With the ongoing supply chain disruptions and product shortages, is it shocking that consumers are demanding more visibility from click to delivery? From when they make that first click to deliver goods to their doorstep, consumers want insight into every step of the journey. Online shopping, along with other types of purchase fulfilment strategies such as curbside pickup, have become the norm, and retailers need to adapt to fulfil the buyer’s shopping experience.

Even though customers are making changes to how, when and where they shop, they are still demanding a superior customer experience. For retailers, this presents both opportunities and challenges when creating the right formula for success. SOTI’s retail focused research report, From Clicks to Ships: Navigating the Global Supply Chain Crisis, dives into the expectations of the retail consumer in 2022, highlighting some of the latest trends in the Australian and global retail market. The report describes how to keep customers happy and the importance of their overall experience.

A great experience from the first click

Good customer service means the quality and timely assistance provided by a business to the people who use or buy its goods and services. A positive or negative customer experience can have a major impact on any business’ bottom line. It has been estimated that acquiring a new customer costs an organisation over five times more than simply keeping an existing customer happy.

In SOTI’s retail report, 68% of respondents said they expect to know where their order is within the delivery process at all times. Have their new shoes been packaged yet? Are the dog’s new toys out of the warehouse and on the delivery truck? Is their new book out for delivery today? If there’s a hold up, what is it, and how will it be resolved? Customers want to know every detail, and if a retailer can’t tell them, they’ll shop somewhere that can.

With shopping habits changing, no one can afford to take customers, new or longstanding, for granted. Consumer expectations have changed, and brand loyalty is no longer certain. If a customer’s preferred retailer is unable to provide information for every step of the delivery process, they are happy to look for another retailer who can deliver these insights.

The relationship between a business and its customers doesn’t look the same today as it did 10 years ago. That means customer service shouldn’t look the same today as it did during pre-pandemic days. It doesn’t have to be only larger companies revolutionising the retail world – any company can build processes or products to improve the buyer’s experience.

If a shipment will be delayed, customers want to know, in detail, when it will arrive at their doorstep. If an item is out of stock, customers demand to know when it will be available. In fact, just 13% of consumers surveyed by SOTI agreed retailers are providing accurate information about which items are currently in stock. One could speculate this means consumers feel that 87% of retailers aren’t doing something right or don’t know what is happening with their inventory. Retailers who provide accurate information on merchandise availability will surely stand out from the competition.

Shoppers know about supply chain shortages, but it’s not their problem

The shortages in the supply chain have greatly impacted businesses and consumers in every industry globally. From food delivery delays to backorders for new appliances and the bottleneck in the Suez Canal, the supply chain has made headlines throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Importantly, consumers understand there are product shortages and supply chain challenges, but they still want their goods when they want them. There are more than just boats or shipping containers stuck at ports. Supply chain issues have been felt every step of the way, with 57% of consumers saying they haven’t been able to buy items they want or have had to opt for alternatives.

With this new awareness, shortages and supply chain constraints are changing consumer shopping habits, such as buying locally instead of relying on overseas shipments. Now more than ever, retailers need the right mobile technology in place to respond to constantly shifting demands and give the consumer the information they require to receive their goods.

How tech can help retailers improve the customer experience

When customers feel appreciated, companies gain measurable benefits, including the chance to win more of their customers’ spending dollars. The payoffs for great experiences and being made to feel valued are tangible, with up to a 16% price premium on products and services, plus increased loyalty. A premium customer experience can help increase revenue by 4% to 8%.

With customer service comes convenience – another high priority for customers when selecting a retailer. There are technology trends expected to impact and influence the retail industry in the upcoming year, but what conveniences are consumers expecting? The ability to start shopping on one device and pick up where they left off on another device is a big one.

Likewise, consumers expect items placed in a shopping cart to still be there when they come back later to complete the transaction. Additionally, consumers expect a personalised shopping experience, seamless and fast delivery, quick checkout processes and an easy, convenient return policy.

Technology remains the key to deliver these expectations – though, they need to be centralised. From different systems, devices and locations, any business technologies must talk to each other and experience the highest possible levels of uptime. When they don’t, retailers are unaware of what’s happening in the supply chain, and that is when customers get frustrated.

Whether it’s developing and deploying apps, securing sensitive dataremotely resolving device issues or managing Internet of Things (IoT) enabled devices, retailers have an obligation to provide the highest level of customer service to thrive through the ongoing period of supply chain disruption. Wherever retailers can make investments that alleviate shopping pain points, they will keep customers happy and reap the benefits.

Michael Dyson is vice president of sales for Asia Pacific at SOTI.