5 ways to meet today’s customer expectations with intelligent commerce

  • Posted on May 12, 2021
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
Avanade Rethink Customer Care Challenge Guide

Customer expectations that were mounting over the last few years – for relevance, empathy and timeliness - have accelerated during the pandemic. The necessity of online shopping has grown as a result, with little signs of slowing down.

To meet customer needs and adapt to the digital marketplace, organizations are not only investing in eCommerce to sell products and services, but to enhance their overall customer experience. That’s because the customer data gathered throughout the customer journey can be fed into a more relevant and enticing eCommerce experiences that deepen customer relationships with every interaction.

Here are five ways organizations are creating more customer-centric, intelligent eCommerce experiences:

1. Use auto-replenishment to reduce customer effort
Organizations are beginning to offer new ways to use items like smart appliances, smart speakers and IoT to replenish products automatically. For example, After Amazon discontinued its Dash Button and Dash Wand (handheld IoT items that enabled customers to re-order items), it left a void for automated reordering for customers who don’t want to poke around in a web browser to phone to order consumables like detergent or pet food.

So, in 2020 the company launched the Dash Smart Shelf to automatically reorder products based on weight. A sensor in the shelf measures the weight of the item and when it reaches a low threshold, it pings the customer account to replenish the product. The promise is that these items can be delivered just in time with completely zero customer effort.

Smart IoT subscriptions like this enable predictable reordering based on consumption patterns. These subscriptions have the potential to increase adoption rates, whereas a typical date-based subscription model can cause items to pile up unnecessarily. That can cause a negative experience; excessive product shipments are a drain on customer space (who wants to sacrifice cabinet space?) and expenses that could have been used for other priorities. And with a massive global focus on sustainability and reducing waste, excessive product shipments can amplify the brand’s carbon footprint and tarnish reputation.

2. Sell directly to control brand experience while fulfilling demand
As consumers are unable or less inclined to enter retail stores, consumer goods companies may find themselves looking for ways to get their product in the hands of customers. They also need a way to regain control of their brand experience, ensuring the final product in hand is representative of their brand promise to customers.

An intelligent eCommerce experience can enable the shift to a Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) business model. The immediate benefit is getting products to customers faster so the organization doesn’t miss opportunities to move product and compete. But even more beneficial in the longer run is the ability to better understand their end customers.

By flowing in customer engagement (what’s being viewed and clicked – taken in and out of the cart, etc.) and buying history (new purchases, repeat purchases, shipping preferences) throughout its experience, organizations can gain some insights into customer behavior. And those insights can be fed into the entire customer experience – enhancing marketing campaigns, service engagements, and even feeding back to R&D to improve products themselves.

3. Influence decision-making with inventory
As consumers spend more time at home subject to larger national and health changes, they anticipate brands and retailers will give them some control over their eCommerce experience – not only what is being ordered, but precisely when and where they will get it. Hence, consumers are shopping from retailers based on availability versus price.

To be successful considering this customer expectation, brands can make impact with smart inventory, both in warehouse and on-hand at stores. This is important to gaining customer favor as research indicates that 78% of US online adults say that real-time in-store inventory is an important feature for a retailer's website; and 33% are less likely to visit a store if its in-store inventory is not available online.

Rapid delivery becomes the new normal requiring accurate localized inventory to offer key differentiators such as same day delivery. And the ability to have items delivered to any address, or bought online to be picked up at store through contactless commerce, demonstrates the kind of flexibility that consumers will continue to expect as they control the experience.

4. Create customer intimacy without tactile connection
Due to the pandemic, consumers may not have the interest or ability to physically engage with the brands they consider everyday – checking out products in stores - but there is still a behavior to envision themselves in relation to products and services.

Slow to reach its promise of ubiquity pre-pandemic, there is now a solid reason for organizations to integrate extended reality into the customer experience. In particular, augmented reality (AR) – the visualized overlaying of digital content onto the physical world – enables consumers to “try on” products like clothing and eyewear, or to visualize furniture in their home.

Retailers should consider leveraging AR as one option to replicate or replace physical touch using digital. The ability to feel textures and try products helps people work out the quality and craftsmanship, dimension and fit, giving them the confidence to buy. But stitching an effective AR program together requires solid strategy and human-centered design to ensure the right details and measurements will power the experience. Improperly sized and low-quality digital products will feel gimmicky and unlikely to result in sales or growth.

5. Use social selling data to bring consumers closer
With the store experience changing, and limited social interactions happening in general, social media will be the prompt for many of these brand-influencing moments. Think of it as an online version of window shopping, that may end up (at least temporarily) replacing the real thing.

Many brands are already investing in social advertising from both an awareness and ecommerce channel. The power and magnitude of these platforms is extremely significant. Not only are there influencers with a broad reach, there is intelligence in the platforms to understand customer preferences and profile, surfacing the right kinds of product ads to give the consumers confidence that the brands “know them”.

Pulling these insights, plus past behavior, through to the rest of the brand’s eCommerce and digital experience can help improve overall personalization and reveal the right time and right message for each customer to get value.

A lot is changing, and it’s changing fast. If you’re evaluating the next step in your commerce realization journey or just looking to start selling online to meet customer demand, our team can help.

Download our customer care challenges guide to get the strategy, data, design and technology expertise you need.

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