We all know that online shopping is on the rise big time, and the impact of COVID19 has escalated this growth over the last two years. We also know that good CX is now a real player when it comes to purchasing decisions, so why are some retailers still not getting it right?

As a new mum, confined to 4 walls for 13 weeks, online shopping has been my outlet. Gone are the days that I have time on my hands to browse and work through clunky online experiences, I need seamless journeys, efficient check outs, and bonus special moments go a long long way. Here is my diary of lockdown customer journeys, the good, the bad, and the dam right ugly.

The Good

Case One: Winning Click + Collect

Even before lockdown began, I had discovered the delight in supermarket click and collect (trawling the aisles with a screaming baby is no fun for anyone), and I am so glad that I did. Top end of funnel discovery is a little irrelevant as I am a loyalist based on proximity, but these guys absolutely nailed it when it came to conversion and delivering on expectations.

Ease of shopping through their mobile app is great, ability to store payment methods made transactions easy, order ready notifications are on point and the physical pick up is seamless. However, where this particular retailer stood out, was their clear communications when there were timing issues (due to high demand), thoughtful addition of complimentary sanitizers with orders and most recently an online experience that treats you one and the same as an in store customer. They ensured that online shoppers were included in the latest sticker promo, by including instructions and sticker allocations with online order packages. By converting to an online customer, I feel no different than when I shopped in store, with a fully integrated loyalty program which spans online and offline.

All of the above I 100% expect from a leading national supermarket chain, what baffles me, is if these guys can do it, why can’t the other big box retailers? Surely everyone has had the same time to adapt and optimize online transactions through a pandemic?

CX rating: 9.5/10

(The only thing missing, was quite literally my Tabasco sauce – still waiting for a re-stock!)

Case Two: Small Victories

Second in my good list is for the small NZ boutique retailers. I have had countless experiences with online baby boutiques, and for the most part they have all exceeded my expectations. In particular they have all excelled with speed of delivery, strong communication, personalised notes and tasty chocolate treats. They certainly know their audience, as these little touches go a long way for a sleep deprive mamma.

One brand stood out and grabbed my attention with their proactive communications with regards to shipping delays and stock issues. I was sent a lovely email to let me know that certain ‘must have’ Christmas baby items (based on my previous purchase history) were short stocked and would have dispatch delays, and that it would be wise to order earlier to avoid disappointment. This was either a very thoughtful kick up the bum or a very clever marketing approach – either way it got me into gear to make sure that I ordered early for all those items that I wanted (or didn’t know I needed ;)). I think this level of personalised and proactive communication would have a strong, positive impact for other retailers (see below) especially with regards to being so forthcoming with potential disruptions.

CX rating 9.5/10

(My only suggestion for improvement for retailers on this scale is to ensure that their special touches are unique. The heartwarming notes and chocolates do go a long way, but because everyone is doing it, I can’t honestly recall one brand over another).

The Bad

The Rage Saver

The further down my list these brands go, the more I was disappointed in their delivery. This particular retailer managed to hang on to ‘bad’ vs ‘ugly’ purely based on proactive communication with regards to delivery delays.

After placing an order with a well know discount retailer, I waited a few days for delivery and then started to get a little antsy, this could have turned to rage within days but was dissipated by a proactive text message from the retailer to let me know that they were;

  1. Aware my order was delayed
  2. The reason for the delay
  3. How and when they would communicate with me.

I am still waiting on this order but feel confident that it will get here and that someone is in control of the situation.

That said this same retailer has let me down countless times at the conversion stage online, with a shopping cart bug that repeatedly puts items as out of stock, despite showing as available. I have abandoned purchases many times out of frustration, and now only shop here if entirely necessary.

CX rating 5/10

The Ugly

Ok here we go - I have two retailers that fall into this category. One with whom I will never shop again, and the other that I likely will, only due to market monopoly.

Which brings up an interesting point. At what point do we simply tolerate terrible CX for the sake of price point and product availability? If there were more competition in our marketplace, how quickly would customers jump?

First: The Rage Maker

I have made several purchases over lockdown from a large online chemist. In ‘normal’ times I have overlooked this brand, purely from a brand alignment perspective, but during lockdown their digital marketing has thrown up results for my needs much stronger than anyone else. That is where the good news story ends. I have found the online experience overwhelming and delivery very slow. But the most infuriating thing that has happened on three orders, is purchasing items to reach a ‘free shipping’ threshold, only then to be advised 5 days later that a portion of my order (including the one thing I really wanted) is out of stock and will not be sent.

CX rating 3/10

(There are so many opportunities here to improve the customer experience, however I suspect due to volume of business this is not a top priority for this brand – but what if it was? How amazing could they be).

And finally, The Forgotten Chair

  • February ordered a chair showing as in stock online
  • Email received same day to inform chair not in stock – would I like to cancel or wait for delivery in June?
  • Happy to wait, understanding current global shipping issues
  • June rolls around, hear nothing
  • Email company, informed there are further delays until late August – decide to keep waiting
  • September rolls around, hear nothing
  • October, email company – there are further delays until October, but things look good – decide to keep waiting
  • November – receive an email to let me know chair has arrived and to organize collection
  • Go to collect chair – does not fit in car, no proactive offer of delivery
  • Look for other options for delivery, call company back to ask if they can – yes at $90 fee
  • Agree to ‘discounted’ delivery
  • Chair delivered

CX rating 1/10

(Again, there were so many opportunities to turn this around. Ensuring better inventory syncs online, being proactive with communications, offering services to improve the customer experience, and last but not least, sending the correct product!)

It doesn’t shock me that some of the big guys haven’t got it dialed yet, as I only know too well the difficulties of changing well-embedded systems. But it does seem that the current climate would have encouraged some moves to improved CX or adoption of improved communication. At the end of day the make or break of all the examples above, is as simple as communication. Get this right, and throw in a chocolate and I am all yours.

Article written and provided by Sarah Bartholomew
Head of Marketing, Overland Footwear (Maternity Leave)
Member of the Marketing Association’s CX Special Interest Group
Written from personal perspective