Poor online service drives away offline customers

Poor online customer service from a click-and-mortar retailer will drive 70 per cent of US online buyers to spend less money at the merchant's offline store, according to research undertaken by Jupiter Media Metrix. Additionally, only 18 per cent of click-and-mortar retailers are capable of accessing a customer's consolidated account activity across all sales and service channels (online and offline).

According to Jupiter's analysis, click-and-mortar retailers must integrate their customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities if they are to retain customer relationships and meet consumer demand. Multichannel retailers have been treating their online and offline businesses as separate entities, but that's not what consumers want, a Jupiter analyst explained. Since e-mail customer service is a weakness among retailers, consumers want to be able to go offline with their concerns. Click-and-mortar retailers need to build their customer service infrastructure for the long-term, and changes in the market indicate that bringing those operations in-house is the only way to retain relationships across multiple channels.

While few click-and-mortar retailers can track customers' transactions across all channels (online and offline), 67 per cent of online buyers said they expect store staff to act as remote customer service representatives with access to consumer data across all channels.

According to the survey, 83 per cent of online buyers would also like to be able to return online purchases at offline stores. Additionally, 59 per cent said that they would like to order a product online and pick it up at an offline store. However, Jupiter analysts found that only 18 per cent of multichannel retailers offer in-store pickup of items ordered online. Jupiter analysts say that non-integrated product inventory is a leading reason for customers' dissatisfaction with online service.

Retailers must exploit their physical assets to satisfy customers across whichever channels they choose to transact, Jupiter analysts recommended. According to the survey, 43 per cent of online buyers said they would always return merchandise to stores, while 95 per cent said they would sometimes return to stores. There is, therefore, only a very limited opportunity for companies that automate returns processing for online-only retailers.

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