Brands have been investing in their online customer experience, trying to capitalize on shoppers who have moved to e-commerce but still expect quality service. But while advice abounds on what is needed to impress the modern consumer, there is still a gap between those recommended strategies and the solutions that brands have actually implemented, according to new findings from Dotdigital.
The omnichannel marketing automation platform analyzed 100 brands from across the globe to see which tactics they are — and aren’t — using in their customer engagement strategies. While there was a clear shift toward implementing new technologies, Dotdigital found some underutilized areas that brands might want to consider going forward.
The most common new tool adopted by the brands was the use of embedded live chat on e-commerce websites, which was added by 33% of brands. More broadly, 71% offered live customer service over Facebook Messenger or Twitter DMs. This is a clear alternative to in-store assistance, and therefore Dotdigital praised the average response time, as 64% of brands with live chat were able to respond within 60 seconds.
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Partnering with a third-party provider on payment solutions was also very popular, with 87% offering a checkout option with PayPal, Klarna, Afterpay or others. Successful e-commerce experiences have commonly been associated with providing as much flexibility and convenience to shoppers as possible, which is why a multitude of payment offerings can help increase conversion.
However, Dotdigital found that the vast majority of brands did not extend this same variety of choice when it came to engaging in brand communications.
“Empowering subscribers to choose the communications they receive, and the channels they receive them on, significantly improves their experience,” said the report’s authors. “This is best practice for a simple reason: It makes shoppers aware that they are in control of their relationship with a brand. As a result, unsubscription rates decrease and communications will have a greater impact.”
Described under the umbrella of “preference centers,” customer options for engagement were minimally available. Dotdigital found that 80% of brands did not provide a clear way for shoppers to choose the frequency of their communications; 80% didn’t let them choose a channel preference; and 71% didn’t let them customize the type of content they received. Additionally, 66% of brands did not include any kind of preference center within their email marketing, leaving users unaware of the options available.
“Shoppers are willing to share personal data like date of birth, phone numbers and social media profiles in exchange for personalized experiences,” said the report. “But this willingness to share isn’t being utilized.”
This is reflected in the study’s additional findings: 80% of brands don’t offer a loyalty program, despite this being a key period for relationship building. This dearth of personalization is also shown in the lack of omnichannel offerings: Despite the rise of mobile commerce, only 34% provided an app experience and only 17% offered SMS engagement.
The most popular channel was email marketing, with 93% of brands sending out a personalized welcome email. This bodes well for brands, as email offers the highest rate of ROI of any customer acquisition strategy, according to Dotdigital. But the company criticized the 71% that didn’t use that welcome email as an opportunity to collect additional consumer data. This inaction was echoed in the post-purchase and unsubscription experience; only 30% and 23% respectively solicited information at these stages, which could help them improve future iterations.
“The [welcome] campaign should progressively ask readers for information about themselves,” said the report. “As your first interaction with new subscribers, this is essential to ensure you’re fully equipped to meet their expectations. It’s all about building a relationship, so it’s important you don’t make it too promotional at the beginning.”