Retailers connect on all the right channels

Published March 25, 2016
Last modified March 25, 2016

Creating effortless and innovative experiences has been the goal of retailers for centuries. One might call the retail customer journey a well-worn path except that every brand, and every customer base, has different needs and desires. Today, for example, there are many successful online-only or subscription-based retailers and among them, there’s great diversity when it comes to deciding how best to support their customers. Online-only customer service doesn’t always mean submitting an email.

Innovative brands know that some channels serve their customers better than others. Learn from a few retailers why multi-channel support means choosing the right channels—not all the channels.

A stylish combination: self-service and live chat
Le Tote, a subscription-based clothing rental company, saw their customer base explode, growing at a clip of 50 percent per month. Over the course of a single year, the customer service team saw a 900 percent increase in requests. Aubrie Rice, who heads the team, knew they needed a tool that would allow them to provide personalized support. But she also knew that they needed to be proactive and get ahead of the curve. That’s why she decided to embed help on their site and mobile app. When customers click the Help widget in the bottom corner of a web page, they’re prompted to search Le Tote's help articles before initiating a live chat. Remarkably, though live chat is available from nearly every page of Le Tote’s website, the team saw chat requests decrease by 60 percent.

Le Tote web widget
For Le Tote, offering support through live chat, right on the page where the customer has a question, means more contextual, personal help. And by embedding the web widget, they're able to help customers help themselves first.

There’s nothing more personal than the phone
Another online-only retailer, Brayola, matches women with the perfect bra. The service takes the awkwardness out of bra shopping and, while the concept resonated, Brayola found that shoppers still wanted to talk about it. Brayola’s customer service team already offered email and live chat support, as well self-service through their Help Center, but it turned out that offering voice support was strategically important.

“Nine times out of ten, if there’s a problem it’s better to have a personal interaction with the customer,” said Fiona Abrams, Brayola’s director of communications and customer service. “When you hear a voice at the other end of the line that genuinely wants to help you, it takes the edge off the frustration and gives us a chance to explain the process.” If bra shopping can be frustrating, Brayola has found a way to make it both simple and personal.

Branded self-service and social media
The Cotton On Group is a retail giant, employing over 20,000 people and operating 1,300 retail stores globally. Anyone might expect a big brand to be multi-channel, and certainly to rely on email support. Yet big brands face big challenges. They must unify information in real-time across all their stores, technologies, departments, and regions—but differentiate by brand. The ability to keep each brand experience feeling seamless and unique is important, which is why self-service and social media have emerged as key channels for the company.

Support at The Cotton On Group aligns around supporting “any customer, anytime, anyhow”—with extra emphasis on responding in the channel the customer used. For some of the company's eight brands, social media generates a lot of engagement, but the social channels vary between brands and demographics. It can’t be a one-size-fits-all solution—except that with Zendesk’s Multibrand feature, The Cotton On Group has been able to unify their instances of Zendesk. Under a single instance, they have seven branded Help Centers and can monitor each team’s performance across all channels and all brands.

The new wave: mobile messaging apps
Traditional channels like phone and live chat are one way to provide personal, real-time support. Certainly they’re conversational, but so are emerging channels like SMS and mobile messaging apps. Increasingly, apps like Facebook Messenger or WeChat offer consumers—and brands—the opportunity to further integrate support with the mobile experience, and to keep interactions light, quick, and friendly.

Everlane is an example of an online clothing company eager to embrace this trend. An early Facebook Messenger Beta partner, they officially offer support through Facebook Messenger, powered by Zopim Live Chat. Customers love it, said Shane Roach, head of Everlane’s Customer Experience Operations team. The team has found that Everlane customers tend to use Facebook Messenger to ask questions about shipping, sizing, to check on stock, or to ask for recommendations—the same types of questions a customer might ask in-store. Operationally, from the agent perspective, it’s a lot like live chat and agents can interact with multiple customers at once. “Because of the chat-like interaction, you feel a little like you’re talking to a friend,” Roach said. “The Facebook Messenger platform just makes sense for Everlane customers.”

The beauty of commerce is that it’s dynamic. Supply and demand ebb and flow. And the lines continue to blur between online-only retailers going offline, and brick and mortar mainstays bringing their wares online. Add to that, future predictions for retail run the gamut from ever-more personalization to robots and holograms providing customer service. No matter what the future of retail brings, it will always be important to meet your customers on their preferred channels.

Learn more about how global brands like Rapha, UGG®, L’Oréal, and Lazada use Zendesk to manage multiple brands and multiple channels in our ebook, Bright Ideas: Retail

Zopim has been welcomed into our product family as Zendesk Chat, along with a number of treasured belongings.