The Difference Between CX and DX and Why They Matter in Ecommerce

This post was written by David Fletcher, a senior vice-president at ClearSale.

We talk a lot about CX (customer experience) and DX (digital transformation) in ecommerce, especially since the pandemic pushed retailers to focus more on digital channels and customers encountered some rocky experiences during the abrupt shift. Both CX and DX are crucial to merchant success, but digital transformation and customer experience aren’t synonymous. Here’s a look at the current state of CX and DX, why they matter so much right now, and how your store can tailor its DX to support better CX.

CX and DX, defined

Customer experience, or CX, is the way customers feel about a brand, based on all the interactions they’ve had with the brand’s marketing, salespeople, products and services, and support. For example, your social media posts, how your sales associates greet customers, how your products hold up over time, and how long customers have to wait for a response from your support team are all part of the customer experience.

CX has become much more important to brands over the past decade. Slightly more than a third of businesses said they competed on CX in 2010. Now, 79% of consumers said in a Salesforce report the experience they have with a company matters as much as the company’s products and services, and that makes customer experience one of the most important competitive differentiators today.

Digital transformation, or DX, meanwhile, is the use of new technologies to update and optimize your business processes and the customer experience you provide. Many retailers had been taking a slow approach to DX before the pandemic and had to catch up quickly when lockdowns and public health concerns shut down or reduced in-person shopping. For example, many grocery stores added or scaled up online ordering for delivery or curbside pickup, while many ecommerce retailers added real-time delivery tracking tools to help customers avoid losing their purchases to the rising tide of “porch pirate” thefts.

There’s definitely a person-to-person element to great customer experience, like when an airline gate agent bumps you up to business class or a clothing boutique offers you personal shopping services. But as more of us shop online, the digital aspects of CX are overwhelmingly important. Salesforce surveyed thousands of customers in mid-2020 and found that 88% expect companies to speed up their CX because of the pandemic.

Key DX elements for better CX

Many of the digital upgrades that merchants adopted in 2020 were in direct response to changing customer needs—being able to shop online and get the items they purchased. But digital tools can also help with less urgent but still important elements of the customer experience, including these areas:

Personalization at all touchpoints, regardless of channel.

More than half (52%) of customers expect offers from brands to “always be personalized,” according to Salesforce data. This level of personalization requires collecting and analyzing customer’s data across all interactions to show them the products they’re interested in, when they want to see them—and avoid recommendation missteps, such as showing them items they’ve already bought.

Real-time information about stock status.

Stock-outs were a huge problem for much of 2020 as supply chains faltered while consumers stocked up first on essential goods and then seemed to shop in waves for items like wading pools, bicycles, and laptops. Now, 80% of customers say they’re already using or would like to use tools to pre-order items that aren’t currently in stock, per Salesforce. Showing customers correct stock levels and giving them ways to pre-order require unified stock data and pre-order options during checkout.

Easy-to-reach customer service.

Customers overwhelmingly expect to engage with someone right away when they reach out to a company for help. Slow or unhelpful responses can drive them away for good. The DX solution includes a single view of the customer that service representatives can see while they’re on a call or chat, so they don’t have to ask the customer to re-explain their problem or question. Another digital solution for better service is a customer service chatbot with natural language processing capabilities that can understand conversations and generate personalized responses.

Secure, low-friction payment options.

Digital technologies make it possible to streamline the checkout process for customers, so they don’t have to key in all their personal data for every order. For example, adding digital wallet capabilities to your website—either your own digital wallet or a third-party option like Apple Pay or PayPal—allows your shoppers to buy without having to take out their credit card and key in the data. That matters, since 44% of consumers have abandoned online purchases because the checkout process was too long or too complicated, according to a March 2020 Sapio Research survey conducted for ClearSale.

Accurate, low-friction customer authentication.

The Sapio survey also found that nearly 3 times as many customers would abandon a merchant for good after a false decline (39%) than after a fraud experience (13.6%) with that merchant. This is critical for the many merchants who rely on automated fraud screening, because those systems often reject good orders that may resemble attempted fraud in some way. The solution is digital: AI and ML-driven automated order screening coupled with manual review of flagged orders. Reviews can reduce the number of false declines and feed their findings back into the algorithm, so it gets better at telling fraud from good orders and reduces the risk of alienating good customers.

It’s time to transform for better CX

Adopting new technology now can help retailers catch up to competitors who were able to pivot faster during the pandemic and are now setting the standard for customer experience. Merchants that get up to speed with their digital transformation now will also be in a better position to handle whatever else comes along that requires brands to adjust while still delivering a great customer experience.


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