2020 reshaped the current retail paradigm. And while brands are banking on some aspects of the shopping experience returning to “normal” post-pandemic, other changes brought about over the last year will be permanent. Chief among these is increased flexibility around order fulfillment, which necessitates much more refined customer communications.
Options such as curbside pickup; buy online, ship to store (BOSS); reserve online, buy in-store (ROPIS); and buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) were already growing quickly pre-pandemic. State lockdowns, the need for social distancing, protracted shipping times, and reluctance around in-person shopping only accelerated their growth, as well as spurred a general shift toward e-commerce over pure brick-and-mortar shopping. Consumers have shown a strong preference to get their orders as quickly as possible, with a minimum of human contact and on their own timelines. Brands are rushing to respond.
Even for omnichannel retailers that had BOSS and BOPIS fulfilment on their road map for 2021, the pressure to roll out these options as quickly as possible has been great, which means the temptation to cut corners or turn a blind eye to the fine details is equally strong. In an era when exceptional CX is king, however, this kind of approach can doom you. To deliver omnichannel order support that drives repeat purchases, embrace these best practices:
Communication is the No. 1 driver of customer satisfaction when it comes to order pickup. It's difficult to overcommunicate, especially given that many of your customers are new to these modes of order fulfillment and are looking to you to tell them what to do and where to go. From on-site and in-store signage indicating pickup areas to SMS messages with step-by-step instructions on the collection process, be detailed, granular and precise in your customer communications to deliver a successful CX. No one wants to be circling the parking lot or calling customer support to find out what to do next. If shoppers are frustrated by their pickup experience, there likely won’t be a repeat order. The need for enhanced communication also holds true for “traditional” order fulfillment channels such as ship to home. With supply chain disruptions and shipping delays, your e-commerce shoppers are also more invested than ever in understanding when their order ships, where it is at a point in time and, in the case of split shipments, what purchases will arrive when.
Understand That Context is King
Successful communication requires context, for both the customer and the store employees fulfilling the order. The order fulfillment process should feel as branded and streamlined as any other touchpoint a customer has with you instead of a hastily bolted-on afterthought. Regardless of channel, communication should match your brand’s voice. The customer should be able to see details on the order they’re picking up, be told when and how their order will be presented (“One of our friendly faces will meet you at your parking spot in five minutes to seven minutes.”) and receive real-time updates if there's a delay or a need for additional info. Employees also need to be given as much context as possible (“John Smith is picking up order #331. He's in a black Chevy Equinox parked in space 4.”) to deliver orders as quickly as possible, with limited potential for errors. The UX delivered by ride-sharing services is a good model to look to here in terms of delivering a context-rich flow of information to the user (e.g., who is picking you up, what they’re driving, how far away they are, when they’ve arrived) to increase their level of comfort and provide clear next steps.
Leverage Digital Support
Relying on employees to handle real-time customer communication around order support is both inefficient in terms of bandwidth and a recipe for order errors. Busy, multitasking employees are juggling multiple orders, and customers can easily be left waiting for a response. An automated order support solution solves for this by providing a seamless experience for both the shopper and the employee. A digital assistant collects all of the relevant information from the customer (e.g., car make, model and color, where they’re parked, etc.) and delivers it to the employee, while also engaging with the customer to provide order notifications, deliver specific pickup instructions, and answer questions. Customers get a bespoke interaction that facilitates a smooth pickup process and employees are freed up to pull, package and deliver orders quickly and efficiently.
Now more than ever, customers are looking for flexibility and responsiveness from retailers. Successful omnichannel order support is critical to winning and retaining customers who are placing a premium on their personal convenience and safety. They're increasingly willing to be loyal to brands that make these priorities a consistent and seamless part of their CX strategy.
Durk Stelter is the chief revenue officer of Linc, the award-winning customer experience automation platform working with brands such as Levi’s, Vineyard Vines, and GoPro.