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Retailers – What’s on your shopping list for 2016?

With 2016 around the corner, online retailers will be wondering where to prioritise spend in the New Year and how to sort the ‘must do’s’ from the ‘nice to have’.

Some things like omnichannel enhancements always make the list, with customers now expecting a consistent experience across all channels. Added to this, customers now expect to shop wherever and whenever they choose, so mobile will continue to dominate in 2016. And understanding and analysing Big Data will open up significant opportunities next year.

Another significant area for investment during 2016 is customer service.  A customer’s perception of your brand starts the minute they walk into a store or open your website. First impressions can make or break a relationship and it’s no longer acceptable to offer a different level of service online to the one you offer in store. In fact, for your customers, ‘shopping online’ doesn’t really exist anymore. It’s simply ‘shopping’, and customers expect the same range, price and service whichever channel they choose. And with 40% of all online sales coming from mobile phones and tablets, there’s the added challenge of providing a consistent level of service across all devices.

It was no surprise that Forbes’ first item on its Top 10 2016 Marketing Trends’ was ‘Embrace the Customer Experience Model’.

Less automation.  More people

In 2015 we’ve seen plenty of news about robots, automation and the rise of the machines –if we’re to believe the hype, we’ll soon be employing robots to read bedtime stories to our children. And according to a survey by researchers at Oxford University and Deloitte, about 35% of current jobs in the UK are at high risk of computerisation over the next 20 years. Customer service is a key occupation to fall to the robots it seems, with a 91% likelihood of automation according to the Deloitte survey.


We’re seeing quite the opposite in many areas of retail customer service. Online retailers have been offering Live Chat for many years now – real people answering customer service queries by text chat, not predictive automated messaging. And we’re now seeing a growing number of retailers offering even greater levels of personal service to online customers – Live Video Chat, being just one tool to enable a more personal level of service and a great first impression for customers visiting your site.

Live video chat means a real person on your website who can be seen by the customer and chat directly to them. It enables retailers to engage with customers online, receive feedback, and gain insight into needs and interests. A live video assistant can help the online shopper with product queries, show the customer around the website, help with the checkout process, and when relevant, can also hold products to the camera so they can be properly viewed.

Some retailers have taken live video chat to the next level .DFS for instance offers a design service where the live video assistant helps you decide on colour and décor based on the customer giving them a virtual tour of their home via webcam. Bravissimo is offering a bra-fitting service where customers can seek bra-fitting advice using the webcam to discuss correct fitting with the live assistant – a genuine in-store experience being offered to online customers from the comfort of their own home.

There are so many tips, tools and ideas to help us spend budget in 2016 and it can be hard to separate the gimmicks from the sound investments.  But we should never overlook that the customer is in charge and that great customer service can make or break a relationship between a brand and its customers.

Video chat is already proving its value to retailers in terms of higher average order values, fewer abandoned baskets, higher conversions and exceptionally high customer service scores.

Meeting your customers in person, both in store and online will soon become the norm.  Video Chat will soon be as omnipresent as text chat.  Perhaps we should all worry less about the cost of the investment and more about the cost of doing nothing to improve online customer service in 2016.