The pandemic upended the retail industry, accelerating the evolution of online shopping. In fact, online sales boomed during the pandemic. However, delivery times also ballooned. Our internal data showed delivery times for domestic U.S. shipments increased one to two days from April 2020 through the holidays compared to the same period in 2019.
This means brands have one to two more days when they need to provide a top-notch customer experience. What they do with that time is crucial to maintaining and even improving their customer relationships. However, our data also uncovered another wrinkle. Between November 2020 and March 2021, buyers tracked each delivery on average 3.1 times via email, and 6.2 times on mobile apps. Companies can maximize these additional touchpoints if they're smart and careful. Here are the strategies we use to turn shipment tracking into a wonderful customer experience.
Look Beyond the Purchase
Acquiring new customers costs a lot of money. That's why we encourage brands to focus more on retaining customers than gaining new ones by ensuring a happy shopping experience from start to finish.
For many brands, the CX journey ends when the purchase is made. That’s not good enough these days. The customer journey continues post-purchase with shipping, tracking, returns, reviews, and more. These events take place after the initial purchase, but before the next one. It's crucial for brands to have a holistic view of all customer data to know how satisfied — or not — a customer is.
For example, a VIP customer may make a purchase and select two-day shipping. Unfortunately, the delivery is late. Should the support team reach out? Should the brand offer something to the customer as an apology? A unified approach helps customer service teams make quick, automatic decisions that maintain positive relationships with buyers, encouraging repeat purchases in the future.
Use Data to Engage
We use data to gauge how our team is handling CX. If a retailer ignores its own data, it misses obvious ways to improve customer relationships, as well as benefits that may be hiding beneath the surface.
Brands must define, collect and assign data from all key touchpoints with customers, including customer feedback. These metrics help set achievable goals throughout the year and hone CX strategy. It's crucial to identify what exactly these metrics represent, and ensure the data really represents the whole story. If these metrics and their corresponding goals are clear, teams are more proactive when addressing customer feedback. While qualitative feedback is still important, organizations need to identify the data that matter if they want to improve and scale their CX.
Additionally, we no longer use the satisfaction ratings from customers leaving reviews with our email support agents because most customers dislike leaving feedback via email. Instead, we adapted by using live chat support roughly 80 percent of the time, which ensures a faster response time and collects more meaningful customer reviews.
It’s also worth mentioning that e-commerce brands should first collect customer feedback right after product delivery, not upon order confirmation. Why? Because carriers may not deliver the product on time, or even successfully! We work with a large men’s brand to collect shipment delivery data for multiple carriers. We then analyze their shipping performance, on-time status, and whether it’s trending late or early. Now that brand can make quick decisions that optimize delivery by coordinating with its warehouses.
Delivery time is still very unstable due to the pandemic, so it's vital to collect predictive and real-time analytics about the shipping experience and carrier service in addition to product reviews. This allows brands to promptly address carrier-specific issues and remedy them before they become customer service nightmares.
Make the Transactional Personal
Personalizing the customer experience is all about providing a series of curated touchpoints to targeted customer segments. By identifying and personalizing these major touchpoints, conversion rates boom and CX improves. Furthermore, the earlier you identify pain points, the earlier you resolve them and improve conversion.
For example, if your brand sells bubble tea, it might create a personalized option that offers "less sugary" drinks to customers who previously selected "less sugar." But what happens if some customers complain in the product reviews that this “less sugary” version is still too sweet for a "less sugar" product? As a product owner, that might mean adjusting the sugar level of the “less sugar” option, or creating another sugar level. Either way, you directly address a customer pain point while improving your product offerings.
Increased delivery times and additional shipment tracking check-ins might sound like huge problems on the surface, but they're ripe opportunities to improve CX. But to better engagement, marketing funnels, and reputation, retailers must be proactive in a way that’s helpful to customers and not just self-serving. The moment a retailer focuses solely on its bottom line at the expense of customer happiness, buyers will find somewhere else to shop.
Andrew Chan is the Co-Founder and CPO of AfterShip, a leading tracking platform for e-commerce businesses. Andrew has more than 10 years of experience in SaaS product development and sales. He manages the company’s product managers, sales teams, and marketing teams. Before launching AfterShip, Andrew worked for Accenture as a business analyst.