Although we are already in the middle of 2010, we can still ‘predict’ for 2010. What can be expected and how will it affect You as a (future) web shop owner?
1. Drastically increasing and accelerating communication. Our world is becoming faster and faster, the same is even more true for the online world. As customers use newer and quicker communication tools and they get used to their speed (let’s think about the communication on Twitter or in e-mail compared to the trends 10 years ago), they also have higher expectations from the companies they do their shopping at. The importance of customer service will increase incredibly in the future and call centres will be replaced by a kind of experience centre. These centres will be the collection of communication tools that ensures two-way communication with the customers through many channels and in real time.
2. Increasing usage of Social Media. Companies have realised how they can earn money with the help of Twitter and Facebook. However, I think the importance of these Social Media are not the same as people think. The customers register for Facebook, Twitter and other Web 2.0 tools to connect with each other and not to go shopping – and they do not like to be pressed all the time by purchase offers. The only thing the seller should do is to listen to their communication and answer it. It should be built into their communication tools. Social Media is rather used as a customer service channel for successful companies and they use it to build brands and communities – of course sometimes a few sales type messages might appear.
3. Without personality business becomes more difficult. Whether we like it or not, expectations for e-retailers are increasing and they are considered not only as the supplier of products but as partners who solve problems and can be trusted. The more the competition grows among web shops, the more it is necessary to distinguish ourselves from the others. We have to take on a sympathetic identity that the customers like. That is why those who have a ‘one among many’ type plain web shop will face difficulties.
4. The increasing role of returning customers. It is a basic marketing fact that the value of a customer is not equal to the value of its first purchase. The more times the customer comes back to purchase, the more valuable they are for us. As online markets are becoming saturated, gaining profit on the first purchase is becoming more and more difficult. If the first purchase is not profitable, the secret of long term earnings are the returning customers. Nowadays, we cannot let these customers leave us easily. Customer satisfaction based on quality and relevant communication, and quick and efficient service are key issues. Social Media can offer help in these. The marketing, logistics and customer service departments have to work together for efficient results.
5. Automation is not an option any more. E-retailers are not in an easy situation: their tasks are always increasing. If we do not want to overload ourselves with work and we would like to have some free time as well, then the only option remaining is automation. This does not only mean the business procedures but everything in the communication as well. Unfortunately, the new two-way communication tools do not enable complete automation for us but it is better to automate what can be automated. Otherwise the task load will increase exponentially and we will be sat there wondering what we have done wrong.