For the past decade, eCommerce was experiencing steady growth. But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit – sending that growth into overdrive. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, eCommerce grew more than 32% in 2020.
For brands, this explosive growth presented both challenges and opportunities.
At the onset of the pandemic, many consumers limited their trips to the store, opting to shop online instead. In fact, they went online for just about everything. That includes product categories traditionally purchased in-store, including food, beverages, home care, and personal care items.
As a result, brands that primarily sold their products via brick-and-mortar retailers took a big hit. Some – including Nestlé, PepsiCo, and Heinz, took this shift in shopping behavior as an opportunity to start selling directly to consumers.
Though we’re nearly three years out from the start of the pandemic, online sales are holding steady. This year, eCommerce is expected to grow 9.4% and will account for 15% of total retail spending in the US.
What’s more, online shoppers will remain willing to purchase directly from brands.
Sure, this growth is good news for brands expanding to a Direct to Consumer (D2C) strategy. However, the rapid shift to D2C has left many customer care teams overwhelmed – and lacking the information they need to deliver the best customer experiences. This is problematic, as Salesforce data tells us that a staggering 88% of consumers feel the experience a company provides is as important as its product or services. If a company isn’t able to deliver great, personalized experiences, they’re sure to lose customers to a brand that does.
Brands must bridge the gap to start delivering great, seamless experiences throughout the purchase journey.
Digital Transformation Requires the Right TAPP
Making a successful shift to D2C eCommerce isn’t as simple as spinning up an eCommerce website and hoping for the best. Instead, it requires the right technology, analytics, processes, and people (TAPP for short).
Many companies focus on the first three elements – technology, analytics, and processes. But the reality is, you have to prioritize your people. In fact, great customer experiences depend on great employee experiences.
Becoming a D2C company requires digital transformation. And digital transformation is more than a good looking website and mobile app. Rather, it’s a fundamental shift in the way you do business, and it impacts everyone in your organization.
Like all change, it’s likely to be met with at least some resistance. That makes sense; it’s hard to shift away from the way things have always been done. Some employees may worry their jobs are in jeopardy because of the change. Others may feel ill equipped to be successful in this “new world” because they don’t have the skills or tools they need. These challenges can lead to disengagement. And let’s be honest: resistant, disengaged employees aren’t exactly in a great position to deliver the winning experiences modern consumers demand.
As such, it’s key to put employee experience at the center of everything you do. Focus on engaging and empowering your employees. Getting their buy-in is critical to success in D2C eCommerce.
Best Practices for D2C eCommerce Brands to Start Delivering Better Buyer Experiences
Today’s consumers have high expectations for great experiences. D2C Brands must deliver every time, as even a single slip up can lead to a lost customer. According to Salesforce research, 71% of consumers have switched brands at least once in the past year.
Delivering great experiences requires brands to bridge the gap between customer care and marketing, sales, and product with the right technology, analytics, processes and people.
Having the right technology in place is key to D2C eCommerce success. Consider what technology is being used by the teams most closely responsible for delivering great customer experiences, which might include:
- Customer support/Consumer affairs
Then, determine where there might be gaps. For example, you may notice that language is often a barrier when interacting with customers throughout the purchase journey. There may be an opportunity to add technology that enables you to interact with any customer in any language.
Or, you may find teams responsible for responding to reviews sink a lot of time into doing so. This may be an opportunity to adopt technology that consolidates all reviews from all sources into a single platform.
Oftentimes, different teams measure success using disparate metrics. This can lead to teams working against each other, rather than with each other.
Alignment is key to ensuring you’re all working toward the same goals. Be sure to determine the top KPIs each division, is monitoring, including:
- Service (Support/Consumer Affairs)
- Salesforce (IT, AE, SE, SI)
- Commerce (Digital/CDO)
- Marketing (Social/CX Professional)
Then, be sure you have a way to share those KPIs across divisions. Visibility will drive accountability – and will help ensure everyone is aligned.
In the past, consumers may have interacted with a brand by visiting a store or making a phone call. But increasingly, digital channels are gaining favor.
Brands must have processes in place to support their customers’ preferred channels. This includes established service level agreements (SLAs) and tools to deliver great experiences, regardless of channel. In addition, brands must be willing to expand and evolve as consumer preferences change.
Finally, it’s imperative that each team understands the role of each channel in the customer journey – as well as their role in supporting it.
There are myriad teams that play a role in delivering great customer experiences. Oftentimes, these teams work in silos, focused only on their own responsibilities. The result? A disjointed customer experience.
Brands must bridge the gap among key teams. When teams have the right tools, data and information, they’re more empowered to positively impact the customer journey.
What are some practical steps you can take to bridge the gap between teams? Share data among teams. Offer cross-training on what drives customer loyalty. And, centralize the teams through technology; Slack is a great option for improved, cross-functional collaboration.
Start Delivering Great D2C Customer Experiences
D2C eCommerce is growing. The brands that’ll reap the benefits are those that are committed to delivering great experiences across the entire customer journey.
It isn’t always easy. Great experiences depend on the right technology, analytics, processes, and people.
Ready to find out how 1440’s suite of products can help you bridge the gap – and start delivering experiences your customers love? Request a demo to learn more.