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Last updated on September 7th, 2021 at 03:56 pm
While price may be a main retail differentiator for some customers, the homogeneity of many products and vast brand options point toward another differentiator that’s even more important—exceptional customer service. Consumers will likely display more loyalty to a business that has treated them to a seamless returns process or customized product recommendations. In a digital-first economy with the number of ecommerce options growing by the day, customer service may be a brand’s only differentiator.
According to Jonathan Barouch, CEO of customer communications management platform Local Measure, the way a brand makes a customer feel is a crucial factor in building loyalty. He also notes that providing a seamless, end-to-end shopping experience can sway a customer to shop with one brand over another. For instance, if a consumer enjoys a positive interaction chatting with a customer service representative providing item recommendations based on previous purchases, the likelihood of them proceeding through the sales journey is high.
Jonathan recently sat down for an Endless Aisle podcast episode with NewStore’s Senior Director of Marketing, Marcus LaRobardiere, to discuss Local Measure’s partnership with Amazon Web Services, customer service’s role in consumers’ buying decisions, and why automation plays a key role in the future of retail. Read on for several highlights from Marcus and Jonathan’s conversation, some of which have been edited for clarity.
On the biggest differentiator in retail
“What’s important—particularly for retailers that aren’t the Walmarts of the world—[is] a lot of the products that your customers are [buying] are homogenous products. You can buy them from any number of retailers. At the end of the day, the only differentiator is the customer experience—the way you make your customer feel and the information you give them. That’s why customer service becomes the differentiator.
“I think about the places I buy from. They’re not always the cheapest. They’re the places I trust. The other day, I bought my son a wetsuit for surfing. There was another vendor that was cheaper, but I went back to the place I trusted. And you know what? I ordered the wrong size. I was grateful that I ordered from that place, because I shipped it back, and the next day they shipped me back the right size. Price is only one factor, and we often forget that’s not the only factor in retail.”
On Local Measure’s decision to leverage Amazon Web Services
“When coronavirus hit, some of our biggest retail and hospitality customers had to close their doors, and all of our tech was based on brick-and-mortar. We were panicking last March. Ninety-five percent of our revenue was store-based, and we’re like, ‘What happens if stores close for two years?’
“We ended up partnering with AWS, Amazon Web Services, who approached us about a product called Amazon Connect. [Over] the last year and a half, what we’ve morphed into is a contact center software, so that no matter who you are or where you work, you can take calls, chats, social messages, emails. We can triage that with [machine learning] and bots, so the easy stuff can get answered, because people don’t want to speak to humans unless they have to.
“If we can triage the problem [and] give the customer the answer quickly, that’s a much better customer experience. When [the customer chat request] hits the agent, it comes inside our local measure dashboard. We can see the web page you’re viewing. We can potentially see the inventory so that I can serve you better. I can see the fact that, six months ago, you bought a helmet and a blue jacket. So, maybe I write back, ‘Hey, we do have red skis, but I saw that you bought the blue jacket last season. How about I suggest blue skis? Here’s the link to buy.’ All of that conversation from the moment they click ‘start the chat’ to the moment the agent delivered the sale—that’s our technology sitting on top of AWS.”
On how COVID-19 affected retail spending
“I think [in the] middle of 2020, people were more nervous about spending. Down [in Australia], we had a similar program to the PPP program that saved a lot of businesses, to the credit of the government. I think people felt good. Interestingly, they weren’t able to travel, so all of that discretionary spend has gone back into retail. People are buying higher-end products and services that they wouldn’t have before.”
On predictions for the future of retail
“The thing we’re spending a lot of time thinking about is automation. How do you take repetitive tasks that humans are doing and automate them to free up those human assets to do high-level tasks? It sounds simple, but it’s quite tricky.
“My prediction is [that] those kinds of magical experiences that are automated [and] infused with AI are going to become the norm very quickly. If you’re a retailer and you’re not thinking about how we automate, get information to customers, use bots, [and] integrate our systems, I think you’re going to be left behind.”