Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Expectations vs the evolving ecommerce landscape

By David Grimes, Founder, Sorted

The ecommerce landscape is at a crucial turning point. With customers spoilt for choice over the past 12 months, it’s ‘do or die’ for retailers. Brands are competing more than ever for share of mind and wallet, and it only takes one bad experience with a brand for a customer to abandon ship. 

Ecommerce retailers are pulling out all the stops to ensure they remain on top. Exclusive offers, personalised reward programmes, and bargain online products used to be enough to tempt a customer from a fellow online competitor – but this no longer cuts it. The impact of the pandemic has seen the relationship between retailer and customer flip entirely – no longer are the retailers calling the shots on how they need to serve and offer experiences to their customers. Roles have reversed. It’s the expectations of the customer that are influencing a retailer’s next CX move.

How has this relationship between brand and retailer shifted, and what are the expectations for the new ecommerce landscape?

More than ‘just’ a parcel

Simply accepting that a delivery would arrive ‘whenever it arrived’ is a mere thing of the past. Introduced to customers by the likes of Amazon Prime, delivery choice is now considered hygiene. Throw the pandemic and other disruption into the mix, and a delivery has become the highlight of the day. Having full visibility of where your parcel is, is the cherry on top.

No longer do customers expect to be abandoned by the brand and passed to a third party carrier after they’ve clicked the buy button. Customers are buying an experience, not just the goods. Parcel tracking pages and delivery communications are critical touchpoints that extend the brand experience – it’s a means to hold on to customers. When those communications are personalised, retailers are onto a winner.

For retailers, the delivery experience is the perfect opportunity to provide multi-parcel branded tracking pages to drive digital engagement and upsell opportunities. 80% of customers now want personalisation, and if these experiences come on a customer’s terms – and in line with the brand experience in which they’ve bought into – they’re far more likely to keep coming back for more.

Striking the balance

Now four out of five customers are more likely to purchase when brands offer personalised experiences. Likewise, a fifth of consumers say they are less likely to shop with a retailer or brand online again following a poor delivery experience. What’s key is for e-tailers to place proactive, yet tailored customer communications front and centre. If a customer’s delivery is going to be late, they want to know about it ahead of time rather than being the one to chase for updates. 

However, retailers need to ensure they strike the perfect balance. Customers have little time to focus on issues with deliveries which means that communicating right the first time is so important. First-contact resolution also needs to be at the very heart of your CX. It’s all about making every touchpoint between brand and customer as easy as it can be, not ignoring the customer’s need for information but also not bombarding them with mixed messages. Our research found that 42% of UK consumers have missed, on average, three deliveries due to miscommunication by a brand or carrier over the last few months. These missed deliveries are the result of receiving multiple mixed messages from brand or carrier, receiving an incorrect delivery time, and more.

Where most retailers are now playing on a level field, unifying the communications around delivery is the perfect way to differentiate the customer experience. According to IMRG, 82% of customers expect tracking updates to come directly from the seller, rather than a third party, which emphasises the need for brands to wholly own – and most importantly, streamline – the entire end-to-end customer journey. However, there is such a thing as over-communicating, and the duplication of delivery messages and updates from both brand and carrier is going to bombard customers and could drive them away. Simplifying delivery communications through branded tracking means separate delivery updates from both the carrier and from the brand can be streamlined into one mail or SMS – a single source of truth, no updates from the carrier.

Ahead of the customer

Balancing customer expectations with the evolving ecommerce landscape is a difficult line to navigate when you’ve got a lot of investment priorities. But the most savvy brands have already begun to recognise what their target customers really want with deliveries, and how they need to adapt quickly to keep momentum and drive loyalty.