Bridging the gap with late online adopters

Bridging the gap with late online adopters

I work in an AI start-up that focuses on eCommerce but the truth is, I don’t always enjoy shopping online.
Don’t get me wrong, I love shopping, but something about online shopping, doesn’t always give me the same effect.
Have you ever wondered why they call it retail therapy? Shopping sets off a spark of ultimate gratification and excitement. You enter the store, preview the newest collection, check out the sales selection and immerse yourself in the best type of medication, shopping. Not only do you browse all the products; you try them on, feel them and even smell them. You’re greeted by at least one or several sales associates who (usually) never fail to make you feel less than important, understand your immediate preferences and aim to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. They give you the most amazing compliments and create that little push that will convince you to purchase the product. But do you still feel that thrill and instant gratification when shopping online? I know I don’t always do.

Although online shopping is convenient, me and many other customers aren’t able to feel that lively shopping experience and top-notch customer service. A lot of companies struggle to fill that gap between brick-and-mortar and e-commerce stores and the customer can feel it. But online stores mustn't give up on customers like me, after all we do like shopping. We just need a slightly different approach.
This is why it is so important for someone to address this issue. eCommerce store owners need to be able to understand this type of customer better , so they can learn how to deal with us in the best way.

So without further ado, let’s get started.
These are the most significant aspects that shape physical shopping experience today:

  • Sensual experience:
    Shopping is about stimulating your senses. You enter the store and immediately feel the energy around you, you browse through the different products observing their texture , their feeling, their smell and their allure, choosing the ones that give you that suffice satisfaction . People like me always try on before buying. We have to feel the sense of the product, measure its quality, and in general be sure we are making the right decision when shopping, or at least be sure we did everything in order to do so.
  • Approval and recommendation-
    Most shoppers need to have a sense of guidance throughout their journey. We need someone to be there to recommend alternate fits, textures and patterns, or find us the perfect matching accessory. We love to be complemented and in general seek assurance from a pro.
  • The special feeling
    shopping involves hunting for, discovery, and then acquisition of something new.
    There are many scientific studies that research the feeling we feel when shopping and approve what we all know. Shopping makes us feel better.

The lack of these aspects are what make people like me, late adapters of online shopping. We just don’t feel like we are getting the full shopping experience we are used to.
It is important to say that this is not true for every eCommerce store out there. and there are quite a lot of stores that have managed to do a great job in implementing these important aspects.

So what is the way to create these aspects in the online world? I went on a hunt to find some of the best ideas out there, and here are the ones that potentially cracked the code - E-commerce websites can use AI and AR to engage customers:

We are lucky enough to live in a world that is constantly evolving, innovating and advancing in technology.
But technology isn’t just what enables eCommerce to come to life - it’s also continuously suggesting new features and ways to improve the online shopping process as a whole.
eCommerce stores must put in the right amount of money, time and resources and never rest when it comes to searching for new technological ways to improve.
Of course, the options out there are endless, but I would like to suggest some that are truly helpful for bridging the gap and transforming the online experience.
Augmented Reality, better known as AR, is an interactive experience of a real world environment that adds layers of digital information. What this means, is that AR enables computer-generated objects to coexist in the physical world with the help of mobile or web applications.

In short, AR allows customers to see how the object will fit in in their environment without it having to be there physically.
So, there it is - a way to give your customers the option to examine your products more carefully before buying them, and several companies have been doing it for a while now.
Nike, for example, has a new feature in their app called Nike Fit. This feature allows the customers to find out their exact size for a specific shoe, using AR.

AVON, a makeup brand, is another company that offers their customers an AR-based solution for trying on their products before the purchase. The customers just choose the product and color they would like to try on, turn their cameras on, and immediately see themselves with the product on them.

If I didn’t persuade you yet, here is some incredible data-
According to ThinkMobiles blog reports:

Another great solution to help eCommerce match up to regular stores is found in Artificial Intelligence, or in short - AI. How can this technology help? Well, as we talked about, the online experience is missing a very important aspect.
Customers, above all, want to know they are understood and looking care of in the most personalized way. We want to get the same or at least a close feeling to what we get in a physical store. That feeling when a very helpful sales assistant offers new products he thinks we would like and then manages to convey the right message that would make us feel assured to complete our purchase.
But how is this possible in the online world? how can we get that same feeling? well, believe it or not, this has quite an easy answer- AI.
AI is the ability of a computer to do tasks that are usually done by humans because they require human intelligence. In our subject- giving the eCommerce website, the skills of the best, kindest, most helpful sales assistant.
There are countless AI based products out there, make sure you research and find the right one, but whatever you do, do not skip this technology.

This is an excellent example - In 2016 The North Face partnered with IBM’s Watson , an artificial intelligence platform, to help customers find the perfect coat. Using cognitive computing abilities, The North Face developed a platform that asks customers questions about where they plan on wearing their desired coat and what activities they will be doing while wearing it. As The North Face’s app continued to build on previous customer information, it paired that data with in-store and eCommerce purchases and activity, to offer The North Face customers even more personalized product recommendations.

Make your customer feel the human touch

Customer service is not a matter of brick and mortar stores only. You do not want your customers to feel as if your online store is lacking human touch. Online stores need to “work” extra hard to persuade their customers that when they are shopping online they are not alone in front of their device. Make sure your customer knows you are there for him and are willing to go to great extent in order for him to be happy.
You can maybe consider a lenient return policy (for example free returns), and use it as a way to be there for your customer. This kind of policy can help strengthen customer-company relationships and increase sales.

Make customer satisfaction a top value and make sure it is easy for your customers to reach the customer service. Above that, insist that reaching customer support on your site is very accessible and easy for your customers .
Let’s look at an example of how good customer service can look like on an eCommerce store. Deciem, a beauty company that defines itself as an “abnormal beauty company”, holds within 10 differnt beauty brands, and offers a simple but very necessary service. Buying beauty products can be very confusing for customers. The countless beauty products that you can choose from, plus the new trend of products that are named by their ingredients (unless you are a beauty connoisseur or a dermatologist- which i'm not) , makes choosing the right ones for you a nearly impossible task.
In this case, the customer is in desperate need of one thing- guidance from a pro.
Deciem offers on their website, a very simple way to contact them, and receive a beauty regimen that is tailored just for you. After you send them your skin concerns and details, they will respond via email, with a very specific and detailed answer that includes the products that are good for you, how to use them and even the order of use. So yes, this definitely gives the customer that human touch he seeks and makes him feel he is not alone.

Also, there are some tools out there that can help you facilitate good customer service- such as this great option by gorgias. Gorgias offers eCommerce stores a helpdesk platform that centralizes customer interactions and automates responses to repetitive questions, so that support agents can become sales associates who spend more time on meaningful, profitable interactions with customers:

Fitting rooms,not only in your store-for customers who absolutely have to try on

After incorporating all of the above into your eCommerce store, you may still face one last issue before you have totally won over late adaptors like me.
How could you allow your customers to still be able to try on items? There is more than one answer to this question and you could definitely be creative for this one.
Let’s talk about some cool examples. First and maybe most trivial option is to use what we talked about earlier- lenient return policy. If customers know that returning items is an easy process that would allow them a full refund, they are automatically less “afraid” to purchase and might end up ordering many products, trying them as they would in a store and returning the ones they don’t like. This way, the customers have a very close experience of trying on.
Another option , makes your customer feel as if his home is his own fitting room. The idea is to send your customer a few options of items he could choose from, letting him only pay for the ones he is keeping. Just look at Warby Parker for an example. This online eyewear store allows their customers to choose up to five pairs of glasses that will be shipped to them for free so they can try them all on and facilitate the decision making process.

If you want another great example , look at Stitch Fix. This company took the concept to the next level. Stitch Fix offers their customers a very unique shopping experience which allows the customer to skip the “choosing items'' part. Once the customer signs up to their website, and after answering several questions regarding his size, style, material, color and price preferences, the company uses the data collected to build up a profile and sends the customer a box filled with garments and accessories they think he will like (did i forget to mention free shipping?). Then, all the customer needs to do is try everything on in the comfort of his own home, and only pay for the pieces he chose to keep.
So here you go, there is even a solution for the customers out there that don’t like choosing but still want to try on.

Now, if an eCommerce store has all of this magic happening in it, you can be sure late adopters will become very loyal customers. Because after all, what else do they need?