Today’s retail hopscotch—or channel switching—makes tracking and serving customers trickier than ever. With consumers shopping at will, more businesses are turning to call or contact centers to be digitally adept.
U.S. online sales rose to $341.7 billion in 2015, accounting for more than half of total retail sales growth, according to Internet Retailer Magazine. That’s a 14.6% increase over 2014’s $298.3 billion.1
Citing Forrester Research, Internet Retailer also reports the number of consumers browsing and buying online will hit 270 million by 2020, with projected U.S. online sales of $523 billion.
This growth drives the need for virtual sales specialists. Retailers rely on call or contact center outsourcers—especially during sales peaks—to handle demand, satisfy shoppers and contain costs.
Successful outsourcing requires sales-savvy agents. Agents who identify with customers and know a retailer’s products and services. In short, agents who personify the brand.
Serving consumers well also is about understanding and catering to their shopping preferences. Tied to e-commerce growth, buyers are more informed, shopping across multiple channels.
Mobile shopping now accounts for 50% of all traffic to retail sites and will be a key driver in future growth. Retailers, in turn, are investing in mobile apps and configuring websites to accommodate these shoppers.2
Not only do consumers use more channels, but they are combining them in new ways. One shopping experience might begin on a mobile device and be completed in a store or at home on the desktop.
Another might begin at a store with a mobile device to check prices across the Internet to ensure the best deal. Shoppers might use any combination of chat, email, 1-800 numbers or custom applications.
Tracking consumer behavior across multiple channels is compounded by having to access data in various customer files.
These include separate databases for consumers who shop in store, by catalog or on the Internet—and for those who use a retailer’s own private label credit card.
Often, the same customer—and unique information—exist in more than one database.
Smart technology platforms—whether the retailer’s or an outsourcer’s—will have to fill in the gaps, integrating fragmented data for improved customer relationships and shopping experiences.
A smooth omnichannel experience integrates all consumer activities and information. Retailers that capture customer journeys and learn from them will gain a competitive edge that’s always being honed.
As IBM states: “Customers no longer think in terms of channels. They expect a smooth and rewarding experience whether interacting with websites, mobile devices or apps, social media, email or in physical stores.
“Siloed channel-specific applications, however, make it difficult for retailers to meet those customer expectations and deliver a personalized experience.”2
Add to this, Forrester Research reports retailers must personalize customer experiences, based on behavior across channels. Real-time adjustments are needed to reflect ever-changing customer data.3
All the more reason for retailers to partner with a call or contact center outsourcer that can help them build loyalty at every touchpoint—no matter which way consumers hop, skip or jump.
1 Based on non-adjusted estimates released by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
2 IBM Commerce, Eighth Annual Online Retail Holiday Readiness Report, June 2015
3 IBM Commerce, Eighth Annual Online Retail Holiday Readiness Report, June 2015, citing Forrester
Research, Q1 2014 Global Cross-Channel Campaign Management Forrester Wave Customer Online