Forrester Research recently reported that the web "is now a pervasive part of consumers' lives, embedded into their shopping experiences overall. By 2012 approximately one third of all retail sales will be influenced by the Web." As more consumers conduct everyday transactions like refilling a prescription or purchasing beauty products online, organizations' web support and presence has to evolve to provide exceptional ecommerce experiences whether contacted on Twitter or during an online chat session.
Even though consumers are moving online to purchase items, their expectations for personalized service experiences has not decreased, and they have more product choices than ever before. To differentiate from competitors and increase sales, organizations have to deliver a personalized, superior web experience to consumers using the mix of new tools available to them.
Providing consumers with information on a company's website to find answers themselves will no longer satisfy them. Consumers want an interactive online channel to easily ask questions to complete their purchase or they will abandon their shopping cart and go elsewhere for service. Online chat offers a great way for organizations to personalize the web experience to increase consumer satisfaction and sales. For example, drugstore.com has seamlessly integrated chat into its overall ecommerce experience and seen success. As drugstore.com website visitors peruse products, the site offer an option to click and chat live with a trained beauty advisor about any product or beauty questions. This next level of service has helped drugstore.com convert 25 percent of beauty chat sessions into sales; it has also led to a 30 percent reduction of incoming emails, which is a win, win.
Today, online consumers do not visit a company's website only for answers. They search social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and online customer communities to read product reviews, ask questions, and interact with others for answers. Organizations want to be at the front line of these conversations, listening to what is being said about their brand and participating in the dialogue. Social networking channels are a great opportunity to connect with consumers. J&P Cycles is one company implementing Twitter into its overall ecommerce strategy to generate company buzz, as well as to increase sales. Using the twitter handle @JPCycles, the organization is able to engage with customers by offering exclusive Twitter discounts and directing people to its new blog. This social initiative helps to generate website traffic and has increased monthly sales by thousands of dollars using Twitter promotional campaigns.
Mobile ecommerce experience is another channel that is quickly gaining popularity with modern consumers who want to purchase items and engage with their favorite brands from their smartphones. According to Forrester Research, "31 percent of U.S. mobile smartphone owners have used their devices to locate a nearby store to purchase a specific product, 21 percent have looked up online product information while shopping in a store, and 19 percent have checked on the status of an order." Integrating a mobile experience strategy into an organization's online platform will enable a valuable ecommerce channel.
Organizations can no longer rely on in-person interactions to establish long-term relationships with consumers to increase sales. Organizations have to embrace the next generation of consumers' preferred interaction channels, such as social networking sites or mobile devices. If companies deliver exceptional experiences via these multiple channels and integrate each consumer's information from all of the interactions into an overall record, consumers will receive consistent information no matter how they contact the company and will increase purchasing with each positive experience.
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About the Author: Andrew Hull is the director, product marketing at RightNow Technologies.