Retail Customer Experience is More Than Just a Web Store Facelift
Although B-to-B customers want to simplify their complex buyer journeys by making more purchases online, they’re still finding it difficult to fully embrace an e-commerce-led way of purchasing thanks to the customer experience challenges they’re facing with B-to-B web stores.
According to Sana Commerce's most recent data, in the retail sector today, only 66 percent of customers are placing orders online, a subset that’s smaller than both the global average of 71 percent and the U.S. national average of 75 percent. This is an indication that retail e-commerce customer experiences are particularly challenging. However, that’s not the only obstacle hindering the customer experience (CX) for online retail buyers. For years, retailers have taken a major misstep in focusing too heavily on front-end-specific optimizations and overlooking the potential that lies in back-office process improvements. Now, priorities are changing.
As early as 2014, customer experience was a leading priority for retailers hoping to pioneer e-commerce success. At the time, good customer experience was comprised of e-commerce features that are now known to be best practice: clear navigation, intuitive design, and a simple path to checkout. Over the years, this commitment to strong customer experience online has translated to an even longer list of features and functionalities. Retailers all over the globe have piloted web stores with trendy web designs, personalized product recommendations, user-generated content, and even augmented reality features that enable virtual try-ons. This has been a step in the right direction when it comes to improving the retail e-commerce customer experience, but these front-end, facelift-like improvements failed to account for an important part of the equation: constant friction in back-office processes.
Retailers have long prioritized front-end CX enhancements at the expense of back-end adjustments that also could be made, and are consequently missing their chance to address both gaps. Today, our data shows that customer satisfaction is still among retailers’ top goals, but that they're finally beginning to understand a wider range of shortcomings and prioritizing back-office processes as well as front-end improvements. Beyond customer experience, improving the efficiency of the purchase process, gaining more visibility into purchases across their organization, reducing administrative overheads, and optimizing their procure-to-pay cycle are all among retailers’ top goals.
In practice, investing in logistics, procurement and fulfillment processes can have a sizable impact on retailers’ customer experience without requiring them to even touch the front-end web store experience (though they still can if they want to). For instance, streamlining your fulfillment processes can mean getting your product into your customer’s hands more quickly, and more efficient logistics or a seamless order-to-cash process can mean a lighter workload for your internal teams.
The next step for retailers will be to embrace this holistic, all-encompassing approach to e-commerce customer experience and apply it to their upcoming strategies. For example, they'll need to find a use case for artificial intelligence (AI) to develop cutting edge retail e-commerce features and take care to invest in leveraging AI across their back-office processes as well. According to Capgemini, with AI applied to logistics and operations alone, there's as much as $340 billion in revenue up for grabs, and there’s no telling what the revenue opportunity will look like as more technologies become ripe for an e-commerce optimization use case and automation becomes more commonplace in the retail world.
Tim Beyer is the CEO of North America at Sana Commerce, a web store software provider with a passion for innovative e-commerce solutions.