Consumers have been ordering online more than ever before every year for the past two decades. Even without a global pandemic, 2020 was on track to be a new high for digital spending. COVID-19 made this trend even more dramatic.
For some customers, retail orders are simple. They place an order and wait for it to arrive and don’t worry in the meantime. But this is not true of everyone. More than 50% of customers expect to see inventory and even fulfillment information before and after making a purchase. With the increase in deliveries and increased stress from being confined at home, consumers want to know in detail where their packages are. This is just one example of why retail customer service needs to be omnichannel and connected.
There are obstacles to a connected customer journey, but with smart data fusion and journey orchestration, retailers can overcome them. Below we highlight some of these challenges and their solutions.
Disconnected Retail Customer Service
In general, customers are comfortable sharing information. In fact, 63% are willing to share even personal data if they can have a better experience in exchange. They expect the same level of openness from retail brands. Yet, 52% of retailers struggle with the data connectivity they need to readily share the information consumers demand. These struggles with data connectivity can result in disappointment and frustration for customers.
The reason for this disconnection is that data is being siloed, and not just within customer-facing departments. Teams, business units, fulfillment, and customer service all tend to have their own data silos. Even experienced leaders sometimes struggle with this lack of connectivity. Because fulfillment, shipping, order processing, and customer service each have their own databases, it can be difficult for service agents to know what is happening when something goes wrong. Some retailers, who own other retail brands, may ship orders centrally but have separate customer service and fulfillment services. Sadly this can create even more confusion, especially when systems were never fully integrated following acquisition. There are several possible solutions to this, but for best results, these brands need journey orchestration.
Build Transparency to Delight Customers
Customers want to know where their items are, and what the process is to receive their orders. To deliver this transparency, brands either need to create a single database, which is less efficient for anyone department, or to use a federated data model. With a federated data model, the data is stored and held separately, but dynamically connected to create a single customer view with data fusion and journey orchestration. This will allow them to connect fulfillment systems with customer-facing channels like customer service.
The most impactful way to build this transparency is to make your connected data visible to your customers. As the Journey Doctors discussed in a recent podcast, data transparency and customer management of their own data is a boon, not a burden to delivering a great experience.
Data Fusion For Better Order Experiences
For many customers, after they purchase a product, the experience becomes very opaque. They might have a tracking code that allows them to identify where their package is through a third party like USPS, Royal Mail, or FedEx, but from the time the order moves from their computer and goes to the fulfillment center, it can be difficult to know what to expect.
In some cases, order processing is quick and easy, but when it isn’t, such as when there are delays it can be concerning for customers not to know when their product will arrive. Instead, let them see where in the process a product is when there is a backlog. Even when things are going smoothly, it can be reassuring to customers to know this is the case.
Connecting this information to your product pages also allows you to make recommendations for your customers or change their experience if an item will take longer. For example, if a customer orders a planting pot and a bag of topsoil, but the pot will take an extra two days to arrive, give them the option to delay the topsoil delivery until the day the pot arrives.
Whatever you decide, keep your customers informed by keeping their order information synced with their order.
Get Started With Data Fusion As Part of the Journey
To build the best customer service experience at your brand, whether you’re a retailer or in a different industry, connectivity is key. Data fusion and management sit at the base of the journey maturity pyramid, supporting all of your efforts in building a better customer experience.
To advance the customer journey at your business, check out our guide to customer journey maturity. It’s full of great advice and information on how to take your current customer experience and make it truly exceptional.