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The Emergence of Contactless Customer Journey in a Post-Pandemic World
Brands are focusing on understanding the deep motivations of customers and creating experiences which fulfill the customer’s seen and unseen desires.
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The customer journey has been becoming contactless as it transitions from offline to online. The pandemic has accentuated this shift, nudging fence sitters to try digital buying and selling. This has created an opportunity to re-imagine the customer journey. Brands are focusing on understanding the deep motivations of customers and creating experiences which fulfill the customer’s seen and unseen desires.
The Growth of Contactless Commerce
When online commerce first started, e-retailers wanted to build trust and credibility with the consumer to recreate the decades-long relationship consumers had with shops, markets, and malls. The early innovations in customer experience such as Cash On Delivery and hassle free returns were designed to coax the offline buyer online. In the B2B space, there were only a few early movers, primarily focused on providing online catalogues or listing services.
The demonetization exercise and GST implementation cemented the offline to online shift. Consumers and businesses alike started expecting transparency, quality, and compliance as basic requirements for any transaction.
The Pandemic is an inflection point. The lockdown of physical markets and fear of the virus brought 150 Million first time buyers online. Overall marketplaces saw a 130% jump in orders. The changes in consumer behavior are here to stay and brands are building the new contactless journey for their customers.
Customer motivations drive the contactless customer journey
Imagine driving through traffic, trudging in crowded aisles, standing in long queues to pay and dragging your items all the way to the basement to look for your car. Shopping experiences which were chores will permanently move online and become contactless. When the consumers know the products, brands, and quantity they want to purchase, then the journey is about efficient fulfillment, not discovery. To remain relevant, retail outlets are moving to Pre-order-store-pickups and hyperlocal deliveries. Video inspections of the product and changes to the store format to improve access and quick retrieval are few innovations which can bring back shoppers. Brands will have to rethink the store of the future to ensure a safe and effective experience for the customer.
For businesses, off the shelf, zero- to-low customization products will transition to online sales. Urgency to create transparency on the supply chain risks and potential disruptions will increase. Business buyers will no longer work with vendors who struggle to manually track the whereabouts of their products, communicate through multiple offline channels, and develop uncertainty in the supply chain. To minimize risks, businesses will increase their focus on product quality and service levels mandating first-time-right to avoid wastage of supply chain capabilities. Business sellers will need to make their processes digital and touchless to meet the buyer expectations.
Creating customer delight in a contactless journey
When the world stopped and people were confined to their homes, they turned to their mobiles for information, entertainment, and connectivity. Spending a prolonged time in the lockdown has changed customer behaviors around browsing, consuming media and discovering products from the privacy of their mobile screen. Customers have a reduced attention span, unlimited option vying for their attention and reduced patience for waiting for gratification. Understanding what creates a memorable experience becomes key to designing the new customer journey.
Many times, shopping is not just about the product but also about the experience itself. It may be an outing to bond with family, it may be an escape from the stresses of life. Buying a watch for yourself from your first salary or taking your parents to a showroom to buy a car are lifetime memories. These experiences are not easy to replicate online. Brands have experimented with AR and VR technology to augment the digital experience. For high-end luxury items, brands are turning to in-house demonstrations and trials. Social selling and community features can recreate the curation and recommendation aspects of a buying experience.
For a business buyer, the offline sellers act as an inventory manager, cash flow support and product expert all rolled into one. Online B2B commerce companies will have to become full stack platforms providing a complete end to end experience to play the role of a trusted advisor for the business buyer. Supply chain financing, vendor managed inventory models, product and technology training are value added services which B2B brands can add to their portfolio to deliver a rich experience.
The pandemic has only accelerated changes in customer expectations and behaviors which were a long time coming. It is up to the brands to understand the impact of the pandemic on their customers and develop a digital first experience which provides safety, social interaction, and delight.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.