Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the e-commerce sector was growing at a steady rate of 4.5% every year. When the pandemic hit, not only was the e-commerce sector unaffected by the slowdown occurring in most of the other industries, digital transformation accelerated its growth instead.
At the same time, social commerce began to really take off across Southeast Asia. The term ‘social commerce’ may seem foreign to most, but it is very similar to the traditional e-commerce platforms that we are familiar with. The main difference between social commerce and traditional e-commerce is the platform(s) used: Social commerce typically takes place over social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, whereas traditional e-commerce happens on dedicated platforms like Shopee, Lazada, Amazon or the merchant's own website.
Unlike traditional e-commerce or brick-and-mortar stores where there are distinct and established procedures for every step of a customer's journey, the bulk of a customer's touchpoint for social commerce businesses are mostly done through social media chats. With most of the interactions done virtually, it is incredibly important to focus on unique methods to achieve the desired customer experience despite not being physically there with the customer.
So, what exactly is customer experience? Customer experience is the lasting impression that your customers perceive of your brand, starting from the pre-purchase stage all the way to the post-purchase stage. Their overall view of the brand will ultimately extend an impact towards customer loyalty and subsequently revenue. There are 2 main touchpoints that form the customer experience: People and Product. While it is crucial to offer high quality products that satisfies customers, it is also important to ensure that every touchpoint the customer experiences with the brand is a pleasant and positive one.
Many businesses often place a heavy emphasis on the quality of their products and services so much so that customer experience is often neglected in the process. With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, customer experience has become the top differentiator for businesses to stay ahead of their competitors and ensure the sustained growth of their businesses. In a recent study, statistics show that 45.9% of businesses selected customer experience as their top priority. Furthermore, it was reported that companies raking in $1 billion annually can expect to increase their earnings by an average on 70%, just within 3 years of investing in customer experience. A positive customer experience helps to promote customer loyalty, increase customer retention rate, and encourage the customer to advocate for the brand. Unlike the past where business have the power, the power has shifted to the customers. This is mainly due to the plethora of choices that customers have. With a simple click, customers are able to compare between brands with ease.
Before embarking on the journey to improve customer experience, leaders must first figure out their desired customer experience for the business to ensure a consistent service level for the employees to abide by. The intrinsic culture within the company is crucial in determining whether the desired customer experience can be delivered. Internal ‘culture’ playing a role in customer experience may seem counterintuitive to some, but organisational culture helps to serve as a guide to determine how employees act when communicating with customers. Without a defined culture, employees’ relationship with customers tend to be more transactional, instead of one that creates an employee-customer connection that helps customers form lasting relationship with the brand.
To ensure that employees can deliver the same quality experience to all customers, organisations must build up a positive culture from within. When employees feel like they are cared for by the company, it is more likely that they will care for the customers. A common observation is that memorable brands such as Disney and Ritz Carlton have clearly defined cultures that are emphasized and communicated to their employees who then communicates them to the customers. This shows how impactful culture is towards a quality customer experience. A change in culture starts from the leadership team. When the leadership team is able to emulate the kind of desired culture they want within the company, it is then that they can trigger a positive domino effect that reaches the customers.