Brick-and-mortar stores faced new limitations with the onset of the pandemic, putting a strain on the global economy. While many small businesses were forced to slow down temporarily and approximately 2.7 million permanently closed in Latin America, e-commerce, on the other hand, experienced a sudden surge in demand. According to the World Economic Forum, COVID-19 accelerated the shift away from physical stores to e-commerce by 5 years.
A new type of customer became the norm as people turned to online shopping to cover their basic needs in food and supplies in addition to other types of purchases. In fact, about 50 million Latin Americans bought online for the first time in 2020, while others increased the frequency at which they had already been doing it. The overall change in consumer habits brought on by the pandemic and economic recession will change the e-commerce playing field for 2021.
Raising the bar for the customer experience
Competition takes many forms in the e-commerce space. Businesses have to keep up with competitive pricing, products, and services as consumer behavior adjusts to the new normal. Customers are also setting expectations high for what the consumer experience should be like when purchasing through e-commerce.
In 2021, personalization and automation will be an integral part of the e-commerce customer experience. We can expect businesses to create customer journeys that are both scalable and can be tailored to the customer’s specific needs.
The power of automation
Chatbots and virtual assistants allow customers to interact in the format of choice, whether it be through written or spoken language. These technologies also help to relieve pressure on staff by enabling automated interactive in-app support for customers. Bots are also able to listen in on an agent’s call to suggest answers for improving customer satisfaction and standardize the customer experience based on best practices.
Artificial intelligence also enables bots to independently deal with a client interaction and –depending on the complexity of the case– to hand off the conversation to a human representative if needed. This automation allows businesses to scale customer service on limited human resources.
Data and CX
The combination of AI and machine learning for gathering and analyzing behavioral data enables brands to gain a much more accurate understanding of their customers. Customer experience data analytics can give businesses an overview of what is going on behind every customer conversation.
Effectively implementing data analytics does not mean collecting as much information as possible. It involves separating the right data from the wrong insights. The outcomes are highly rewarding as incorporating the right insights can improve customer engagement and empower employees by helping them make informed decisions.
Invest in delivery
Today, consumers have a lot of choices when it comes to receiving the goods they buy online as shipping and logistics have evolved in terms of speed and reach. An example of the advances in this sector is the launch of drone-assisted deliveries in Latin America in 2020.
All the effort put into creating and marketing a product will be for naught if the logistics involved in the delivery are not strong. It is an essential step in the customer journey that can make or break a business. A negative experience caused by delays or damaged goods is going to leave a negative impression on the customer, who is unlikely to return to the online store.
Payment methods that adjust to the consumer culture
A great way to take an e-commerce business to the next level in 2021 is offering diverse payment options. This means that customers will be more likely to follow through with their purchase rather than abandoning the cart because their preferred payment method was not available.
Choosing which payment methods to offer requires understanding the local consumer culture and how the Latin American market prefers to pay. And while contactless payments gained popularity in 2020, the reality is that a significant portion of consumers still prefers to use cash. Businesses can seek payment processors that offer solutions that take into account the nuances of a specific market. For example, Openpay’s Paynet is a solution that integrates both cash and online payments, satisfying the needs of the Latin American consumer.
The latest in security
A study revealed that by 2021, over 2.14 billion people worldwide are expected to buy goods and services online. Increased online purchases mean retail data breaches will also be on the rise as point-of-sale (POS) systems, e-commerce sites, and other store servers are major targets for hackers. A top priority for e-commerce sites will be to stay up to date with the latest technology for combating fraudulent activity.
Data classification: only part of the solution
Software that categorizes data as public, internal, and confidential are commonly used by companies. Yet, these programs alone have proved insufficient to restrict access and prevent data breaches. Authentication and controls on data access should be the top priorities for e-commerce companies.
Improved authentication methods
In 2020, the use of two-factor authentication increased by 18% and was used by 82% of businesses. Biometrics in authentication—such as using identifiers like fingerprints and facial recognition—also grew significantly from 27% in 2019 to 53% in 2020.
2020 represented different things for many people, but what is undeniable is the accelerated adoption of e-commerce that was experienced worldwide. New and old online consumers modified their consuming habits to adapt to the ongoing pandemic. Businesses had to step up their game with the rising demand for online purchases. These changes have had a profound impact on the e-commerce industry, making room for innovation and elevating the bar for what is expected in the online shopping experience in 2021.
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