The customer experience: How the pandemic changed ecommerce

The pandemic changed how customers viewed shopping and spending. But as the world moves into post-pandemic, retailers are concerned with creating a positive customer experience. Rafael Lourenco, executive vice president at ClearSale shares his thoughts on ways to improve the customer experience.

The pandemic caused the number of first-time online shoppers to skyrocket. These are not the typical ecommerce shopper — they may not have a credit card or even a steady and predictable cash flow. Stores have gotten creative about how to address this gap. White-labeled store cards have become a popular and convenient solution. By offering delayed payback plans, buy now pay later options, small personal loans, and other types of installment plans, merchants are capturing sales that they wouldn't otherwise have access to while providing consumers with the freedom to make the purchases that they need to.

We're still experiencing high levels of unemployment as a result of the pandemic. This, combined with overall insecurity about the future has created a lot of financial anxiety for consumers. So, in turn, they are closely monitoring what they are purchasing and their spending habits.

Also, many people have moved shopping for household and everyday necessities online. When you're walking through the store, adding items to your cart, it's easy to pick things up "just in case" or without much consideration because you don't want to have to run back and forth. But when your items are in an online cart you have time to review and think about your purchases and decide what you really need today versus what can wait.

Let's Talk M-commerce

Customers — especially digital natives — have high expectations around their buying experiences. Offering customers the purchasing options they desire is key to a great customer experience, and digital wallets are becoming increasingly popular. It's expected that there will be more than 4 billion digital wallet users worldwide by 2025.

Interestingly enough, the ability to use an e-wallet during online purchases reduces friction for a large percentage of buyers. In a recent consumer behavior study, only 40% of e-commerce shoppers have their credit card within easy reach while shopping. Making payments with a digital wallet keeps the customer in the payment flow. With cart abandonment on the rise, it's vital that online merchants do everything they can to simplify the purchase process.
There are a few elements that online merchants need to take into consideration when thinking about how important mobile ecommerce — or m-commerce — is. First, younger Millennials and Gen Zers do virtually all of their online shopping on their smartphones, according to CRMBuyer. The other factor is that Statista projects that m-commerce will make up 73% of the total global online commerce by the end of the year.

What that means is that the audience using a mobile device for shopping is huge. It's not a group that you want to alienate. And if a shopping experience isn't optimized for mobile, with, for instance, image-heavy pages that take too long to load, navigation that is difficult to see or access, and complicated checkout flows, these mobile shoppers are likely to move on. They won't wait until they are back in front of their computer. They will simply find a competitor that offers the same or similar items.

It isn't just about the experience on a smartphone, however. The Salesforce consumer survey found that 64% of customers use more than one device for transactions. These shoppers are starting on one device and completing the purchase on another, so the shopping and checkout experiences must flow seamlessly across devices.

For example, think about the person who picks up their phone to add some things to their cart, intending to complete the order later. If they then visit the site on their laptop, they don't want to re-enter those items. Logging in to find an empty cart removes any stickiness that the transaction had, and they may give up and start their shopping over on a different site.


Creating a good customer experience

There are certain steps a retailer can take to ensure that the customer's experience is a good one.

Offer seamless checkout and alternative payment methods: ClearSale's 2020 consumer behavior study found that half of consumers will abandon purchases because the checkout process was too long or complicated, so merchants should provide a fast, simple checkout process that doesn't feel intrusive or require customers to share too much additional information.

Provide real-time information on product availability and shipping: Consumers spent most of last year encountering long wait times and they want to know upfront if your store has items in stock now. Connecting your store's inventory data to product pages will give customers real-time information that will earn and keep their trust.

Prioritize personalized messaging and support: Now more than ever, people are also looking for meaningful interactions with brands, and shopping with a merchant who supports a cause they like is one way to do that. When it comes to offers and promotions, a report by Edelman shows that offering discounts, free trials, free delivery and other perks to help customers save money can communicate empathy and help create a stronger bond with your customers.

Keep false declines to a minimum: Left unchecked, fraud filters can cause false declines, which can reduce the number of impulse buys and frustrate customers, driving them to never shop with the retailer again and/or express their displeasure on social media.

Transparency is key to earning the trust of customers. Merchants who use these measures can put in fraud protection without losing the customer experience:

Make anti-fraud education part of the customer experience. 85% of customers in the ClearSale's study said they'd likely read and act on a message with tips to avoid online fraud before making a purchase from an online store.

Adopt fraud prevention technology and let customers know your store uses it. 72% of shoppers think online retailers should use tech to ferret out "suspicious behavior."

Find ways to balance customer authentication with customer experience. Nearly 70% say they support extra steps to confirm their identity, such as two-factor authentication. However, any time you add steps to check out or login, it's wise to watch for increases in cart or session abandonment and adjust your protocols as needed.

Bring in outside fraud prevention support and add information about it to your site. 62% of the consumers surveyed believe online stores should "have an independent online fraud protection agency monitoring their website."

Monitor customer behavior and reach out if something seems off. More than half of the respondents said they think web stores should "monitor transactions and profiles daily" Your fraud prevention team can flag suspicious account activity and reach out to verify it with your customers. If it's not them, you've stopped fraud. If it is them, verifying that in a customer-centric way can show them that your store is watching out for their safety.

Technology-centric payments

With things like digital wallets, NFC-enabled phones and wearables, social payment platforms, and more, we're moving rapidly toward a technology-centric payments ecosystem.

Along with these new payment methods, issuers will find ways to provide a more seamless checkout experience, like single-click payments, no redirection to payment pages for check out, and so on.

Of course, while this increases accessibility and globalization, it inherently also increases risk. More sophisticated authentication for card not present payments will also need to be married to more streamlined processes, and risk mitigation will need to rely on AI, biometrics, and human experience for that.


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