Joining the Dots: How To Achieve a Fast & Frictionless Experience Across the Entire Customer Journey

Fast and Frictonless report infinity logo

This blog has been co-written with our friends at Evolve Retail.

Fast & Frictionless Customer Expectations

Working in partnership with OnePoll and Endless Gain, we recently surveyed over 200 retailers and 4,000 consumers to find out their deepest and darkest thoughts about current website experiences and what merchants must do in order to remain competitive within a densely populated market.

Although our research initially focused on brand websites, there were common underlying themes that affect all types of ecommerce companies – from brands, to retailers, to B2B businesses.

As an example, over 60% of global customers state they wouldn’t buy from a website again if they experience any problems after a purchase, such as issues with delivery, returns and customer service.

And while 56% of businesses think it’s okay to have three or more ‘friction points’ in a customer buying journey, 30% of US shoppers will accept no more than two inconveniences before abandoning a purchase – with 46% having done just that within the past 12 months alone.

Achieving Customer Satisfaction Across the Entire Buying Journey

An effective end-to-end buying journey – whether your customers are end users, retailers or other businesses – relies on getting these six core functions right:

  1. Acquisition
  2. Conversion
  3. Fulfillment
  4. After-Sales Service
  5. Returns
  6. Repeat Purchase

Those that do receive a whole host of benefits including increased market share, revenue, and customer loyalty, alongside more positive reviews and complete control over the entire customer journey.

With this in mind, we asked full stack development agency, Evolve Retail, to help us join the dots. Drawing on their wide experience, they’ve shared advice below on how B2B businesses can improve acquisition, conversion and after-sales service, while we’ve included advice for all the steps behind the buy button (i.e. fulfillment, returns and repeat purchase).

1. Acquisition

In the last decade, online trade has allowed B2B businesses to scale rapidly. To increase online business, you don’t need additional resource – trading online is available to customers 24/7, not between the hours of 9:00am-5:30pm Monday to Friday. A B2B website that is supplemented with online chat means you can add the human element even in an online situation, and actually, this can deliver an even better experience.

The average telesales call is between 3 and 8 minutes – in that time, it is the telesales person’s responsibility to make sure that all of the promotions, offers and upsells are known to their customer.

In an online environment, all of the real estate is available to display that content, as well as allow the user to place their order, all within 3 minutes. Let the customer service team focus on customer service, rather than delivering X number of orders per day against a target. Allow your customer service teams to do just that – assist customers in their problems and make them feel valued and wanted, not that they’re just another order.

There are several ways of driving traffic to your website for both new and existing customers. These include:

  • Offer and promotion incentives which are only available online
  • Email marketing to start the user journey
  • SEO
  • PPC marketing
  • Social media

2. Conversion

We are no longer in the dark ages of first user online experience. People have an expectation of the online process and have an understanding of how that process should be – the key is to make it as simple and transparent as possible to the user.

Familiar terminology and controls should be kept in standard places, and upselling should stop at the point that checking out begins. Don’t distract the user from their business (and your objective!). Equally, carefully consider the use of pop ups and overlays; these can be distracting and perform differently for different users and browsers which may distract the user from their end goal. You need to make every interaction obvious.

A good online experience is often repeated, a bad online experience is rarely repeated – even if this is mandated by a business, it is done so reluctantly. There doesn’t need to be fancy animations or functions, there just needs to be a clear, guided path through the ordering process, whilst also ensuring that all potential questions are answered throughout. Always remember to test your process with people outside of your organization to ensure terminology isn’t confusing and specific to your business.

3. Fulfillment

If you choose to operate as both a retail and B2B business at the same time, you’ll require two-speed order fulfillment, as you’ll be combining the art of perfecting fewer (but larger) orders with a greater quantity of smaller orders.

In order to truly be successful, every step behind the buy button, starting with order fulfillment, should be optimized and automated. This will not only enable you to compete in today’s faster-paced market, but will also free up your time to be better spent on actually building awareness of your business and perfecting the fast and frictionless customer experience that you intend to offer.

Here are a couple of starting points:

  1. Invest in systems integration: Business automation only works if all of your relevant data is centralized and integrated. If you’re still working from siloed systems, then your first step is to find an ERP, back office or retail operations platform that can offer a joined-up approach for your business processes. Our selection criteria template should help you with your search – request it here.
  2. Map out your current workflows: Using a tool like Lucidchart, map out your current order fulfillment process. This may highlight bottlenecks that need addressing, but will also enable you to spot which part of your process can be easily automated with the right technology in place. You may need a separate chart for each strand of your business (e.g. retail and B2B are likely to differ).

4. After-Sales Service

After-sales service is as important as the service delivered at the initial sale. Push notifications, SMS and email are all becoming more standard forms of after-sale communication. Push notifications allow you to be more targeted to the people you want to interact with, and can be a great way of keeping people up-to-date throughout the entire purchase lifecycle, which we have to remember, doesn’t end at order placement; this starts at intention, and finishes at fulfillment and use.

Some stages to consider in after-sales include:

  • Order confirmation: How is the order confirmed? What information does the customer require here?
  • Order status updates: How is the customer regularly kept up-to-date on the status of their order?
  • Receipt of goods: What delivery options will you offer? How quickly can you deliver goods to your customers?
  • Returns procedure: Is it clear how to return an item? How easy is this procedure? Convenience and price play a huge role here.
  • Follow up: This is a great time to engage your customer in the feedback process. Could they leave a review? How seamless is this process?
  • Reorder opportunity: What ongoing campaigns can be run to keep this customer engaged? Can you sign them up to receive offers and discounts? Does your product have an expiry date? Can you use this to retarget them after X amount of months?

5. Returns

Although returns technically fall within the after-sales stage of the buying journey, it’s such an important area and yet so frequently neglected by businesses, that it warrants its own section within this article.

With it taking an average of seven people to touch each return when it comes in, and over 69% of businesses claiming they’re not using any technology to help manage them, there’s clearly far too much time and money being spent on this part of the buying journey.

We feel that there are several key areas that businesses must focus on in order to improve the returns process, which include:

  • Data and systems integration: Helps to streamline data entry and processing, removes human bottlenecks and errors, and ensures data is accurate and up-to-date across the business.
  • Data management: Without adequate data management in place, such as barcodes and SKUs, your employees will need to spend time manually updating spreadsheets, documents, pick lists and packing notes.
  • Purpose-built hardware: Specialist warehouse hardware has been designed and built to speed up the entire order-to-cash process, as well as help to reduce errors and streamline goods in and return workflows. Without these technologies in place, your staff will be spending unnecessary time on processes that can be much more efficient.
  • Universal workflows and processes: Enabling all your staff to access and understand your workflows, processes and customer-facing policies ensures they can be highly efficient in their roles, while promoting consistency across departments.
  • Customer service: Customer service staff who are able to use appropriate technology and systems to delight your customers are a vital cog in promoting customer advocacy and reducing the time spent on complaints.
  • Returns monitoring and analysis: In order to truly scale your business and improve your processes (especially returns), regularly tracking, monitoring and analyzing your data is crucial.

6. Repeat Purchase

Providing you’ve nailed the above five stages of the buying journey, you should be in a strong position to win repeat business. But sometimes, it has to go beyond efficient workflows and good customer experiences, although these are both good starting points.

Occasionally your customers will need further convincing to come back to your webstore, in which case, emails, text messages, retargeting, ads and phone calls will help.

At the front and center, you’ll need reliable CRM systems to help you gather intel about your customers such as when they last bought from you and what they bought. With certain businesses, such as your larger customers, you may wish to adopt a more manual approach by sending personalized emails and phoning them at an appropriate time.

While in other cases, a one-to-many approach would be best such as in the form of newsletters and targeted promotions. But these communications should still be relevant to the customer. For example, you wouldn’t want to sell them a coffee machine for their office, and then follow up with emails about toner and printer inks without first trying to sell them coffee and milk top-ups for the machine.

This is where reliable CRM systems combined with email marketing automation that can create customer segments and groups based on previous order history are particularly powerful tools to have in your arsenal.

Final Thoughts

Today’s customer – be it B2B, wholesale, retail or otherwise – have high expectations regarding the online experience. No longer is this reserved only for new retail businesses that infiltrate the market, but anyone with an online presence. At its core, understanding and improving the six core operations listed above will help you to seek a competitive advantage over those who are slower to react to the market’s changing needs and desires. We say, there’s no time like the present to act, diversify and win the race!

Thanks again to Evolve Retail for providing their thoughts on the processes before the buy button that must be considered. To find out more about how they can help your B2B business to diversify and compete successfully, take a look at their website now.

And for help with streamlining the processes after the buy button, take a look at our dedicated webpage to find out how all of us here at Brightpearl HQ are helping B2B businesses… or arrange a personalized demo with our business experts now.