Over the course of 2015 there's been a whole host of stories detailing the exposure of fake reviews being posted online on sites such as Amazon and TripAdvisor. Businesses have also been reprimanded for sabotaging rivals with false feedback and even omitting negative reviews and paying for Facebook likes. For retailers this should be a serious concern, particularly given that the Competition & Markets Authority reported that £23 billion of UK consumer spending per year is being influenced by online reviews.
To counteract this fraudulent activity and future-proof the business, retailers must work with trusted third parties to manage the review and feedback process. This will ensure that reviews only come from genuine customers with well-informed feedback, particularly when retailers are using closed review platforms to ensure customers are verified before a review can be left.
Review scanners can also be used to detect abnormalities in feedback so review moderators recognise them as suspicious and manually approve them before publishing. Doing so, the brand can proactively respond and more quickly identify any false posts. To remove some of the anonymity in reviews, retailers can also connect reviewer profiles to social profiles and add a layer of authentication that deters many people from posting fake comments.
By educating customers on the value of their feedback and through demonstrating proactive steps to improve the customer experience, retailers will be able to provide a welcome boost to consumer confidence. However, this will depend upon the integrity of the business and demand that retailers are acknowledging negative feedback and acting upon it, rather than simply removing it from a customer's view.
Cross-border taking off
Over the past year or so we've seen a whole host of changes in the consumer landscape, most notably the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which followed the EU consumer protections rules being harmonised across Europe in June 2014 with the 2013 Consumer Contracts Regulations in the UK. For example, the right to cancel period is now 14 days for consumers across all EU member states. As a result, the reduced legal risk associated with coordinating the rules of multiple jurisdictions, is making markets like Germany, France and Poland more attractive to UK retailers.
To capitlise on the opportunities that cross-border e-commerce offers, retailers should focus on preparing their offering using three main criteria:
Firstly, ensure pricing models are just right – going too low will set alarm bells ringing for new customers, especially with online fraudsters promoting fake offers. Secondly, mapping logistics effectively is important to cater for demanding cross-border delivery. Thirdly, reassure customers that the ecommerce platform is secure and trustworthy. This is critical as company heritage won't be carried with retailers into new markets.
This focus goes hand in hand with retailers making the same connection with consumers on their own website, as they break away from well known marketplaces. Businesses must employ trust building tools such as trustmarks, review systems and money back guarantees. By offering personalised services or additional rights such as 60 days return or life time guarantee, newcomers will ease their shift into new markets by standing out from the crowd.
Cracking the customer experience code
In 2015 retailers have been pressured to keep up with 'anytime, anywhere' shoppers. This has meant that multichannel is no longer a 'nice to have' and that delivery methods are in constant development. Last year we saw the rise of multiple collection points from train stations to supermarkets and more. Some retailers even offered deliveries within an hour to set locations. Next year retailers across the board will be focusing on how they can ramp up their pricing and delivery models to keep up with this trend that champions consumer convenience. More retailers will aim to conduct delivery in tighter timeframes and to broader sites, outside of city locations. This will become the new norm for customers who no longer accept being kept waiting.
These improvements will be mirrored in retailers' understanding of what successful omnichannel strategy looks like. Securing a sale means offering the same experience irrespective of where customers begin and end their shopping journey. By managing the online and offline business as one entity and merging back of house operations, retailers can make this priority a reality. A seamless experience across bricks and clicks will be the difference between success and failure in 2016. Those not prioritising an integrated customer journey will not survive past 2020.
Ensuring that these strategies can be monitored and effectively executed on will rely on a backbone of customer feedback that is proactively managed and responded to. Retailers who are actively engaging with customers to resolve their concerns and understand their preferences will be much closer to unearthing what a positive customer experience looks like, and how they can hone this in the coming year to rival leadering players on their service. This will be particularly important in not just attracting new clients but retaining existing ones, who should be encouraged to purchase more often and in higher volumes using personalised services.
By Naveen Aricatt, UK manager and legal expert at Trusted Shops.
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