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Why retailers must invest beyond the buy button

By Andrew Gough, VP of Sales at HelloDone

Over the past 12 months, retailers have turbocharged their shift to digital. A recent survey by KPMG showed that 67% of decision-makers have accelerated their digital strategies because of Covid-19.

These changes come in response to the ever-changing needs of consumers, which have proved harder to predict than ever before. And, while we’re now over a year in, these expectations are still not being met.

Retail supply chains have been put under enormous strain due to limited resource availability during the pandemic – a challenge exacerbated by Brexit ‘red tape’ in recent months. Brands have had to work hard to make ends meet, adopting new technologies and ways of working to adjust to this brave new world. But this investment has not extended beyond the buy button.

Enter post-purchase, and the dreaded ‘last mile’.

The delivery and returns dilemma

The evidence is plain to see in our latest research which analysed 3,000 one-star reviews across 150 major UK retailers on Trustpilot. More than half (55%) of customer complaints were attributed to issues with delivery and returns.

Orders not arriving was the most commonly cited problem, accounting for nearly half (48%) of all reviews that mentioned delivery, while late delivery (17%) was the second most common complaint.

The highest proportion of post-purchase problems reported were among retailers in the fashion (68%), sports & leisure (51%) and specialist (49%) categories. Fashion (28%) and sports & leisure (17%) also had the most mentions of returns in their reviews.

Communication is key

As more of us do our shopping online than ever before, customers have come to expect big things from internet retailers. But our findings show that the post-purchase experience has failed to keep pace with these growing demands.

A retailer’s relationship with a customer doesn’t end at the ‘thanks for your order!’ email. Last-mile delivery, as well as exchange and returns processes, require the same care and attention paid to the checkout stage of the buyer journey.

A major source of frustration for shoppers is a lack of information about their order and the inability to contact customer support when problems arise. In fact, our research found that more than a quarter of one-star reviews (27%) on Trustpilot expressed dissatisfaction with customer service response.

If retailers want to retain loyalty and nurture repeat business, it’s clear they have to massively improve the way they communicate with their customers.

Personalising post-purchase

In an ideal world, of course, every delivery would reach the customer on time and in pristine condition. But logistics is a complex business. So what can retailers do to improve the customer experience after the buy button?

The solution lies in the latest AI technology. Thanks to advances in natural language processing, retailers can now harness conversational AI technology to automate common requests, such as WISMOs (Where is My Order?), and provide proactive status updates to keep customers informed.

This presents the opportunity for quick, real-time notifications and delivery alerts, as well as intelligent and contextualised answers to order FAQs, creating a memorable, hyper-personified experience for customers.

Not only does this reduce the overall volume of inbound requests, but frees up customer service agents to handle the most complex and sensitive tickets. By embracing this technology to improve customer communication, retailers can provide enhanced support and leave shoppers with a good impression of their brand – even when there are issues to resolve.

Turning last-mile into the ‘first thought’

Forward-thinking retailers are already taking ownership of the post-purchase experience, using context-driven AI technology to power personalised conversations with their customers and manage expectations when things go wrong.

But the e-commerce industry is yet to wake up to the scale of the post-purchase opportunity.

It’s amazing to think of the time and money brands spend engaging and attracting a customer online, only to abandon them after the checkout.

Our Trustpilot research reflected a staggering gap in post-purchase communications. The rationale for change has never been more clear. By embracing the capabilities of AI, retailers can transform the way customers are informed about their purchases and drive loyalty in the process

As brands continue to deal with unprecedented e-commerce demand, it’s high time retailers turned the ‘last-mile’ into the ‘first-thought’ in strategic decision-making.

By Andrew Gough, VP of Sales at HelloDone

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