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Communication, Easy Returns Key to Building Customer Loyalty

While digital commerce has become a major force in the way people shop, retailers can leverage technology to elevate consumer loyalty.

According to a recent report, technology could be used to help retailers improve communications and services for consumers. Narvar, a tech company offering a platform designed to drive long-term customer loyalty, studied 1,543 U.S. consumers and found that if retailers provide effective communication, omnichannel services and a combination of artificial intelligence and human support, they could deliver on consumers’ expectations and build loyalty in a competitive retail environment.

Ultimately, the report found there are many opportunities for retailers to build loyalty today. “Think about building loyalty not just by offering discounts or points; prioritize customer care and connecting with shoppers in personal and authentic ways,” Narvar advised.

Consumers don’t want to be left in the dark

According to the report, consumers are more likely to shop at retailers that provide them with more information and product options. Eighty-three percent of consumers said they expect regular communication about their purchases, including proactive updates. The report found that ambiguity about tracking and package delivery can damage loyalty, with 53 percent of consumers saying they would not purchase an item if the retailer did not provide an arrival date.

Consumers are also swayed when retailers go the extra mile. According to the report, 77 percent of consumers would shop at a retailer again if the retailer re-sends lost or damaged items with fast shipping. For 48 percent, loyalty comes from stores that show expertise or are credible. A quarter of respondents can be persuaded to return if the retailers offers a personalized experience.

Returns can make or break customer loyalty

Retailers can increase loyalty by providing an easy return process and immediately refunding consumers. Survey respondents indicated that they would give repeat business to retailers that made exchanges and returns seamless (76 percent) and issued refunds right as soon as a package is returned (69 percent). Moreover, 74 percent of consumer said they would not buy an item if they had to pay for return shipping, while 63 percent said they would not purchase a product if they couldn’t find the retailer’s return policy. According to the survey, 42 percent of consumers returned an item they bought online in the last six months, with more than 60 percent opting for mail as their preferred return method.

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Voice is poised to boost loyalty

Consumers are using voice devices on all points of the purchasing journey. According to the report, voice device use has increased 41 percent compared to six months prior. More than half of consumers (51 percent) use these devices to research products, while 30 percent use them to track packages. Furthermore, 52 percent of voice device owners are more likely to opt into automatic reordering and subscription services than other consumers. With voice devices, retailers can provide consumers with personalized recommendations and easy purchasing, which in return, could boost loyalty.

Getting the most out of voice means being flexible, Narvar said. “Listen to what customers want from their voice experiences so you can eventually use voice as another way to build loyalty and trust,” the report suggested

Consumers are embracing chatbots and VR to purchase items

Retail’s new digital landscape has prompted consumers to use technology, like virtual reality (VR) and chatbots, to buy goods, despite concerns over human connection loss. The report found that 66 percent of consumers like that chatbots are available at any time, while 54 percent said they prefer using chatbots for their fast responses.

Despite this positive response, consumers dislike using chatbots to communicate with retailers because they fail to answer some questions properly (66 percent) or they prefer to talk to a human (58 percent). Those concerns however are waning. Today, only 14 percent of respondents say they dislike chatbots, a drop from the 35 percent who didn’t like using them six months ago.

Based on these findings, Narvar said retailers will need to customize customer service to their stores and customers. “As the AI adoption curve matures, make sure you’re considering its best applications for your business and for consumers,” the report stated. “Use bots where they can add the most value—for instance, to provide information quickly and fulfill simple requests.”