This year marked 10 years since the first Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition (IRCE) I attended and I’ve been lucky enough to be at the show eight times since. While so much has changed since my first year in Boston, much has stayed the same.

The challenges that online merchants face today as it relates to marketing, platforms, customer service, and fulfillment are essentially the same as they were 10 years ago, despite technology nuances and evolving vendor landscapes. The little technological, logistical things that used to frustrate, annoy and plague online merchants have matured and paved the way for many more to take their products online and focus on their value proposition.

This has led to a noticeable difference in content, which now tends to deal less with the ‘technical how-to’ and more with ‘strategies and tactics’. Over the last few years, the content has ranged from leveraging data, customer service, operations, and marketing. In 2018 the standout message across each track at IRCE was all about ‘the customer’.

5 Customer Service Messages from IRCE 2018

  1. Human Connection
    In the age of chatbots, programmatic ads, and talk about AI, the human connection (still) pays off. One example given was sending handwritten letters to customers as a thank you. This led to improved re-orders and organic social media mentions from enthusiastic and appreciative customers.

  2. Live Chat
    Ryan Lane from Dream Beard said it best when he stated, “It’s 2018. If you don’t have Live Chat by now – come on!” With a 90% conversion rate to sales, I feel Ryan’s passion here. However, the reality is many merchants still don’t use Live Chat or lack a strong strategy as it relates to servicing their customers in this medium. I can understand why. Putting Live Chat on a website is about 2% of work effort to achieve an effective solution. The big work comes in establishing processes, policies, and measurements to properly scale this across a customer service team.

  3. Customers are Key
    Steve Mandell from JustCandy.com led an impressive presentation about the importance of excellent customer service. His opening remarks flat out said, “customers are critical, we should be happy to have customers because without customers we don’t have a business”. Encouraging customer success teams to always be positive and help even the most difficult customers was a focal point of the session as the subsequent benefits to the business are significant. Even more impressive is at 74 years young, Steve is down in the details of schooling everyone on how to run a successful online business in 2018.

  4. Wow Moments
    We heard from Chewy.com and how they’ve put a budget aside to ‘wow their customers’ in unexpected ways. The Customer Service team is empowered to look for ‘wow moments’ and make them happen. In turn, Chewy.com has customers who rave about them and spread the word to their friends and family. What’s a ‘wow moment’? For example, the Chewy.com team sent a customer a new keyboard when they learned during a call that the customer’s keyboard was broken, thus making it hard to order online. Now that’s a wow moment!

  5. Removing the Friction
    We heard several anecdotes from speakers who have ‘taken an honest look’ at how they’re servicing customers and made key changes. These are online merchants that both listened to their customers AND put themselves in their customer’s shoes, and asked, ‘would I enjoy this process?’ This led to tactics like removing telephone IVR menus in favour of immediate phone pickup, removing the number of order emails customers receive and adding technology to reduce process friction.

In the days of Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos being seriously obsessed with ‘putting the customer first’, it’s clear others have taken note and are trying to keep up. From companies that have dedicated Customer Service logos to others that have a trainers walking the floor ready to pounce and support a unique product question, IRCE18 showcased a wide focus on simulating this obsession. And it’s clear this is not only a defensive tactic, online merchants who adopt a customer-first strategy are seeing mega growth and believe it’s core to their success.

So if you need some help in this area, give us a call! Goose Digital can help you get a customer-first digital marketing strategy off the ground.

Until next year, that’s a wrap.

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