Last year was one of the most prominent years in history, and now retailers are asking themselves what comes next. The use of technology in retail is continuing to boom as businesses desperately search for new ways to connect with customers in a socially distant and safe environment while simultaneously adjusting to newly adopted shopping behaviors.
So what shifts are here to stay in 2021? What follows is a breakdown of top e-commerce customer experience trends set to become an integral part of the new normal.
1. Video Chat
Many retailers that offer items such as jewelry and clothing have started providing video chat options as a way to speak with personal shoppers, stylists, and brand ambassadors. This allows shoppers to build a relationship with a store representative and get personalized information on measurement and sizing straight from the source, along with virtual demos.
Livestreaming is another form of video chat that will also take center stage in 2021, with the potential to be one of the fastest-growing categories in personalized digital efforts. Nothing beats the experience of shopping in person, yet livestreaming is the closest many retailers and brands have been able to come to physically connecting with their customers during the pandemic.
In 2020, businesses across all industries had to lean on their outsourcing partners as the volume of service requests jumped approximately 40% due to COVID-19, and staff resources declined due to sickness, lack of childcare or at home WiFi. Brands and outsourcers have had to become creative with how they leveraged automation to help drive down average handle time and drive-up resolution rates.
In 2021, outsourcing will continue to be sought after by retailers as they look for flexible, agile, and risk averse options to handling volume for not only seasonality, but also for business continuity purposes. Expect to see even more Business Process Outsources (BPOs) continue to adapt to changing customer behaviors by providing highly sophisticated services and solutions that take advantage of many emerging technologies complementing the traditional activities delivered, such as augmented reality, virtual reality, big data, analytics, robotic process automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
3. Data-Driven Personalized Experiences
Data driven insights from consumer feedback, product behavior, and other crucial data is one of the latest trends in retail and e-commerce. Modern-day businesses are engaging with their customers in real time, and to make the most of these interactions, businesses need to understand their customers at a granular level.
What are customers’ tastes and preferences, what channels do their customers choose, where do they research products and services, and when do they make buying decisions? Real time data about customers across channels needs to be integrated with data from various sources and analyzed to reveal insights on buying behavior. The goal is to provide the right offer to the right customer through the right channel. This will help to satisfy customer expectations, while increasing wallet-share.
2021 will be a year focused on digitally reconnecting with customers and finding new ways to recreate in-store experiences as physical interactions continue to remain limited. Understanding how technology can act as a tool for retailers to create innovative and creative solutions will be the key to adjusting and setting the bar for e-commerce customer experience expectations as the year continues.
Lauren Kindzierski is VP of CX marketing at HGS.