Retail Brands: How to Manage & Meet Post-Pandemic Customer Expectations

Retail Brands:

How to Manage & Meet Post-Pandemic Customer Expectations

Tune in for a lively discussion on how customer experience is a matter of life and death for retail brands and how to create customers for life with a strong CX strategy and the right tool kit.

Topics Covered:

Podcast Host:

Emily Pfeiffer

Principal Analyst, Commerce Technology | Forrester
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Emily Pfieffer is a Senior Analyst at Forrester, where she serves digital business strategy professionals and providers with a focus on the technology that enables commerce.

Recent Article: The Top Three Solutions In B2C Commerce In 2022

Fang Cheng

Founder & CEO
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Fang Cheng is the founder and CEO of Linc, the only CX Automation platform built for retail brands. With a Ph.D. in bioinformatics from NYU, Fang previously co-founded a business acquired by Amazon, and prior to that, she worked as a hedge fund manager.

Recent Article: Treat Returns as a Competitive Advantage that Increases Customer Lifetime Value

Josh Stone  0:05  
I'm Josh Stone, Director of Demand Marketing at Linc.

I'll be serving as host, we're super excited to come together for a discussion on how retail brands can set, manage and meet expectations of customers post pandemic.

We're going to be talking about what consumers want from retail brands, how retail brands can manage and meet those expectations and what retail brands are actually doing today to meet this CX challenge.

Some housekeeping ahead of time, please ask questions, we love questions, you can do so at the bottom of your screen by clicking the q&a button.

We have 15 minutes save at the end of the session with Fang and Emily here to answer your questions. And then we'll go through some other questions that were brought to us before the call. And after the webinar, I'm going to be following up with the recording. And then also, I'll provide a document with all of the questions and answers. So even if we don't have time to get to all of the questions, you'll have a sheet you know, kind of a one two seater that you'll get after the webinar with all the answers.

Yeah, so ready to get the conversation started, I'd like to introduce our guests.

First, Emily Pfeiffer, who actually was just recently promoted to principal analyst commerce technology at Forrester. So big congrats to her. She serves digital business strategy professionals and provide and providers with a focus on the technology that enables commerce. So she's an expert in commerce, order management, drop shipping technologies, really helping providers and practitioners anticipate the strategies, technologies and priorities that's going to keep them relevant for today and in the future.

And then next, I'd also like to introduce Fang Cheng, the founder and CEO at Linc, the only CX automation platform that's built for retail brands.

She and all of us here are customer obsessed, and focused on changing the conversation in commerce, and empowering retail brands to really provide an optimum customer experience.

So yeah, so thank you so much, Emily, and Fang for being here. Emily, take it away.

Emily Pfieffer  2:17  
Perfect. Yeah. Thanks for that really nice introduction. I'm so glad to be here. Thank you, the first thing that we want to think about is what's going on today, for consumers, the experience that they're having and how it's different post pandemic, what's happened because of the pandemic and how it's affected the way people think about their behaviors today.

So we ask these questions over and over again. Have you done these things for the first time?

And we continue to ask this through and I don't know if I can say after the pandemic, but we do continue now to ask these questions and we keep getting more consumers saying to us, yes, I have now done these things for the first time.

This is so meaningful, because you can only have one first time. Now, it's just maybe a thing that you do, right. So the idea that consumers like, you know, shopping online, fine banking, online, paying bills, maybe that was kind of normal for a lot of consumers.

But medical appointments, exercise classes, you know, there are so many things, even buying groceries, I mean, my poor dad, he's the guy who likes to see his cut of meat and choose it at the little butcher counter in the supermarket.

He's buying groceries online, not every time anymore, but still regularly, because that is now just a thing he does. So that first time doesn't necessarily change all of our behaviors moving forward. But it changes our perception of what we do, and our decisions about what we'll continue to do moving forward pandemic or not, it's very, very meaningful.

The experience that consumers are having is tough. They have expectations that they find pretty consistently are not being adequately met. So, you know, I want to get an order confirmation that tells me exactly when my product will come.

This is a very reasonable expectation, if I do say so I've already placed the order, I want to know when it will come consumer said 70% of them said yes, this is important to me. It's not always what happens in retail experiences.

We know that about half of consumers said I want to have specific delivery and pickup dates for the product when I'm in the shopping cart. So now the 70% here, this is after I've made the purchase. But half of them are saying 58% More than half are saying I'd like to know in the shopping cart. I think that's important.

So this is really complicated. This is data coming in from the OMS that's running in real time, near real time in the shopping experience, right, and customers expect it.

More than half said yeah, that's something I'd like 57% said prices were higher than expected. Always. So we asked them How often was this the case? Always. This is very very fresh data looking at just the first half of this year.

So not sometimes not often, every time I'm shopping prices are higher than I expected them to be.

Pay attention to the word expected, right? They're not higher than they were, they're higher than expected. Even though we know that inflation is happening and prices are going up, it's still not meeting my expectations. This is a tough moment for consumers.

38% said to us that items that they've wanted to pick up, were not available in stores near them. So always pick up it is an option that is used for convenience. It's something that enables customers to get what they want, exactly when they want it sooner than probably any other method. But always the items I wanted to pick up were not available near me. It's complicated. So let's just think a little bit about this experience and what it means for expectations management, right?

In digital retail, what we're talking about is managing expectations. Going back to the most recent holiday season, a third of consumers in the US told us my shipments were always late, always late. So why did they think that they were late?

Because the retailer they bought from had made a promise, they had set an expectation somewhere along the way that led them to believe it was coming at a certain time and it didn't. Let's think about that process and where it happens in the lifecycle.

So this is our Forrester customer lifecycle and it starts up at the top right with discover that right side is pre purchase. These are the experiences that we have as we're learning about a product or a brand we're exploring, we're deciding whether or not to buy.

So discovery, evaluate, commit is; alright, I've decided to place an order or sign up for a subscription or engaged for a service or whatever it is.

Then we have that order confirmation moment, notice the order confirmation is like the line between phases?

It starts the Initiate phase, that phase ends with order delivery. And then we have all of the post purchase experiences that come after it. But that initiate phase this is this is crucial. This is when a customer is the most vulnerable. They have given you everything. I've given you my money I've committed and I am just waiting, I've received nothing, right. So this is the time to reinforce it was the right decision to buy. It's the time to add value, not an upsell but value. It's the time to say you might be having buyer's remorse, I'm not gonna say that. But I'm going to give you the information you need to reinforce for you that it was the right decision so you don't regret that purchase from me.

During that phase that initiate phase, consumers are often disappointed. So we saw that those third said my holiday shipments came late. It was a quarter in the UK, almost half said I'm purchasing items earlier than I think I should have to just to get them on time. Half in the US said pickup or curbside orders took longer than expected.

Okay, longer than expected. So I'm shopping on a retailer website and they say order pickup within two hours. Or they say specifically when it'll be available, or they do something that sets that expectation, right?

I can't have an expectation unless it's been set somehow. It was slightly better in the UK 43%. But think about this, this is like especially bad it's extra awful. Because when we ask consumers why they choose pickup, click and collect buy online pickup curbside. Four out of the six top reasons are about saving time. They say things like "I didn't want to go to the store, unless I was really sure that the product was available." "I didn't want to waste time looking for it in the store." Right?

So these reasons these, I want to save time reasons. They're blown up when the pickup itself takes longer than we expected. As we think about what this really means for retailers and how their experience looks to customers. If we're talking about online shopping, it doesn't look like this. Right?

This amazing moment of instant gratification, "Look what I got. And it's in my hand!" You just don't get it when you're shopping online and maybe it looks something more like this. I'm just waiting. Isn't it sad? It's really, it's really depressing. The impact of managing these expectations is everything.

Three quarters of customers said they're more likely to buy when they have visibility into delivery dates in advance. Okay, so expectations management maybe sounds a little bit soft and squishy to you. Maybe it's not concrete, it's not measurable quantifiable. Okay. This is three quarters of customers are more likely to buy if they have this information upfront. If they don't have the information, less likely, lost sales.

Let's talk about communicating when things change, 70% of customers said, I'm less likely to shop with a retailer again, if the item is delayed, and the retailer doesn't tell me. So the delay is not the problem. It's not great delays happen. They're not going to be happy about it. But not communicating about it is worse.

70%, The vast majority of consumers are like, if you don't tell me, I'm going to find out sooner or later when it's not here. If you didn't tell me, I am less likely to shop with you, again, concrete.

Another 70% want more communication, during times of uncertainty. Maybe it's a pandemic, maybe it's the holiday season, maybe it's just I haven't had an update, what's going on?Even lately, literally right now, a lot of carriers are just struggling to keep up with the delivery promises.

During those times, some retailers think that less communication is better, they don't want to inundate a customer with too much. It's not true. Consumers told us they actually want more only 6 or 7% said I want less. Some said it's fine, you know, but 70%, I want to hear more during times of stress or uncertainty, communicate, communicate, communicate.

How are retailers doing against these expectations today? Okay, 45% offer a concrete date of arrival for an order that's shipping, or a date when pickup will be available in a confirmation message. So this is post purchase.

Remember, we were talking a minute ago about that, in the moment initiate phase when we're on the website. That's a scary moment. And it's a time when all of these operational systems have to come together in near real time in milliseconds and serve up inventory availability, and order routing logic. So so fast, it's hard to do.

But the confirmation message is post purchase, we can take a few minutes and kind of run these processes in the background, even so fewer than half of retailers give a specific date for when an order will come after it's placed.

Another 30% offer a generic range. We see this in the UK, we see it in the US. Most of our orders shipped within three business days and then take about five to seven business days to arrive. This is unpersonalized. It's generic, it's general, it's not ideal.

Now on the PLP in the PDP These are specific pages within a website, PLP is a product listing page. That's everything that lists a lot of products on the page, like search results, or a category page that you'd find while browsing through categories. The PDP is the product detail page, that's when you click into a specific product. That's the page where you can choose your size and color add to cart, that kind of thing.

So this is now pre purchase 63% of retailers do let customers filter products by store availability. On that PLP, I want to choose only products that are available for pickup. So that's not bad. There's a lot of room that the 37% We should have a conversation.

Once on the product detail page 62% show expected pickup timing. That's great. So on that page, it comes through in near real time in the follow up messaging, it doesn't only half enable customers to add items to cart as pickup items.

There are many retailers who let you put everything in the cart, and then you can choose how you want to receive it. Sometimes it's even only one method for the entire order. This is not ideal. Some folks won't add to cart if they're not really sure that item is available for pickup. So adding it with that method right up front is the way to go.

And a scant 10% show the number of items available on the PDP this is less important when you're buying something that's not in high demand that's highly commoditized. It's always in stock. But think about a contractor who's buying a very specific bolt on a home improvement website and they need 87 of them. Think of someone who's buying party favors for their kids party and 12 kids are coming you can't come home with 11.

So there are so many reasons why showing the actual number is terribly important. And there may be some safety stock to buffer it. We're not showing the actual actual number, but enough that the consumer can be sure they will get what they need. That's what it is. It's managing the expectations so they know they're getting what they need. All of this is about trust. We're building trust with our customers. We're making promises and we're hopefully delivering on them.

So what does it take to really build that trust? Manage expectations, that's it. I was told what to expect you delivered on my promises. I trust you. When things changed, you told me and you confirmed every step along the way. I trust you as I experienced you in every channel it feels like a consistent relationship. This is an easy one to miss. Do I call the call center for help, I email I'm on the website, I'm in a store I'm in social media. Do I feel like I'm talking to a consistent entity who understands me, who understands my interactions in all of these channels? You added value for me, rather than asking more of me. This is it. This is how we breed loyalty. It's how we build trust.

So we're going to level it up just a little bit. These are some next level value adds, it's more than an upsell. So imagine you've just placed an order with a retailer and you get a message like this, here are some great reviews about the thing you just bought. I know we've already bought it, it's mine I've committed. But I'm not being asked for anything more, I'm actually being reinforced that it was a good idea, you're gonna love it, these other people did, too.

Thanks for your order, have you thought about where you'll put it when it arrives? It's just fun. Maybe there are some photos in here of the way that folks decorated with the item that's coming or how they integrated it into their homes.

Thanks for your order, your cozy winter bedding will be here soon. In the meantime, here's our advice for cleaning and storing away your summer setup. Look at this level of personalization. I understand the category of products you just bought and I'm giving you value and support around exactly what's coming.

I'm actually now as a customer thinking about what I'm going to do with the product when it comes and maybe I had stressed about the fact that it's replacing something that's still on my bed, I can click Get advice, and I'm thinking about it and planning for it before it comes.

Thanks for your order. Here's a video tutorial to show you how to assemble that cool new bicycle you just bought, don't worry, it's easy. What's the first thing you do when you receive an item that has to be assembled? You take out those pieces of paper the diagrams, it's a total nightmare, right? It's really hard. If you can watch a video in advance, make sure you've got the right tool, understand the space, you need to set it up, get it in your head, how it's going to go, what to watch for don't turn this piece that way, it's not really obvious in the instructions, it has to go this way. Huge, huge advantage. These are the questions you're most likely to have with the easy answers. But we're always here if you have more.

So all of these messages do the same thing for the customer. They reinforce the value of what was purchased, they add next level insights and congratulations and warm fuzzy feelings about the product without asking anything more of a customer.

I always find you know, the upsell or the coupon for the next purchase. It's a great idea maybe after the item has arrived. But when someone has ordered and not received it yet, it's as good as asking for a second date before we've sat down to dinner. I don't even know if I know yet. Don't ask for more yet. These are the ways to really build trust with your customers.

Over to you Fang.

Fang Cheng  17:46  
Well, thank you so much Emily, I was in awe how much data and also very practical applications and tweaks you could actually optimize your experience and apply right away in that short 20 minutes. So that's just a really wonderful to see.

Frankly, speaking, following your work. I'm really, over the years, I have personally learned so much. So I want to take a moment actually summarize a couple key points I found was to some degree thought provoking. And I hope this summary is going to be helpful for our audience here as well.

You know, for one I think you really kind of stressed about when we speak about digital experience it's not just the PLP page, the PDP page or the checkout, right? And these are the building blocks, that's absolutely essential but over the time of how the industry evolved, to some degree, the playing field is quite, you know, leveled. Right?

Now where the opportunity goes is really in that service moments. And consumers at the same time become also much more savvy, they expect that you'll have a greater browsing experience. But what really matters is how you take care of me when I have a moment of need. Right.

So I think that's very insightful for me to hear. You know, it's coincidentally and just this week, in our line of work of partnering with key executives for two enterprise retailers I scale already and one of the executive uses the phrases I found I want to share with everyone. I think he described it as like "service is the new marketing." And this is marketing.

It's really interesting. He came from a background of marketing and start owning the entire digital and E comm. But then in the light of day he knows Okay, the marketing ROI become ever more challenging. We have to do that. But anything can move the needles for me to win over loyalty get more repeat customer converted over time and service moments. experiences have become the stand out, you know, investment assistance. And I feel like there's such alignment here with your research your work, and really back it up with even more numbers. Right. So that's wonderful to see.

The second point, I think it's also really, really interesting why you use the term of managing customers expectation, right? And how much importance is there in terms of communicating it the right way with customer both proactively, you know, or when they show up on demand, give them the information they actually are looking for. Right.

And this is also I think it's very, very timely thing, because your everyday work with a lot of the frontline executives that are leading ecommerce operation, leading the fulfillment logistics experience around that, especially in the past a couple of years, we hear a lot of this, "oh gosh, things are not good."

Supply chain challenges, shipping cost is more expensive, actually, there's more issues related to that, these are pain points. I can't turn it around overnight. And it's to some degree, there are also bigger problems, problems that my brand and my business have the control and power to quickly fix.

So almost this sense of lack of control, right? We're at the mercy of that, we absolutely love to take care of our customers. But what can we do?

And, what you're saying here it is, to some degree, very thought provoking to me, because what you're talking about is that you may have the same kind of challenge while facing that global supply chain challenges or facing the bigger ecosystem challenges, don't come down to logistical costs, et cetera, as your peers. But you can do better by investing in how you communicate with customer. Absolutely

Emily Pfieffer  22:00  
Absolutely, that's right, know your reality, communicate it clearly manage the expectations, keep communicating, as they change, it will be better than most.

Fang Cheng  22:10  
That's really really, because that's that's actually like, you know, is empowering, because I actually can do something here. This is a very extract a little bit

Emily Pfieffer  22:20  
Take back a little control, right?

Fang Cheng  22:23  
Wonderful research there Emily, thank you so much for sharing with us.

You know,taking from here, this is okay, so now let's say okay, this is an important investing in experiences important. And investing in communicating with customer, right is important, but how? How do we get there? How do we do that? Right?

Because historically, the industry still will, okay, service moment, that's my customer service, that's my care team, right? And these are all things that goes into the care team. What can we do from digital experience perspective, right. And this is a very personal one to one, when called, we're there for them, by the way, this mounting labor market challenges in the causes structures, etc. And also the very nature of retail business, it's seasonal capacity management, there are certain things actually people workforce cannot happen to do for the right reasons. And then if you think from a consumers perspective, and that may not be always ideal, either, right? Because many examples that Emily actually give us, they're very contextual, to that very moment.

They're proactive, right before the customer even reaching out to you and calls you and you anticipate there is a need, she wants to know that. Get informed.

Those are the things where the digital experience, self service, and automation actually comes in, to play a role to improve the overall experience around those service moments. So the next few minutes, I want to put out this you know challenge everyone coming here to listen to this webinar to think about automation and self service as a cornerstone piece to your overall CX strategy.

In fact this should really work seamlessly to your people Workforce Strategy, and holistically serve your customer best and win their loyalty.

So, the words of automation, you know, AI is actually the you know, the industry is a word that I can take Institute has very mixed feelings for right.

In fact that this is some of the key buzzwords that are being hyped very, very quickly in the industry. And perhaps the earlier generation of solutions couldn't fully deliver that expectation and actually cause very mixed reviews. Okay, so let's talk about that. Let's talk about what automation done right really looks like, because that's all that matters. We don't want just automation for automation sake.

So I hope to paint a picture with our audience around that automation done right concept. So, on the left side, let's take a moment to look at an experience.

Actually as a consumer, "Ouch Yes!", that's every time I leave this, like, it feels very long feels like a few minutes or just a few seconds. All right. And gosh, this is a bot. This is a bot many of us can pull out many examples in our early encounters with bots, are exactly like that.  

It didn't know me. It's trying to be there but it's really not because it's not resolving my issue. And I have just gotten through this. And then is this really a brand I'm spending money with? Are you serious? Right?

That's actually what's going on in my mind. And then eventually, I had to actually consume more cost on the brand side to get my needs fulfilled, I may have to call, right.

Emily Pfieffer  26:14  
And we also found to that, sorry to interrupt to your point exactly - brands were measuring this as successful sometimes, because they were seeing fewer calls, because customers were just leaving unhappy. But that was the KPI they were using. So if they didn't call they must be happy.

Fang Cheng  26:32  
Yes, absolutely. You are right Emily. You really kind of need to come from the angle, like do a CX Audit to really see and stand in the shoes of the consumer. Did their their issue get resolved? Really, right?

Did this customer issues get resolved and end up buying more and buying more over time with us spending more money with us? So now, the industry has come a long way, you know, and here at Linc that's actually everyday what we're passionate about, we're building the Tesla of the CX automation world that is our mission.

So let's let's just imagine for a moment what done right looks like and I will tell you, this is no longer imagination this is a reality that you can have today.

Now, this feels quite different doesn't it, right? It customer shows up, I've got an issue is actually a real issue, in this case, and like a missing item. And something was wrong with my order, you're late. This is like a damage control moment. But you can do damage control seamlessly through automation.

And what defines a good experience, what defines automation done right? This is called an AI digital workforce.

First of all, it knows the customer, two has access to the right information, rather than put all the explanation work on the customer, when they're a customer of yours, you actually have the data about the customer somewhere and is it accessible to your digital workforce? And does this digital workforce solution have the ability to use it right In supporting our customer at that very moment.

In this particular case, okay, your order information is pulled out, tell me which item was one you have issues with? Right there. And then eventually, the third piece is really important, this is not about a general answer, hand waving answer where we redirect you to somewhere else to actually get your problem solved, the problem was solved right there. The digital workforce has the ability to take action, and get the job done.

And when you do that, a moment of headache and pain point for the consumer, become actually a moment of saying; "You know what? Yeah, I can do more business with you. And I like this, this is easy. This appears to be easy, right? And it appears to be you actually know me, I am indeed a customer of yours."

And that leads to buy more and spend more and in fact the industry has again and again seen this strong correlation between customer satisfaction in and around those service moments, and to actually their lifetime value. Right.

In average, I read seven points of improvements in customer satisfaction measured by NPS scores is correlated with 1% of overall GME performance. Wow. You know, if I'm a sizable business that gets a lot.

Emily Pfieffer  29:45  
it's huge. I think it's so interesting that you can go from a negative to a positive also, right and in a way, making a negative situation like this into something that was resolved quickly and easily and to their complete satisfaction. I don't want to say it's better than having never had a problem, but I would bet that a customer feels more positively about a brand after this than they do after everything going kind of normally and uneventfully. Right, because even though it went badly, they handled it so great.

Fang Cheng  30:16  
So that's so correct Emily, that's the silver lining of service, how we should see service, right? And we should see service actually goes so much beyond just damage control, and just try to get by right?

And, you know, okay, we've already, you know, messed this up but lets just say damage control, but when you do it right in fact you actually can win the customer loyalty and someone can become over time more loyal to your brand.

Now, if this is possible, it's possible now, through leveraging the right solutions in CX automation to achieve.

There's a lot more examples and use cases, and those service moments you can tease out to say, "hey, that's where automation makes sense." I have now a vision around what automation done right looks like; again, know my customer, know their dealings with our brand, and can get customer to take actions and can get the issue resolved all the way to resolution.

So now I want to think, give, perhaps a hopefully, a little assignment framework, right, when you do this kind of CX exercise at a strategy level. And I do want to challenge our audience to just think about, you know, across your entire customer journey, right? What can you circle out as a service moments?

Again, the initiation phase, Emily talked about, like, look at it just in that one phase, post a transaction, but have not received the product yet there are so many little pieces goes into it and from a consumers perspective, they're all different kinds of needs.

Have you attend to it that way? Right? Have you thought about automation and self service and proactive communication and what role it can play there? But if you zoom out a little bit on the entire journey, pre purchase, right? Inventory check. As Emily mentioned, that is actually real big money.

75% of customers will say "hey you know, I don't actually want to spend more I want and actually need to check inventory."

And think about can you do that when they show up? Do you have a 24/7 always available help channel or mechanism to resolve customers issues and enable them to transact?

Promo code welcome offer is a great thing. But when I want to use it, it seemed to give me a hiccup I'm not going to buy I'm not going to transact right? So I want to challenge our audience to to peel the onion do n anatomy, here we call it a CX Audit, self audit right? And do anatomy a little bit and encircle all those opportunities and almost give it a score around how big of pain? Why is not done, right? My customer has? And what are the opportunities where self service proactive communication, automated assistance start making sense and eliminate those frictions and turn it into an opportunity. Right?

And also, when you think about this, just think about the type of channels, the consumers like to get those kind of help, right? Because now a lot of those services moments they're really hard, because they're not the moments where a customer is on your website, right? So they made a transaction they left, they thought they're going to be taken care of things will go smoothly, they will be communicated.

So when you think about all of this, use case scenarios, also think about, you know, the right type of communication channel that your customer like to be informed, right? And do you have a play there to actually activate proactive communication, right? And or they just simply want to reach out and show up and rather than crawling through your entire website and read through FAQ's, how do they like to get in touch, right? And are you there, which hours of the day, they'd like to get in touch? Are you there during those hours, right? So do this kind of CX Audit and circle out of those opportunities. And this is also an area at Linc we dearly treasure this opportunity to kind of be a consulting resource with our customers.

Now, finally, we're running a business so let's talk about business.

So we love our customers. We want to see those big smiles. We met their expectation and we delivered for them. That's great. But what does that mean for my bottom line? And I want to put it out here as my final notes - that this is going to pay off.

So what we're looking at here is actually an actual number when CX automation is done right, is able to deliver for a business with about 250 million GMV size, right. So your business could be bigger or smaller, you almost can kind of proportionally estimate your numbers.

So what's showing up here, these are numbers that are actually directly measurable and attributable to the automated CX. So of course, it's automated, it's a self service, that's going to save cost, right, make our operation much more efficient, my valuable people workforce can be leveraged on really the right use cases, can be directed to the right areas of focus.

Now, seven $2.7 million of savings that's actually measurable directly attributable through turning on automation. But what's perhaps more interesting is this revenue impact. And here, we're not talking about the intangible revenue impact that perhaps over a period of time, we see certain correlations between, you know, a customer being helped through this type of automated assistance experience, to how much they spend with the brand, and by the way, we have about that NPS score Association, to, to a revenue improvement correlation.

Here, we're actually only look at the ones that are directly attributable and measurable, which means are the cases where a customer shows up pre purchase or transaction moment, something got stuck, they want to be more transparent around the services locations, or they have a promo code issue, they really want to resolve your on call guy night, right? Or they have a private question. They're buying something, it requires quite a bit of research before you buy, there's a lot of information to sort through multiple questions that I want to ask. Right? And I want to just get my questions answered and making sure that this baby carriage can can actually do this can go on off-road a little bit and I want to my questions answered, otherwise, I'm now pulling the trigger to convert.

You actually can assist the customer and, you know, a part of the digital experiences benefit is everything's recorded, right? They actually give you real time and quantified Insights. You know, how many customer asks for what kind of questions and when they are being assisted by automated experience do they reach a resolution?

You can even see the sentiment scores beyond will they rate you on the experience, you actually can measure a sentiment on every single interaction, and the most importantly, trace what happened after, right.

When I think about their issue got resolved by smiley face emoji is sent back to you, and then they actually transact. These are the cases where we're actually tracing that transaction conversion rate. And there is almost a 20% of lift that from someone who genuinely come to the site and convert, you know, low single digit, and to someone that actually being assisted and convert 20% or higher. And that's real money. Right?

So I think, this type of business case, it should be what a CX leader is thinking about. Right. And with that, I want to pass it back to Josh.

Thank you very much.

Emily Pfieffer  38:56  
Josh might be looking for the mute button

Josh Stone  38:58  
I'm here. That was fantastic. incredible insight. Yeah, let's get to some questions. We have a little bit over 15 minutes left.

So one question came from Steve. This is pretty in the weeds. I'm gonna let Emily take this one. He asked. Where does the responsibility lie when it comes to communicating shipping delays with customers? Is the retailer responsible or should the carrier be reaching out?

Emily Pfieffer  39:32  
That's a great question. I get some version of this from retailers and from carriers. You know, a retailer will say something like, like "I shipped it when I should have. It's now delayed and delivery, right? It's It's not my fault. It's out of my hands. I handed it to the carrier. The customer knows that. Am I off the hook?"

I'm so sorry. The answer is no. Definitely not. As the retailer you're the one your customer has a relationship with. You're the one that they committed to, you're the one who committed to them, right? You made promises that you would literally deliver, they didn't ask anything of the carrier, they didn't pick the carrier, they didn't contract with them. It's not up to them. So it actually doesn't matter in the least.

And on top of that communication that Fang and I have both been talking about today, a whole lot of apologies, are in order as well, taking full responsibility for those things that are doesn't matter out of your hands is absolutely the way to go. It's your customer, it's your relationship to manage.

Fang Cheng  40:34  
I want to add to that a little bit if it's okay, Josh, because I think this is such an important, you know, your mindset, right? And if you really think about it, yeah, it's true, my carriers screw up, not my problem, and then you're just starting from the wrong place, and you have to own it, doesn't matter, this is your vendor or partners issue.

And I'm gonna have to say, like, agree with Emily too, this is more than just a status anymore, right? So today, your customers expectations, always benchmark to perhaps buy the best experiences they have ever experienced. So that bar is a moving target and is rising and rising, unfortunately.

We found that especially through the pandemic, you know, especially so many people actually move around during pandemic, right, and the delivery matters, the combination orders, like, you know, shipped to me portion of it, and then I'll go pick up the other portion of it.

All this is more complex from the backend perspective, the communication demand becomes even more key. And once customer find that we see that customer actually expected not to say, "Oh, you tell me, Where's My Order and all the status, that's all good. If I actually open up the box, I see something wrong, where you says is delivered, I didn't find it, and maybe even just gonna confused was it in my mailbox, not my doorway. Right.

So all of this is gonna come to the customer. It's very interesting here at Linc we have the unique opportunity in looking at what customer is asking about. So this is a big insights funnel back to the individual brand, the aggregate, is also really, really insightful, what we actually found that coming out of the booms over the last couple of years, e comm and the investment in the different fulfillment methodologies, that actually there is an increased claim, or increased percentage volume, going back to the brand about post delivery issues.

So again, this tells us so much more about order support is beyond just status, there's post delivery issues from missing item, wrong item, if you're in a certain industry, you may have like my frozen item is melted, I don't like it, right, or this item, it was actually the wrong brand. I ordered a fat free yogurt, but you gave me something different. All of those is what's considered as an order issue from the consumer, and it's going to come back to you.

Now, we see without going in too much details into this I can go on and on but I want to kind of really set a bar clearly with our audiences that you actually can resolve this kind of issue in real time.

And when you do it right and streamline this resolution piece. And, more importantly, you actually have an opportunity to attach a make a good strategy, to your issue resolution. So think about the opportunities of offering a make good, that taking into account of what type of issue the customer is asking for, do some dividends on the fly, check the eligibility of the customer for guidance, and make good so you don't get taken advantage of. And you even can have a customer tiered strategy when it comes down to make good. And then really incentivize maybe a first time or, you know, someone that's new to the brand and just trying out a really wow them by taking great care of them, reward your loyal customers, but even if it suddenly shows on the record this customer has been taken advantage of a lot of make good policies, you know, we will temper a little bit how we invest in those kind of customers, right?

So now, this has become a huge opportunity to mine. So that's really where you should be thinking about every area if this not just on defense and try to get the trouble managed. But think offense, think about go and do it the right way and then turn it into an engagement moment.

Josh Stone  44:47  
Yeah, that's actually a really good segway. I have a question here from Bill he actually asked about personalization.

So you both talked about how important that is. And you know, he asked like, can it go too far? Can you go too far where you're actually kind of getting into that creep area? So Fang what do you think about that?

Fang Cheng  45:08  
You know, it's a really good question. And I think everyone in the industry think about personalization has to have this in mind, where is the line? Right? And I would say, personalization kind of feels creepy when it's not really, you know, natural. Right? And it's not adding value.

More importantly, does it add value? And the beauty here, when we talk about service moments experience  especially, is that the customer wants it, the customer knows this. They are spending money with with your brand, they actually expect you to know them. And they know what it takes to get their issue resolved. So I really kind of see it like, is this needed? Right? And is this natural? And more importantly, if some kind of proactive communication is involved have you asked for permission? Right? Do you have a very transparent opt in mechanism and the easy opt out mechanism as a part of the whole equation?

Emily Pfieffer  46:19  
Yeah, if you don't mind if I, if I add? I completely agree. Thanks. Yeah, I feel like there's a creepy factor that happens when and it's a hard line, but it's a soft definition when you lead the consumer to say, How did you know that? Right, because the things that I do, by way of interacting on a retailer's website, or with their call center or in their store, in many cases, I expect them to know that that happened, I even want them to, like you said Fang, I expect you to know me, I expect you to know me in all channels.

We have data that says that consumers don't want retail websites to show them products they're not interested in. They expect you to know what they want to see and to show them that like, don't surprise me with the the end cap, I'm going to walk by in the store, I don't care show me what I'm interested in.

So they don't want it to some degree but we know that there are lots of ways to collect information these days and it can feel creepy when it's something that was learned off the website, or in some other channel or through scraping or social listening. You know, there are lots of other ways to kind of observe let alone cookies. Right.  So I think that's it's a soft factor. But I think it's that factor. How did you know that versus I expect you to know that? For a consumer It's a hard line.

Josh Stone  47:38  
Yeah. And along those lines, Emily, Susan asked you, how can we ask, how should we ask customers for feedback, like is NPS enough? You know, what do you think?

Emily Pfieffer  47:51  
You know, you have to walk the line here too, because everyone sends surveys, everyone has pop ups, everyone has emails, I think presenting the opportunity for feedback at appropriate times is great. Immediately after a support call or chat is a lovely time, because it's in the moment, and you give them the opportunity, now that it's happened to answer.

I've seen emails asking for feedback on a product I haven't received yet. Don't do that. Don't be that guy. But in the moment as appropriate, and asking as little of them as possible. That's the way to go. But definitely ask and ask a lot. And try to collect the data, I mean Fang you touched on this earlier, too, that you have data as well, and so the answers they give you in a survey, for instance, should not be siloed from everything else, you know,

You might know that they're dissatisfied, they don't like the the resolution, but they still completed their next order, shortly afterward. So that all by itself gives you so much insight. I think coupling the different sources of data is really important. So ask keep asking, make it simple and easy and don't hound.

Fang Cheng  49:03  
So, so valuable input there, I'm gonna have to pile on top of that a little bit. So you know, what you talked about is like almost like a very contextual feedback, right? And I think contextual feedback is really valuable, because it's actually the most natural from the consumer. It feels like you're not like, out of context reaching out, right. So why does it become annoying? When it's out of context reaching out.

But when you're in context, in the moment reaching out, you're actually being attentive. Right? You care, it shows you care. And that's a really good best practice. And I also encourage brands to think about, you know, when you build that data, to tie feedback to a situation - situations, right? So this way, you actually can say, I'm doing well in this area, but that area, I may have more opportunity.

Lastly, a couple like this explicit feedback, which cannot be replaced, you want to hear from your customer, you want to see what they say. But there's also ways now for you to be observing their sentiment, right, and when they are not giving feedback when they're not opting into ratings to give you stars, and, you know, but in their interactions, especially those one to one interactions with your service team what kind of sentiment was activated?

And now we've got entering into a world, we can see sentiment, on every type of interaction, right, you actually can even paint a journey to say, one customer reach out outright where their sentiments start and as the conversation assistants experience progresses, what is the sentiment change towards better towards worse?

So think about how powerful that can be, you know, for a leader that in CS space, to know, where you were should put more energy. Right now, it really kind of allows you to build a data light approach and using voice of customer to to continue, you know, challenge your CX

Josh Stone  51:18  
Yeah, those are great points.

And this is separate. Liz asked a question. Basically, returns have been in the news a lot lately. You know, we, we, we got so used to free returns, and now retailers are starting to charge for returns. You know, really, what do you think about that? And, you know, if if we should be issuing? If we, if we shouldn't be charging? Like, should we be when should we be issuing refunds? So kind of a lot to unpack there.

Emily Pfieffer  51:51  
Yeah, um,

Fang Cheng  51:54  
Emily maybe I take on this a little bit. I mean, based on our sort of actual experience partnering with retailer, and I'm sure you'll have a ton of insights tied to this too. And I have to say, the logistical costs have become more expensive, right? Because labor is more of everything, you know, trickles down. So I don't blame the brands to look at say, okay, you know, it's still making sense for to fully cover the return and reverse shipping cost.

But I will say, actually, it's almost like this mess, you know, do customer love us because it's free? Or there's other things I could do, even when it's not free to actually still serve my customer really well.

So I think where the world is moving towards is that actually the convenience of how the experience is getting done, is a really, really big factor, then you take maybe $5.50, from my refund, right? So when I see the convenience is that, you know, how do I actually quickly you know, locate the items I want to return, because change, communicate, you know, reasons for return, and get the stuff done. Right.

And now, also, I think the brand should think about different return options, right? You perhaps offer now free shipping if you really ship it back. But if you come to our store that's free, right? Advertise that, right, don't just list it, okay, you can return to store, you can return, you know, shipping it back to us, but in that self service return experience, make a highlight of that in-store return option, and it's free and highlight that to your customer and you actually can turn it into a business opportunity because why should you have a large volume, apparel, mainstream apparel brands, by doing this, they drive a lot more traffic to the store. And they know that when a customer comes in for returning over 75% of the customers leave not empty handed, they pick up a few more items, right?

So a return or costs matter become actually a you know, a revenue driver. So that's really interesting. And then even in terms of the cases of the packaging need to be shipped back, there could be different options, right, you know, dropping off with the carrier in certain way, skip the printing labels to give you some new steps, and perhaps actually can allow you to save the last mile cost in the reverse side of things. Right.

So there's certain optimizations you definitely can do. But I think the principal mindset here is there's a lot of juice you can squeeze out by investing in the convenience factor around digital experience, right, by actually making all the different options really visible to the customer. Right. And that goes a long way. I'm sure you know, quite a bit about this space.

Emily Pfieffer  54:52  
Yeah I think I have an unpopular opinion about this. Um, I mean, everything you said it makes perfect sense. It's all absolutely legitimate. But we're coming out of years and years and years of telling retailers to reduce every friction point, reduce every barrier to purchase, and prominently displaying, you know, free returns free exchanges was one of the big ways to do that.

It was one of the ways to, you know, in the cart, when you're worried about abandonment, to encourage them to place the order - don't worry, you can take the risk, returns are free. And so now as brands are starting to charge for them sometimes without more of a process around managing, managing customers expectations, managing the culture around it, and reducing the reasons why they would want to return in the first place, it does seem like a recipe for disaster to me.

However, if we're looking at a retailer who is losing X percent on, you know, the return logistics, taking back an item, if their OMS is not really on the ball and doesn't allow them to like sell a saleable returned item from their store where they don't normally carry it, they might not even be able to recover anything on the return.

So in those cases, the risk of losing the sale might actually be worth it. If the concern is the bottom line over loyalty, no judgment, that's a really important business decision. So I think that all of this comes down to understanding reality, trying to get a handle on the reasons for return truly the reasons reducing those, you know, is it a fit and size question? Is it an accuracy of product data and images question, there are a lot of things we can do to reduce the chances. But then everything you suggested also to handle it once the returns are happening, completely legitimate. As long as those again the expectations for those possibilities are upfront.

Fang Cheng  56:47  
I love what you said there actually, you know, it has to be grounded on business case, it has to be grounded on, you know, can I afford it, you can't just, you know, in friction to say this is like I'm burning.

Emily Pfieffer  57:02  
Exactly. And we've been willing to do that for so long. And some retailers are losing their shirts. Just trying to keep up. It's not worth it. It's a business.

Fang Cheng  57:09  
Yeah, absolutely. And actually this kind of inspired me as sort of one example where one of our retailers actually turn this thing in the same line, then re-optimized the return experience to actually get the merchandising back faster. They're in the fashion industry, when season changes and fast fashion style changes. They come back too late will be heavily discounted and liquidated and it was a huge, huge loss because I couldn't get it back out on the floor.

So they ended up like purposely designed this kind of advance refund. So if you drop it off to those carrier if carrier scanned it we trust you. And now we're going to start issue the refund. But this could become like an incentive because they do it faster, the sooner you drop it off, the sooner your refund is getting there. So they actually achieved the goal of optimizing the inventory replenishment from the reverse, which is the perspective but is actually perceived as a greater value for the consumer.

There are certain Win Win opportunities right here. So I think just don't trivialize it. There's actually a lot that you could squeeze out about it if you could just be savvy around that.

Josh Stone  58:18  
Yeah, this was great. We're actually at time. So bummer, because we actually have some like other great questions. But like I said, like, we'll provide answers in the q&a to, you know, in the messaging to follow the webinar, but the recording the presentation. And we're certainly going to continue to host more live events too.

So really just want to thank everybody for attending. Emily,Fang, this was incredible appreciate you sharing your expertise. And everyone yeah, hope you have a great rest of the day.

Emily Pfieffer  58:48  
Thank you.

Thank you very much.

Emily Pfeiffer
Principal Analyst, Commerce Technology | Forrester