time have turned the customer journey from a straight line to something more akin to navigating an MC Escher piece. Always online and always connected, consumers are increasingly taking control of their purchase experience, raising the bar of customer-brand engagement to new heights.
More opportunities to shop and engage
Consumers expect all the information they need to be available when they need it, right at their fingertips. What’s more, they are willing to penalise the brands and businesses that fail to do so by turning their back on them.
At the same time, other developments such as the imminent night tube service in London and the extension of Sunday trading hours, as well as the growing same-day delivery services offer even more possibilities for consumers to make purchases anytime anyplace.
Communication can make or break the customer journey
As ever, opportunity comes with new challenges. Being able to complete a purchase online any time of the day or night means that every single touch-point along the customer journey needs to be ready to meet consumer expectations for timely and reliable delivery of an order. This encompasses the entire supply chain, as well as customer care. Call centres in particular may not always have the time or resource to keep up with this demand for delivery updates and returns info around the clock. However, as consumer behaviour no longer follows a ‘9 to 5’ logic, customer engagement cannot be limited to office work hours either.
SMS and mobile engagement strategies are key
From the moment a customer places an order until that order is delivered to their door, timely, relevant and personalised communications are not only expected, but also define the optimal cconsumer experience. For example, consumers may expect a brand to update them on delivery times, give them the option to leave the parcel with a neighbour, or offer the ability to reschedule a delivery for a different day.
Relying on emails and phone calls alone won’t quite cut it. It’s all about the communication for the right time. Email is great for marketing, while phone calls can seem be intrusive. This means tailoring communications to the customer journey; retailers need to match their approach to the ‘always on the move’ consumer. This is where mobile messaging comes in. According to OpenMarket’s research, mobile messaging is the most prevalent form of written communications with 90% SMS being opened and read within the first 3 minutes of delivery. In addition, in a recent survey, Deloitte found that texts are the first thing 31% of us access, while 92% of the consumers use mobiles while shopping. It perfectly straddles the line between meeting a need for urgency and respecting a consumer’s boundaries.
It is therefore safe to say that to make sure they stay on top of the customers’ expectations, businesses should put in place a comprehensive mobile engagement strategy. Automated SMS customer updates can arm businesses with a powerful communications tool that can reach a bigger number of consumers and make the buying experience more convenient and memorable.
In addition, integrated platforms work better than communications silos. That is to say, by integrating the call centre with mobile engagement platforms, businesses can help the call centre staff to ask for the right information and store it in an easily accessible platform. This has many benefits including the advantage of being able to better meet your customers’ needs via improved and more personalised communication.
Remember who the ‘key holder’ is
Businesses today have more opportunities to make a positive and memorable impression and build a closer relationship with their customer base by reaching out to them through the platforms and devices they use the most. A mobile engagement strategy that is focused on enabling real-time and responsive interactions allows for enterprises to eliminate the fragility of the customer journey and its multiple touch-points. Customer experience defines consumer behaviour and when it comes to reaching the 24/7 consumer the key is literally in their hand.