The pandemic has changed online shopping forever, but are consumers getting the service they deserve from retailers?

The statistics about the growth of online shopping since the beginning of the pandemic are endless. But regardless of the source, the country, or the category, the core themes are remarkably consistent. We have waded into online shopping in a big way, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the changes we’ve made in the way we shop are now baked into a new normal.

 

Looking at the stats, perhaps the most startling is a chart tweeted by McKinsey & Company in November 2020:

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While this chart illustrates the impact of COVID-19 on shopping behavior during the peak of the outbreak, it also reflects a shift in consumer mindset that isn’t going away. 9 out of 10 people said COVID would impact the way they would shop. 6 in 10 said it would include an increase in online shopping. Not surprising numbers given the fear that surrounded the peaks within the pandemic.

 

But will it last? As a lead indicator of the enduring nature of these shifts, consider three more stats. Since the start of the pandemic, nearly half of UK consumers bought a product online that they had previously only ever bought in a physical store. Further, consider a category that previously enjoyed the unique store-related benefits of feel and fit – clothing shopping. In the UK, online clothing sales are expected to overtake in-store sales in 2022. This is perhaps indicative of the third stat in this section. Around one-third of consumers claim they will stick to their changes in shopping habits brought about by COVID.

 

Retail has forever changed. We won’t predict the death of high-street, as many have done in the past. But it is also clear that the pandemic has rapidly accelerated the growth in online shopping by at least half a decade.

 

And those with good quality online storefronts are reaping the rewards. But the real question is whether consumers are as well. Are they getting the types of online experiences they deserve? Or are they having to ‘put up with ordinary’ as a trade-off for convenience and safety?

 

Consider, for example, your local coffee shop. It’s easily accessible. You know what to expect and what you’ll like. You’ll get a warm greeting, maybe even by name. They’ll read your mood and adjust their service style accordingly. Probably suggest an order based on what you normally get. Pivot seamlessly should you be up for a change. Take your payment with a single tap of a card. Make sure you’re happy. And then thank you and invite you back again soon. All very human, real-time, and highly sensitive actions.

 

And, quite bluntly, usually very poorly replicated online. I may have a logged-in profile. Past purchase data may provide shortcuts to products I have bought or what ‘people like me’ have bought. I may also have stored payment details to speed up the transaction. But these are mechanical (not human) actions, and they don’t take into account my present mood, desires, and concerns. Which may not be a linear extrapolation of my history.

 

Bottom line, whilst online shopping has become an increasingly necessary part of our lives, it is not keeping up with our needs. It isn’t creating environments that can match the ease and comfort of physical environments. Nor the human quality of interactions.

 

That’s where MyWave’s ‘4D Customer Experience’ comes in. It takes great CX design, based on personalised customer insight, and then adds the fourth dimension. That is an awareness of where the potential customer is in real-time; not just where they have been in the past. To do this MyWave has applied human-centered Artificial Intelligence to the buying journey – creating 4D CX.

 

For example, take an online clothing retailer. Imagine visiting their online store and being met by a digital shopping concierge. They start by greeting you by name – welcoming you back. They then check in on

what sort of things you are looking for. It could be something for yourself, or maybe a gift for a friend. Your concierge then helps by curating a range of goods to provide possible options based on your needs. Constantly learning and refining the store based on your real-time feedback. And then you find the perfect jacket, but you’re stalling on the size. It’s an expensive item, so a higher purchase risk, and dealing with shipping and returns is a pain. At which point the cart is moments away from being abandoned.

So your concierge, recognising you as a highly valuable customer, makes a suggestion. As one of our VIP customers, if you buy today, we’ll send you two different sizes and a pre-paid return bag. We’ll only charge you for one item, try them both on, and return the one that doesn’t fit. They then process your transaction, thank you, and invite you back soon. The last action is then reinforced by personal invitations to view the new seasonal range via email and social channels.

 

Another real example of 4D CX in action was SKY TV in New Zealand. A pay-tv company branching into telecommunications by adding a Broadband service in a cluttered category. MyWave used an avatar – Wi-Fi Guy – to help guide the buying journey. Initially, by helping the potential customer ‘see’ the quality of their Wi-Fi signal around their home, and then tailoring a new SKY service to provide whole-home super-fast broadband. The results have been staggering.

 

4D CX is a massive step change. And while it doesn’t exactly replicate a human interaction in a store environment, it goes a long way towards it. Taking the advantages and convenience of online buying, while reducing the drag of ‘dumb’ interactions which lead to frustration, anxiety, missed sales, and abandoned carts.

 

To find out how MyWave’s 4D CX could help your organisation unlock the potential of your digital assets drop us a note at geraldine.mcbride@mywave.me.

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