What's e-commerce's role in the customer experience?

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on June 3, 2008

Seeing that the early hysterical claims that e-commerce would completely eclipse bricks-and-mortar retail outlets, The Wise Marketer has partnered with RSR Research to conduct a survey into the role of the e-commerce channel in providing an excellent retail customer experience.

In the US at least, customer satisfaction with online retailers has already passed that of store-based retailers for the first time. At the same time, even though online sales are still only a fraction of most traditional retailers' total sales, that fraction is becoming large enough to impact their quarterly results.

How is e-commerce really performing?
Retailing is at a crossroads, and e-commerce seems set to play an increasingly important role. But what are the criteria that customers apply to their shopping experiences to decide whether they like doing business with a particular company, and what role should the online channel play in establishing firmly committed and loyal customers?

This new survey (click here to take part) aims to examine the current situation and determine what will come next. (All survey participants will be given access to the results.)

While early e-commerce web sites were designed to simply replicate the store experience as closely as possible (perhaps because consumers needed familiarity to build their confidence in online shopping), today's retailers are now working hard to bring elements of the increasingly rich online experience into their stores instead.

Combining operations
A key point about e-commerce is that the online shopping channel has historically been kept independent from the main business of store-based retailers, having both a positive and a negative effect.

On one hand, this approach has enabled a fast-moving culture that is technology-savvy and unencumbered by "the way it's always been done". But on the other hand, it has also resulted in very few links back to the main organisation, giving rise to culture clashes, inconsistent brand and price messages, and competing business objectives.

Making your opinion count
Our survey of retail management, entitled 'Playing well with others: E-commerce's evolving role in the customer experience research overview', aims to jump start an industry-wide dialogue on the role that e-commerce will play, not as an independent entity but as a key player in an integrated multichannel strategy. Please click here now if you have retail or e-commerce experience to contribute to the study - thank you.

The research will examine retailers' online strategies to determine what today's retail winners are doing differently in the design and execution of their online customer service experience. Our objective is to identify the best practices and new tricks that make the online channel into a differentiating retail experience, with particular emphasis on how these practices can be applied to other channels.

Survey privacy assured
RSR will survey retailers to gain an understanding of their current and planned strategies for online practices, and all data collected will be kept absolutely confidential (figures will only ever be presented in aggregated or averaged form).

The resulting report will examine the challenges, opportunities and enablers to creating differentiating customer experiences through the e-commerce channel, and the results will be cross-tabulated into year-over-year sales growth and gross margin trends to gain insight into those practices that make the most difference to retailer performance.

Please click here now to spend just a few minutes answering the survey online - thank you. RSR's ongoing research series aims to provide new insights into the business and technology challenges facing the retail industry, providing the specific data needed to identify and gain value from retail technologies.

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