That retail therapy is one of the main activities with shoppers of all ages should not come as surprise. But if anyone still had any doubt that shoppers are exchanging the happy times of walking through stores with the impersonal act of online shopping, should now be convinced that e-Commerce has changed the way we buy. Now, almost everything is available online for purchase: from books to clothes, electronics to toys, e-Commerce aficionados can buy anything, with just a click.
Unsurprisingly, retail e-Commerce sales keep growing. According to Statista, in 2017 retail e-Commerce sales worldwide totaled $2.3 trillion, and e-retail revenues are projected to grow to $4.88 trillion in 2021. Considering that e-Commerce comprises only 11.9% of retail, according to Shopify Plus, and how underdeveloped online shopping still is in various regions, it’s safe to say that e-Commerce opportunities will grow further.
Despite these brilliant growth prospects, a few players control the market. Amazon alone commands 37% of the global ecommerce market. The latest projections by Sellbrite estimate that the conglomerate will be responsible for half of all online sales in 2021. In addition, legacy e-Commerce stores are struggling to adapt to a mobile-first strategy and link brick and mortar stores to online shopping seamlessly. As a consequence, converting sales and keeping customers engaged — in order to generate repeat business — is not as straightforward as it should be.
Hyped services — such as two-hour delivery and new drone services — might well fit large players like Amazon. However, for most of the e-Commerce ecosystem — such as smaller online stores and e-Commerce software providers — long-term success comes with the fundamental principles and best practices of converting new deals and engaging customers.
What does mobile messaging have to do with this? — It’s simple, really.
In order to generate long-term sales, any e-Commerce company knows that engaging users throughout the customer journey is crucial. Even though the mobile phone is mostly used for browsing and searching, increasingly it’s being used to complete purchases and interact with brands in all phases of customers’ journeys.
At the same time, consumers expect an omni-channel experience that includes their preferred communication channels. They do not want to switch channels — from mobile to desktop, for example — but rather want to interact with an online store on their preferred channel. And that is messaging.
Mobile messaging — a combination of SMS and chat app messaging — is an incredible opportunity for customer engagement. With 98% open rates and 90% of users reading texts within three minutes, messaging works very well with immediate messages that need to capture the consumer’s attention. In contrast, email has a meager 30% open rate, which makes it more suitable for less immediate use cases, such as sending an invoice.
Although, this does not mean email will become irrelevant. Every new communication channel emerges out of the need for better ways to fill communication gaps. Processes that have always been taken for granted and accepted as “working just fine” need to come to terms with the higher standards of engagement that people have come to expect from businesses. For example, most companies used email and phone to interact with website visitors — until live chat came along. Real-time conversation filled a gap in certain use cases in the customer journey, but it did not mean email and phone could not be used for different use cases.
This is exactly what an omni-channel customer experience is about: enabling businesses to evaluate and achieve a balance between communication channels they use for outreach and engagement. Ultimately, leveraging the strengths of each for different use cases and phases of the customer journey.
With messaging, the mix of outreach operations that come under its fold should leverage the main strengths of SMS as well as chat apps: global reach as well as immediate and time-critical suitability, which make messaging ideal to engage customers in promotions, notifications, and customer support use cases. In fact, 66% of consumers admit that they prefer to be reached by brands via messaging over emails, social media, or phone calls.
But how do you get started? We’ve got a few ideas on how to use messaging to convert sales now and engage customers for long-term success.
Reduce abandoned shopping carts and increase conversions
Mobile messaging is a great way to enhance sales by sharing special offers, discounts and coupons.
Once your customers register and provide their phone numbers, you can gather information about their hobbies, interests, tastes. E-Commerce companies can cleverly use SMS to inform customers about new potential product interests or related items to a past purchase.
One of the main issues in online shopping is abandoned carts. According to Shopify, 67.45% of online shopping carts are abandoned before a customer closes a sale. There are many reasons why abandonment is so high, including website issues. Also, many customers abandon their carts because something unexpected happened that required their attention prior to checkout. In both cases, e-Commerce businesses can drive more conversions with a friendly follow-up message, which may include an “urgent” element, such as low inventory or time-critical deals. Connecting this with special offers also gives the urge to the customer to close the sale right away.
At the same time, use messaging wisely. First of all, make sure whoever is receiving a message has opted-in. Secondly, don’t over-do it. Sometimes less is more!
Converse, inform, support — an optimal mobile customer experience
Messaging is the perfect way to keep in touch with your customers from the moment they purchase your product until they receive it — and beyond.
The premise here is this: a well-informed customer is a happy customer. Even when things don’t go too well, like a delayed delivery, messaging is the key to help turn around frustration and even anger.
Shipping is probably one of the most crucial phases of the customer journey and going the extra mile to inform your customer of a parcel shipping status is usually very much appreciated. Going even further, e-Commerce companies can implement a rescheduling function based on messaging, especially in case of delayed delivery.
Even after getting the product, customers might not be happy with it or there may be an issue they would like to resolve. Usually, a customer would have to contact customer support via phone or email. Mobile chat is also an option these days, focusing on conversational communications. It is a time saving solution that enables people to solve issues on the go.
Last but not least, ask for feedback. By conducting surveys based on messaging you’ll learn how to improve your products and services, in addition to making your customers feel appreciated. According to Smart Insight, SMS-based surveys have a high conversion rate, reaching up to 31% responses from SMS survey invitations within five minutes.
The theory of using mobile messaging sounds great, but how about the actual implementation?
- Decide which use cases you want to tackle. Implementing messaging throughout the e-Commerce customer journey is a long-term plan, so if you’re doing this for the first time, pick one use case for starters, learn and expand from there.
- Define your success metrics. It could be X abandoned cart conversions, X inquiries transferred from contact center to messaging, etc.
- Choose the proper engagement channels. Messaging includes a wide range of technologies: SMS, chat apps, push and even in-app messaging. Nonetheless, they should be part of your omni-channel engagement strategy. Understand your audience and how the channels should complement each other.
- Proceed with technical integration and internal processes on how to deal with compliance issues, opt-in and spam complaints, as well as automation. Put some thought into how to present the texting option to customers, integrating this alternative in newsletters, emails, receipts and online notifications.
- Find bugs, adapt processes and collect initial feedback to launch the service.
- Last but not least, launch, evaluate, get better — and move to the next critical use case.
Step by step, you can message-enable your e-Commerce customer journey, converting new sales and engaging your customers in their preferred way of communications.