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How Zappos And Nordstrom Use Convenience To Create Confidence


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AFP PHOTO/ KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

Convenience is one of the powerful customer service and customer experience differentiators. Adding the concept of convenience into your service and experience strategy is a powerful way to disrupt a competitor, if not an entire industry.

There are many ways to integrate convenience into the customer experience, and this article is going to focus on the “post-purchase” experience.

I had a chance to talk with Amit Sharma about this concept. Sharma is the founder and CEO of Narvar, a company that helps brands and retailers “build lifelong relationships beyond the ‘buy’ button.” Their clients include Neiman Marcus, Crate & Barrel, and Sephora just to name a few. Sharma understands how to deliver a customer experience that creates loyalty.

Narvar focuses on the post-purchase experience, which starts the moment a customer buys a product. A simple, but clear, example we can all relate to is if you’ve ever gone to a grocery store and, at check-out, the bagger not only bags your groceries but takes them out and loads them into your car. That’s a very convenient service that’s greatly appreciated. Or, maybe you push the “buy” button on a website. The moment you do, you receive an email confirming your order. Shortly thereafter, you receive an email that states your merchandise was shipped. In the same email, you receive tracking numbers and anticipated delivery date.

Retailers are also finding that customers’ preferences around communications are shifting. According to Narvar’s recent study, 79% of shoppers have used text messages, messenger apps, or voice devices to connect with retailers. Retailers like DSW are even tapping into new tech like Facebook Messenger chatbots to communicate with customers on the platforms they use most. Once you make a purchase, you can opt-in to communications via Facebook Messenger. These bots help you track your packages and even allow you to change delivery time or location. These touchpoints with the retailer are convenient and, at the same time, they create confidence.

In short, the post-purchase experience happens the moment a customer pays. And, the experience that is done well will get a customer to come back.

Sharma says, “Once the customer knows how to place an order, they become trained. It’s easier, hence more convenient, to do business with the people you know.”

While Sharma’s points are directed toward the online retailer, the concept works for virtually any type of business. First, we must make ordering easy. That means it’s intuitive. There’s no complication. It’s easy and fast. And, if for some reason there is an issue, be sure to include contact information that’s easy to find, preferably on every page of your website. And, while Sharma focuses on the post-purchase experience, convenience can and should start before the purchase even happens.

For example, I know my way around the American Airlines website, which is typically where I buy my airline tickets. For me, because I’m used to the layout of the site, I’m comfortable and can buy a ticket in just two or three short minutes. However, when I switch to buying a ticket on a different airline, while not a huge struggle, I’m now in less familiar territory and it typically takes two to three times longer. It’s not that American Airlines’ site is easier to use. It’s just that I’m more comfortable using it, hence it is more convenient. Sharma refers to this as the customer building muscle memory that makes it easier to continue to go back to the retailer.

One of the convenient features of the post-purchase experience is that it is automatic. It just happens. Even for that experience at the grocery store, if I know that there is always a bagger to help me with my groceries, that it’s not optional, that it’s part of the service they always offer, it’s automatic. Those touchpoints with retailers that occur after I make the online purchase, they are automatic. The customer doesn’t have to think about it. Automatic is mentally convenient.

Another area that Sharma preaches convenience in the post-purchase experience, is returns. An easy, convenient, and hassle-free return policy creates confidence. In fact, according to another Narvar study, 50% of consumers check a retailer’s return policy before they buy a product, demonstrating the importance shoppers place on a painless returns process. Think of the retailers, both online and in-store, that offer easy and convenient returns. Zappos will actually send multiple sizes of the same shoe to their customers and expect they will return the ones that don’t fit. They also include the instructions and return labels. This tactic plays well into the habits that shoppers, especially millennials, are forming – according to Narvar’s data, 40% of shoppers “bracket” their online purchases, meaning they buy multiple items with the intention of returning all but one.

Another example is Nordstrom. Nordstrom’s legendary return policy gives customers peace of mind. When they buy from Nordstrom, they never have to worry if returning it will be an issue. They know it will be a simple, hassle-free process.

There must be a system in place that makes it easy on the customer. Identify every touch point your customers have throughout the buying process. Identify any friction points throughout this process and eliminate them. Find any points of confusion and simplify them. Then train your customers on how easy and convenient you are to do business with. Once you do, and the customer likes the experience, your brand becomes “sticky.” It’s hard not to want to do business with a company that offers friendly and helpful service, and is also convenient.