Products? Prices? Websites? There’s not a lot of difference, really. With so much the same today in business-to-consumer (B-to-C) e-commerce, what really makes the online customer loyal to a retailer? UPS posed this question to consumers worldwide as part of the 2019 Pulse of the Online Shopper study. Respondents made their feelings perfectly clear.
Transparency sets retailers apart. Customer experience has proven to be the great differentiator in today’s world of e-commerce. On that customer journey, consumers crave open and honest information — in a word, transparency — at every step.
They especially want information up front. Consider these Pulse numbers:
- 90 percent of consumers conduct research prior to making a purchase; and
- 79 percent research price, 43 percent look at product details, and 43 percent check out delivery costs.
Successful online retailers take these facts to heart and create a transparent customer journey.
Put Information in Plain Sight
What’s at risk if information is less than fully transparent? Well, everything.
Forty-one percent of consumers have abandoned a cart at the end of the purchase journey due to higher-than-expected final costs. Consumers want the total cost of getting their shipments delivered to their doorsteps up front, plus the cost of potential returns. They want price, customs duties, taxes, shipping costs, payment fees … everything.
A transparent view of other shoppers’ experiences is also important. Thirty-two percent of Pulse respondents indicated that other customers’ reviews influence them to buy from a particular retailer.
More than half of consumers (54 percent) read a retailer’s returns policy before purchasing online. A clear returns policy — i.e., easy to find, easy to understand, and convenient — keeps shoppers from leaving one website for another. Some retailers want to limit information to provoke curiosity, also known as the hook-and-reel strategy. The 2019 Pulse survey shows that strategy sends prospective buyers scuttling to a rival site.
Make it Personal
Transparency also means injecting personality into your brand.
Touchpoints make a difference. Examples? A retailer has two immediate opportunities to directly touch a customer after a transaction. First is a direct email confirmation of the purchase when a consumer clicks “BUY.” Then comes another friendly email confirming shipping/tracking information.
Do these moments of customized contact matter? Pulse findings indicate they strongly make a difference. Sixty percent of surveyed consumers say they’re extremely concerned about receiving a payment confirmation. The retailer’s email provides reassurance and that the customer can anticipate an on-time delivery.
Transparent tracking information can avoid customer anxiety and build a bond with consumers. A whopping 94 percent of Pulse respondents track at least some packages. Order confirmations and tracking links need not be boring. Leading retailers use these touchpoints to show appreciation and add brand personality. Some retailers even spotlight additional products that might catch a consumer’s interest while waiting on shipments to arrive.
Make it a Two-Way Street
Can consumers be transparent too? Absolutely. Two-way communication is the foundation for retention and loyalty, and encouraging authentic product reviews and social media posts gives consumers a way to participate in retailer’s brands. What’s better marketing than customers that are ambassadors for your brand? Customer reviews stand out for transparency and can be incredibly effective in creating confidence in a product. A testimonial holds a power above and beyond most paid marketing.
The bottom line?
The best B-to-C retailers design a communication, marketing, and sales strategy focused on transparency. It differentiates, attracts customers and retains them all while building long-lasting brand value.
Sean Flaherty is vice president of global retail and e-commerce strategy at UPS, a global leader in logistics, offering a broad range of solutions including transporting packages and freight; facilitating international trade, and deploying advanced technology to more efficiently manage the world of business.
Related story: Why Shipping Must Be a High Priority for Online Retailers
Sean Flaherty is Vice President of Global Retail and e-Commerce Strategy at UPS, a global leader in logistics, offering a broad range of solutions including transporting packages and freight; facilitating international trade, and deploying advanced technology to more efficiently manage the world of business.