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Digital transformation of the retail sector: how did it impact customer relations?

Having served as a catalyst for the digitalization of interactions on a global scale, the pandemic has profoundly and lastingly modified Customer Service in all sectors. With the gradual closure of all businesses during endless lockdowns, the Internet has become the only purchasing channel for customers and online Customer Service has become more important than ever ...

The impact of Covid on e-commerce and customer relations

Having served as a catalyst for the digitalisation of interactions on a global scale, the pandemic has profoundly and lastingly modified Customer Service in all sectors. With the gradual closure of all businesses during endless lockdowns, the internet has become the only purchasing channel for customers. Although online retail has grown steadily over the past few years, in 2020 consumers have gambled everything on e-commerce. According to a study by McKinsey (2021), e-commerce has grown two to five times faster than before the pandemic, depending on the country.

What is the link with customer relations? In this digital transformation of commerce, most customers, individuals or professionals, have been forced to partially or even fully adapt their consumption behaviour. They have therefore become more worried, more demanding and more concerned with the way in which they interact with companies. These must bring reliability, confidence and assurance. Indeed, the term "customer-centric", used over and over again since the 1960s, has never been more important than it is today. The best value for money is no longer enough; customers want to be served like kings by the brands they choose to do business with.

Translating these words into figures, 50% of customers believe that the customer experience is more important to them than in the previous year. This statistic is closely linked to the intensification of competition, against which the quality of customer service has become a differentiation strategy. 77% of customers claim to be more loyal to a company that offers a positive customer experience when they encounter problems. In contrast, without optimal customer service, 80% of them would not hesitate to turn to the competition after a bad experience.

Conversational responsiveness and channel integration

It comes as no surprise that e-merchants cannot (or no longer) afford to neglect customer relations in these difficult economic times... For quality customer service, speed and availability are the main advantages of conversational tools like chatbots, which must operate in an integrated and omni-channel fashion.

To resolve a problem, 73% of customers want a quick resolution. As a result, e-commerce sites without a chat and therefore often with a contact form can slow down a good number of online visitors who do not take the time to use these channels (email, telephone, etc.). Without a quick answer to their question, they leave the site and the merchant therefore loses potential sales. However, setting up a chat that is managed in-house is often not enough. It is important to make sure that customer service agents know how to manage their time well. The company must also provide them with a software that collects information automatically (such as order tracking or availability in stock) and therefore allows them to save time.

Additionally, users value real-time service delivered through their preferred communication channels. However, these different channels (email, phone, chat, etc.) must work in an integrated fashion so that the customer does not have to repeat their request over and over again when migrating from one channel to another. This is called an omni-channel strategy, making it possible to adapt the offer according to the changing needs of the customer and therefore to get closer to him or her by creating a lasting bond.

Chatbots and AI: must-haves by 2025

Interactions with support bots jumped by 81% in 2020. According to Research and Market, the chatbot market was valued at $17.17 billion US dollars in 2020 and is expected to reach the whopping figure of $102.29 billion US dollars by 2026! This will be possible in particular thanks to the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI), which has experienced a rapid growth of around 150% per year for the past three years. By 2025, nearly 95% of all customer interactions will be through channels using AI.

Companies relying on AI-powered customer relationship management solutions such as chatbots reap many benefits. First, they dramatically improve the accessibility of information, using the chatbot as an improved search engine. In addition, they give their clients the best possible advice through personalised responses. Moreover, they find it easier to close sales thanks to a number of tools that make it possible to plan, reserve and order from a single conversation. Finally, these companies are able to retain their customers by improving the entire consumer journey.