The Changing Customer in Online Sales

To improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often

-Winston Churchill

This quote by Winston Churchill perfectly shows the change happening in the online marketplace right now. Consumer profiles are transforming and evolving steadily and at the same time buyers are becoming more sophisticated. That again can be a great benefit for service centers. Here are the key developments:

The changing consumer profile

Change is good, necessary and makes us grow. While this is true for all walks of life it is particularly important in the business and sales world. Online sales have seen the biggest impact with rapid growth in products sold and changes in services offered throughout the last two decades. We have evolved through this change with our clients and their changing consumer profile at a high speed pace.

  • Change in demographics: The age and gender of the consumer has changed with more people now using services or making purchases online. From small children expressing their desire for a certain toy online to retirees purchasing groceries to be delivered online. Customers now come from all age and gender groups.
  • Change in geographics: Consumers from everywhere can now purchase items from an entirely different location and have it delivered. Borders are non-existent in online sales any longer. Special services can be purchased to even eliminate the tax or import issue so the consumer only receives the ordered product without any hassle.
  • Change in products purchased: While certain products were favored for online shopping in the past, such as electronics, consumers now shop for a much wider range of products, for example e-book downloads rather than purchasing a paperback. Even custom made products like jewelry are now common products to be purchased online.
  • Change in services purchased: On top of “classic” services that have been traditionally purchased, such as a phone services, products are now often rented instead of purchased online as well, for example leasing a car. From movie rentals to designer purses, the trend is clearly towards rental or lease of products.

All these factors influenced the need for adaption in sales and service support. From very few ways to interact with your customers in the past (mail and personally) there are now endless possibilities to do so: chat, email, phone, text, instagram, facebook, etc.  Particularly the change in demographics allowed many companies to cater to a much wider audience and was particularly a boost for many niche markets and vendors.

With many companies increasing their sales or service portfolio quickly to better cater to their customers, this also calls for a rapid adjustment in services provided by the outsourcing industry in order to serve all the growing and changing customer needs. With the number of products and services available for purchase online, the customer now also expects around the clock support as a one stop solution.

The changing consumer demand

Online sales, for a very long time of the internet shopping age, has been dominated by a certain consumer persona. Young, technically very savvy and bold enough to navigate through the jungle of websites, payment options and possible viruses or security breaches that they may possibly encounter.

But with more markets being accessible so easily and increased security posing less threats to buyers, customers also expect more transparency, faster service and more complex issues resolved.

This includes not only more personnel to provide this service, but also a culturally more diverse team. Employees that have a higher specialization are now required in order to fulfill the consumers’ needs around the clock. While the actual rate of problems resulting from a purchase has been largely declining, the rate of people complaining or requesting details about a purchase has been rising.

This also may be an effect of the changing online behavior of the customers, as more people now purchase online that would have previously only purchased in a store.

Travel is a good example for this. Two decades ago it was mostly businesses and a few world travelers that would purchase their tickets online. It is now a much larger consumer base. This means service center do not only have to offer more languages for more international customers, but their employees also have to adapt to cultural, geographic and demographic needs.

Customers in general are more technically adventurous, they have a much higher disposable income, less brand loyalty, search more thoroughly online for products, don’t mind comparing and expect more from a product and will also voice their opinion not only louder but much farther into the world through social media.

The changing opportunities for Service Centers

This change in consumers that purchase a majority of their products or service online, also brings huge opportunities and possibilities for those service centers adapting to this new marketplace and accepting the challenges.

By using the appropriate tools, companies now also have much better capabilities of monitoring the entire customer journey. In Service Centers this is especially important in regards to data analytics, trend recognition and clear consultancy frameworks as well as  innovation processes to adapt the service to the fast paced change in consumer behavior.  Analytics of volumes per channel, key contact drivers and CSAT feedback is a key asset to identify gaps in between consumer expectation and actual service delivery. Data and trends show the move in behavior and initialize the change in the service approach. The right analysis of data shapes the content and format of new trainings for Service Center staff, as well as the right availability for the different channels and the knowledge required to respond to the consumer in the best possible way. In addition to using data and adapting the service delivery frameworks, speed of execution is another key asset. Ownership and empowerment in a lean management structure allow for faster adoption of Service Center processes to the changed consumer behavior. This is widely recognized as customer experience when Service Centers exactly meet the needs and requirements of the consumer at any given time. Last but not least new technologies need to be deployed on a regular basis in order to get ahead of the consumer expectations. Nowadays this can be chat bots, cognitive intelligence tools, community management and other tools to improve responsiveness and  the availability of services across different contact channels.

As a leading service provider we work daily on better understanding our customers and anticipating as well as adapting to their needs, so our client can reap the benefits by a quick implementation of changes. While a company knew little about the customers spending habits online two decades ago, this information is now readily available and detailed. This enables service teams to customize and specialize their service much better. By mimicking the face to face experience a consumer would have had walking into a store, this opens the door for deeper interaction at a point where the customer decision is possibly not made yet.

While the average consumer in online sales has drastically changed, this has opened the door to a much bigger opportunity: To Amaze Your Customers!

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