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Open all hours? How out of touch retailers risk losing their share of the online market

Open all hours? How out of touch retailers risk losing their share of the online market

By: Chris Robinson, CEO at Yonder Digital Group

It’s no secret that happy customers not only come back but also tell their friends about the great experience they have had. Yet while online’s share of the food shopper’s wallet is steadily rising, it seems out of touch supermarket brands are neglecting the service side of their digital business and risking the loss of customers to their better-prepared competitors.

Globally sales of groceries through ecommerce platforms are also rising. In fact, these grew by 30% in the 12 months to March 2017 with the global online FMCG market predicted to be worth $170bn by 2025 with a 10% share of the overall market.

Online but out of touch

Yet while online shopping continues to increase, it seems customer service across digital channels is not keeping up. In a survey of 2,000 UK consumers on the performance of a wide range of sectors online, Yonder Digital Group asked whether companies were easy to get in touch with and efficient at getting queries resolved rapidly and effectively. It found that the answer was generally no, and this included supermarkets.

In fact, no more than a quarter of people rated any of the sectors as excellent, with the majority voted basic or poor by more than half. Supermarkets came fourth in the rankings, yet only around a fifth (19%) voted them excellent. In comparison, online-only retailers scored highest although still only 25% rated their contactability as excellent. Retail banking came second, scored excellent by 24% with hotels taking third place with 23% and the lowest poor score of 10%. Supermarkets received the second lowest poor score at 13% yet a third scored their ease of contact as simply basic.

This is some way above the bottom scoring sectors however: car brands, airlines and delivery services were judged the worst with airlines and delivery services only rated as excellent by 10%, with almost a quarter rating them both as poor, and the majority as just basic. Delivery firms received the worst poor score, from 24% of those surveyed.

But, with statistics also showing that consumers worldwide are steadily increasing how often they buy online (South Korea currently leads the way with 70% buying more than once per month followed by Taiwan with 49%, China 55%, the UK with 28% and France with 26%), any supermarket brand that ignores the importance of being ready and responsive on the web as well as in-store does so at their peril.

Expectations of good customer service online are high, and growing increasingly higher. Understandably so: after all if websites are open all hours then surely it comes as no great surprise that consumers will use them at all hours, and expect prompt answers when they have questions, regardless of the time. In fact, in the UK, almost half of consumers say they have switched to a competitor because of poor customer service and 32% say they would find an alternative immediately if a business did not meet their expectations for a response time to a query.

Institute of Customer Service figures also show that people expect a fast response with instant online chat now ranked as the best way to deal with an organisation by 73% of consumers. Even if people send an email, 46% expect a response within 24 hours.

Live agent support: a must have
So why aren’t supermarkets performing better? In spite of their expansion into digital, it would seem supermarkets are still very much reliant on their physical network of outlets and staff to resolve issues. There are easy steps supermarkets can make to improve their contactability however. Firstly, it is about being visible: ensuring that contact details are clearly displayed online and include a range of options. Of course, it is no good having these in plain sight if there is no one there to respond so multichannel support with live agent interaction via phone or webchat must also be set up at key times of the day and night.

There can be cost considerations with providing this level of support, but while people can, and do, shop at all hours, this does not mean that live agent support necessarily needs to be available around the clock. Instead, it is possible to work out the key times when this support is required, by analysing the customer journey to work out when the most popular shopping times are, along with common drop off points along the route between browsing and purchase, and where and when people most often seek help.

Providing live agent support at these times puts a company in a far better position to be responsive in answering customers’ communications and efficient in resolving their queries, which in turn pushes up customer satisfaction levels.

Certainly today’s customer expects – and has a right to expect – a prompt efficient response to their questions and queries. The proliferation of channels used by consumers on a daily basis and the immediacy of communications via these channels mean supermarkets, like every other sector operating online, need to meet these expectations or risk real business loss.

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