Five ways to keep your customers returning to buy, rather than returning your products

By Tony Heyworth

We all know why we shop online. Rather than paying exorbitant parking fees and braving the hordes to traipse round town, only to be disappointed by the selection on offer, we hit the internet for our Christmas shopping. In fact, record numbers of us did last year, spending an estimated 375 million hours shopping online in December alone. That said, how often have we been disappointed with what’s turned up on our doorstep? Well, according to recent figures, 40% of all clothing and up to 10% of electrical goods bought online over Christmas will be returned.

This figure confirms something rather fundamental about internet shopping. Consumers can’t get a real feel for the goods they’re purchasing. This is a particular issue with clothing. As we well know from experience, no two clothing sizes are actually the same; and who can really tell what colour the garments are, or get a feel for the fabric. Too long has the consumer been left to wander aimlessly round badly designed sites looking for answers to their questions. But it doesn’t have to be this way! Helpful solutions such as live engagement can assist customers to understand what they’re actually buying and, in return, reduce return rates and increase customer satisfaction.

1. Offer the right help at the right time

Offering help online – and having it accepted – is all about timing. Pounce on someone as soon as they get to the site and they’re likely to feel a little hunted. Leave them too long and they’ll simply give up and go elsewhere. It’s a careful balance, but one that the retailer must get right in order to ensure the user is guided to the best decision for them.

2. Keep it personal

As with all great customer service, it’s important to offer help that is directly relevant to the situation. And it’s not always a matter of using a system such as live chat; it can be simply offering intelligent and personalised options to allow more informed decisions to be made.

3. Understand your customer’s browsing journey

If you’re clever about it, you’ll be able to see exactly where the user has come from, how they got to your site, and what they are looking for. This gives the retailer an excellent idea of who they’re dealing with, what they’re trying to achieve and what help to offer.

4. Know your customer

Knowing a bit about your customer is certainly an advantage. What’s their browsing history? What have they purchased in the past? What have they been saying over social media? How influential are they? These are all important questions that will help the retailer to give informed advice that will really impress.

5. Let the customer decide

Letting users choose how they want to seek help is essential. Don’t forget, one man’s drink is another man’s poison. Whereas some customers want the immediacy of live chat, others may simply want a clear FAQ page, telephone number or email address. It’s all about giving the customer what they want, when they want it.

There’s no doubt that our lives are rapidly becoming more aligned with the online world. Internet retailers need to find ways to close the gap between online and in-store service levels and experiences. I don’t believe the web is a fully efficient a self-service environment – customers need guidance. We need to able to ask questions and seek advice – immediately, right at the moment of purchase. Provide it to us, and we’ll buy the right product and stick with you, and your web site, like glue. Neglect it at your peril and see the returns roll in.

About the author

Tony Heyworth is Marketing Director for LivePerson International, responsible for marketing and business development across both EMEA and Asia Pacific. With over 25 years’ experience in software and services marketing, and with a unique blend of finance, sales and online marketing experience, Tony and his team lead the strategy for growing LivePerson’s online engagement revenues and establishing the online channel as a critical force for new customer acquisition and customer service.

Prior to LivePerson, Tony held the position of EMEA Marketing Director at both Interwoven and Polycom and UK Marketing Director at Business Objects. Each of these companies, and now LivePerson, are the number one in their respective markets. Tony’s broad experience, developed with these market leaders, covers Customer Engagement, Website Optimisation, Behavioural Targeting, Content Management, Collaborative Communications and Business Intelligence. Tony also has extensive experience in Product Marketing and is an authority in marketing strategy and planning enabling LivePerson to understand the needs of customers in the fast moving online, social and mobile world we live in.

About the company

LivePerson, Inc. (Nasdaq: LPSN) offers a cloud-based platform that enables businesses to proactively connect in real-time with their customers via chat, voice, and content delivery at the right time, through the right channel, including websites, social media, and mobile devices. This "intelligent engagement" is driven by real-time behavioral analytics, producing connections based on a true understanding of business objectives and customer needs. More than 8,500 companies rely on LivePerson’s platform to increase conversions and improve customer experience, including Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft, Verizon, Sky, Walt Disney, PNC, QVC and Orbitz.

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