Consumer expectations change constantly and as new technologies become ingrained in the way we live and work, our interaction with businesses changes too. For example, it wasn’t long ago that ‘tap and go’ payments were uncharted territory. In 2019 four out of every five payments were contactless writes Jason Toshack, General Manager ANZ at Oracle NetSuite.
The last couple of months has undoubtedly impacted consumer expectations in a notable way. A global survey by Visa found that “nearly two-thirds of consumers would switch to a business that offer contactless payment options” and “nearly four in five (78%) consumers have already made changes to the way they pay.” This includes a propensity to shop online when possible, as health safety and flexibility have become key purchasing decisions. It’s clear that consumers will explore other options if these factors are not carefully considered.
In an environment where customer experience is ‘make or break,’ here are three areas businesses can prioritise to master customer experience in a contactless world.
Prioritise safety in-store
KPMG surmises the sentiment of customers in the mantra, “think ‘safe retailing’. Forget fast retailing.” It is important to focus on making the bricks and mortar experience as ‘safe’ and hassle-free as possible. Gestures like moving desired items to the front of the store where they are readily accessible and providing hand sanitiser are small but effective ways to signal to customers that this business cares about their safety. Businesses should also consider:
- Offer contactless payments – as highlighted above, contactless payments are the preferred choice for many consumers and the current purchase limit has been upped to $200 to signal ‘safe’ transactions. Some businesses have even temporarily suspended cash payments to reduce -person-to-person contact.
- Direct the flow of traffic – implementing guidelines from behavioural scientists can help businesses effectively direct the flow of foot traffic in-store to reduce bottlenecks. For example, some businesses offer special shopping times for elderly people or have a booking system to secure a specific time block to shop. But what can be done during peak times? The Harvard Business review recommends using ‘nudges’ like dividers to direct people in certain directions. One-way aisles significantly reduce bottlenecks and photographs with staff and community members wearing masks and protective gear are a great visual que that can encourage a ‘herd’ mentality to follow safe shopping guidelines.
Make online effortless
Online shopping has continued to grow steadily for some time in Australia, however we are witnessing a sharp uplift. Australia Post reports an 80 per cent year on year (YOY) increase in ecommerce sales in the eight weeks since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared by the WHO. While some of this demand can be attributed to lockdowns, it is fair to expect that ecommerce will continue to be an important channel for many businesses, so doing everything possible to improve the customer experience in an online world should be paramount.
- Convert sales – it is estimated that globally almost 70per cent of online shopping carts are abandoned, translating to close to USD$18 billion in sales revenue lost. The number one cause of abandonment is extra costs, such as shipping fees and taxes, followed closely by the user being required to create an account to complete the sale. Being fully transparent with all costs, such as offering a shipping cost estimator, can alleviate frustration as users get close to making a purchase decision. Similarly, many sites allow buyers to ‘checkout as a guest’ or provide an option to create an account once the purchase has been completed to remove a potential purchase barrier.
- Review and amend ‘standard’ terms and offer new options – many businesses have been quick to offer extended return periods, extra options for delivery, such as a contactless drop-off, or additional online support services to help with buying online. Amending ‘standard’ terms and looking for new ways to support customers and make them feel safe is a priority.
Data is your ally
As consumer expectations evolve, so should business operations and the customer experience. In this instance, data is every business leader’s greatest ally.
- Analyse trends in-store and online – what are the peak hours of operation for in-store purchases? Is there a preferred method of delivery or payment for online orders? What products and services are most popular? Using data, business leaders can understand customer purchasing trends both in-store and online and adapt accordingly. For example, if there are peak shopping periods in-store, say between 12-1pm, consider rostering extra staff during these hours to avoid queues. Or why not offer an ‘express checkout’ option online for the most commonly selected delivery and payment option?
- Align teams – all teams should have access to the data and insights so that everyone is aligned. This is especially crucial if teams are working remotely. Cloud-based ERP can streamline organisational alignment and act as a single source of truth for all data.
A recent report by McKinsey established that “the way organisations deal with their customers, their employees, and the broader community in a crisis is likely to leave lasting memories in their customers’ minds.” Business leaders need to evaluate, and revaluate regularly, how customers interact with the business; What causes friction? What could make their experience better, even marginally? What do customers now expect as ‘normal’? These are all the questions that will help business leaders make changes that will ensure customers remain engaged and loyal in the long term.