Keep Pace With E-Commerce Trends in the New Year

Your online business must be responsive—not only to visitors but to trends which, if ignored, may trip you up eventually. With the quick pace of modern societal and technological advances, organizations need to keep a finger on the pulse of their industries and develop the agility to react to pressures at the drop of a dime.

The outlook for 2017 includes several e-commerce trends that are primed to turn into major industry drivers. Find them listed here, along with steps you can take to stay ahead of the curve:

Dynamic real-time shopping: The online shopping experience is becoming personalized to each customer. Improvements in collecting, organizing and analyzing data mean that customers will no longer be asked to respond to product recommendations that seem to come out of left field. Instead, recommendations will be based on their unique preferences, geographic location, demographic group, past purchases, market trends and brand interactions—automatically. E-commerce businesses should tap into the technology of leading e-commerce platforms to enable this capability.

Cyber November: Online retailers have started to offer customers discounts in advance of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday rushes—to offset unruly crowds in stores and to get a jump on holiday spending. In 2015, major retailers Target and Walmart announced in-store deals leading up to Black Friday, and mega online retailer Amazon took the cue, offering deals throughout the month of November. To gain a piece of the pie, focus on mobile spending, which is slated to account for 60 percent of online sales by year-end; offer stellar shopping experiences on smartphones and tablets.

Chatbots: These are fully automated “chat” agents that can act as a first point of contact for brands. Chatbots increase the number of platforms on which brands can offer transactions through guided, interactive browsing. In 2015, tech giants released the enabling application programming interfaces (APIs) that made it cost-effective for bot developers to create their own, using their own servers. Experts predict that the artificial intelligence that fuels chatbots will improve with time, making conversations more natural, with better response rates. Explore this technology now to reduce customer effort and lower support costs.

Checkout: Expect traditional wallets to be replaced by “mobile” payments, and set your site up to accept these new payment methods. Same-day delivery is also becoming a competitive differentiator, as is operating in smaller spaces that can serve as showrooms, fitting rooms, and pick-up/drop-off points.

In this era where power has shifted away from companies and toward digitally connected, technology-empowered customers, retailers need to fully embrace digital commerce to thrive. With a few clicks of a mouse, customers can easily switch companies to find a better online experience. In this environment, being customer-obsessed must be your competitive strategy.

Skyrocketing Mobile Usage: Impact on the Contact Center

Is your contact center ready for the ongoing mobile onslaught predicted for 2017? E-commerce will never be the same as consumers continue to make more and more purchases from their mobile devices. What’s the impact on the contact center? It will be an extension of the impact being felt by retailers, which includes challenges in mobile payments and checkout systems that may turn off customers completely—or have them reaching out to contact centers for help.

Smartphones edged out computers, 45.1 percent to 45 percent, as the most popular way to shop online during the first quarter of 2016, according to a study by Demandware. By the end of next year, Demandware forecasts that the percentage of mobile e-commerce visits will rise to 60 percent.

With this wealth of mobile traffic, retailers have gained an incredible opportunity: to reach customers any time and any place. Yet, unless they have optimized their mobile site or applications, they risk antagonizing consumers—some of whom may have been loyal patrons through other venues, like stores and computer websites. In fact, Demandware found that mobile checkout completion is 11 percent lower than the rate from all other devices combined.

The sheer number of smartphones (more than the world’s population) alone means that consumers can connect with contact centers through multiple channels (e.g., online chat, social, email) at will. This has dramatically increased the volume of customer service interactions. It has also increased the expectation of immediacy in customer service.

For example, companies are already integrating their mobile apps with a customer service connection, e.g., “Just click the button to talk to a customer service representative.”

The contact center must now respond to these trends, as well as a strong preference among mobile users for self-service. This means that contact centers will be called upon to seamlessly integrate self-service and live service. The ones that do so will positively differentiate their services from those of their competitors.

Another strong brand differentiator will be the technology deployed to enable processes and infrastructure that can support omnichannel customer service. When it’s easy and enjoyable for customers to do business with your contact center, you’ll reap rewards in customer loyalty and retention.

Fortunately, mobile apps will help you improve that likelihood as they become part of the customer journey. That is, because customers have signed in through an app, contact centers can collect data on their activities and preferences, enabling these centers to be more personal and responsive. This can reduce call times and call volume, leading to greater customer satisfaction.

Look at mobile as part of the continuum of modern customer service advances that are blowing through contact centers. Keep up; keep customers happy, and keeping growing your business.