Watch out for pesky customer expectations

Expectations around online shopping has made lions of us all. We want to know where our packages are, when they’ll be delivered – right down to the hour, and holding a ready phone number to talk to someone if there’s a problem. Our purchases are crucial to us, so why don’t retailers care the same way?

Every corner is talking about the data behind the growth of online shopping in Australia and what people are buying – from industry publications to research agencies.

Some have nodded towards acknowledging customer needs: Australia Post – who has emblazoned on their trucks ‘Powering online shopping’ – wrote:

Shoppers demand a frictionless end-to-end shopping experience,
with easy access across all devices, simple payment options and
convenience across all touch points. They also expect flexibility in
delivery timeframes and collection locations.

As a result, retailers need to have a consistent offering on one
integrated ecosystem across online and in-store in order to
effectively compete and grow.

Inside Australian Online Shopping, Australia Post, 2018

Unfortunately, the report failed to examine what this ‘frictionless end-to-end shopping experience’ meant for consumers or outline the research available – or required – to find out.

Therein lies the rub

No one’s discussing consumer expectations of the entire online shopping journey.

Only this week, a retailers’ industry publication posted an article outlining ‘retail basics for a great customer experience’, but this falls too far short. A great customer experience does not end with the retailer and its’ variety of goods. Australia Post is right in this; customer experience begins from the moment the customer searches for a product to the moment they receive the product.

Whilst Australia Post outlined the dilemma, it didn’t examine consumer’s expectations of the end-to-end fulfilment journey – the act of receiving their purchases. For instance, a surprising practice witnessed in Victoria, is the part packaging of an order. An order of 3 items from Kmart or BigW may or may not arrive on the same day. So the receiver needs to be at the delivery address, an inconveniencing- and frustratingly-extra day to receive the orphaned delivery. Why isn’t it one delivery?

Furthermore, the retailer’s chosen delivery vendor has to pick up the slack. Their tracking system needs to provide ample notice to the receiver (and options for redelivery – for the orphan as well) in a timely and empathetic fashion. In this case, it didn’t.

Sure, it’s not easy

At the tail end of this shopping journey, a delivery vendor needs to breathe the same – if not better – value proposition as the retailer. This is the reason customers choose one retailer over another in the first place – whether it be their unsurpassed product knowledge, helpful staff, vast product range or great price. Retailers and logistics need to be inextricably joined at the hip – or give the appearance of such.

Recent experiences with London delivery vendors showed a wide gap in the customer experience between hemispheres. Communications from the likes of Hermes and DPD went like this:

  • date/time it’s received at their depot
  • email / SMS notification of the actual delivery day – typically a bigger window than 24 hours’ notice
    options available to the receiver to change the day of the delivery beforehand
  • on the day of delivery, a further email / SMS that the package will be delivered and if it will be morning or afternoon. In some cases, a 2 hour window is provided
  • online tracking enables down-to-the-minute driver tracking via map
  • in the case of DPD, drivers call the receiver when they have made the previous drop and are on the way, also with an approximate time of arrival
  • if you happen to miss the driver, a card will be left with an opportunity to make a second attempt at the delivery

Now tell me, who wouldn’t want this? This high level of confidence equals return business over and over.

We can do better

Whilst this might be the creme de la creme of transport logistics, this is already happening, and it provides lessons to be learnt to enhance existing processes.

Perhaps with the opening of Amazon in Australia, the customer experience stakes might be raised. In the northern hemisphere, Amazon has been trialling delivery via drone; its now promising that Amazon Prime Air could officially take flight as early as this year. Who knows what the behemoth has in its sights for us? Exciting, no?

Online shopping is still considered in its infancy here. Customers over time will see for themselves the differences between one vendor and the next, and start expecting the same from everyone. Retailers and supply vendors who have integrated some customer smarts upfront, will come out smiling in the profit stakes down the track.

Please let me know your thoughts.

Data-driven world

The hot topic at a client organisation at present is data-driven development (DDD). Not only a topic, but an approach that is well integrated within the engineering team. Sitting alongside various measures – analytics and heatmapping tools (on both legacy and new infrastructures), NPS, and A/B testing – various departments are grappling to implement code and get access to the data stream that will soon hit all product team’s shores.

Its intent is to be a more accurate measure of friction in customer experience, where they struggle, drop out of the product and gather their feedback along the way. What it won’t do is sweep the floor of the qualitative approaches – the data team have been very clear about that.

Some product managers however have missed this vital point. Those uninitiated, or still in a world where Google Analytics used to tell all, believe that a number alone does not lie. A feature or flow only gets 2% usage – ‘ah, off with its head!’.

Once, I would have agreed with this response. Many years of experience later – and to some product managers chagrin – has told me, the question we need to ask is, why. Why is there only 2% usage?

It may be painfully obvious to the team why – usability problems, doesn’t work on mobile, wrong place in the user’s flow, too many other competing options, etc.

Descoping is too a factor. All too many times, I’ve seen due process followed – user research, market research, diligent design, testing – leading to a design solution that stands on its merits. Only to have it ripped apart by technical limitations, reducing time scales, dwindling budgets, development team reshuffles and changing priorities.

So when a validated design solution only fulfills a shadow of its intended glory when implemented, is it really a surprise if only 2% of customers use it? The number identifies the problem; it may be the design or it may point to process. But only after we dig around and ask, why.

At the end of the day, these are all assumptions and need validation. A number alone does not state this. It simply lights the way to finding out a problem.

Research. Insight. Discovery. It’s a cyclical process.

Simply looking at a number and saying – well no one’s using it, we’re taking it out of the product – is a naive approach. A clear intent led to its inclusion; the execution failed.

This idea left me wondering, DDD comes after the fact. It’s measuring the impact of a feature or interaction AFTER it’s been implemented. It’s assuming that an upfront design-led process is in place and working. That a customer’s experience influences a process, not only at development level but at a higher strategic level. Influencing a product offering, driving the discovery into new markets, fully exploring a user’s world and context to ascertain how technology can help them – rather than devise a solution and push it to them.

While DDD may be a move in the right direction, it raises the question of, is it the right place for an organisation to start?

Sweet packaged cupcakes

I love startups … creative, food, culinary. And this weekend I saw a cupcake startup hitting their stride with free samplings at a large gourmet supermarket in London. Woo hoo !

I arrived on time for the tasting – didn’t want to miss out – but I couldn’t find their stand. Did I get the date wrong? No, the store’s bakery staff were expecting them also. So I wander the bakery counter and see that they’re already stocked in the superstore. As I want to investigate the different flavours, I am unable to easily see what’s inside the boxes.

The problem? The packaging design.

The individual cupcake was beautifully housed in a clear plastic box with a dovetailed lid. The entire front of the box however was covered in their promotional label. You get a much better view of the cakes on their website.

The space on the shelf was tight, so picking up the plastic boxes was difficult without disturbing the neighbouring boxes and pulling the entire shelf load to the floor. I was becoming a little annoyed. All I could do was stand on tiptoe to look through the top of the box to see the morsel inside.

I eventually bought one. Not the one I wanted because I couldn’t see the description of the cake easily – this was written on the back of the box. Hmm…

I pondered the situation as I stared at the empty box at home after finishing the baked good. How could the packaging done a better job of presentation?

Firstly, a reimagined packaging design so that the label did not cover the merchandise from view. Allow people to freely see what’s inside – why do you need an illustration on the label when you have such a pretty cupcake inside to do your advertising for you?

And secondly, the strapline that describes your cake – for eg. a vanilla buttermilk cupcake with a juicy passionfruit centre – should also appear on the front, not the back. Let people know what they’re buying. You don’t want the customer to have to pick up box after box just to find basic information. Don’t let them get the cake home to realise that the simple chocolate cupcake they bought is really a chilli chocolate cupcake laced with brandy … not everyone likes liquer in their cakes.

Two simple steps to package your wares could save people time in perusing and entice them into filling their baskets with more of your goods. I know I would have 🙂

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