Retail Experiences: How To Avoid A Bad One

Judith Magyar

It’s Saturday afternoon when you realize your second cousin’s wedding is fast approaching and you still don’t have a dress. Mall or couch? It’s raining, so you pick the couch. After 20 minutes of surfing, an ad for a dream dress pops up on your feed. It’s sexy and cheap – so you place the order and lean back.

Three days later, the package arrives. Fingers fumbling, you rip it open, anticipating the feel of silky fabric in your hands. But the vision of your slinky self crumbles as you pull out the ugliest dress you’ve seen since your third cousin’s hen party. “This is not what I ordered!” you scream. But no one hears you.

You go back online and try to get in touch with the company. No contacts anywhere on the website. Frustrated, you search for instructions on how to return the dress and get your money back. All you see is a lousy notification in fine print that the return shipping fee is $65 – more than you paid for the dress.

That’s when you notice some more fine print: Allow three to four months for standard delivery; rush orders available … but obviously not for the dress you want.

So it’s out to the mall after all. So much for that experience! 

Trust is essential

“Experiences like these not only give online retail a bad rep; they’re the best way to lose customers forever,” says Rui Botelho, senior vice president of Strategic Industries at SAP Brazil. “The right solutions can give every company what they need to win customers for life.”

Rui explains that companies should start by rethinking their business model. “Every online experience should leave the customer with the feeling they can trust the retailer so they won’t hesitate to come back.”

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with charging a return shipping fee, but it’s not right to hide the information. There’s also nothing wrong with charging extra for faster delivery; just make sure the customer understands that they may not be getting the product they are ordering. And it’s absolutely crucial to provide an opportunity to communicate with the retailer, especially in this age of chatbots and other online options.

Doing the basics

Botelho outlines the essentials for a good customer experience. It starts with a core solution that enables the retailer to manage processes and collect data — and it includes a module to transform the way the company engages with customers.

“This combination enables a retailer to transform the front office into a customer-centric, data-driven business,” Botelho explains.

A solution like this provides omnichannel services, offering the customer key communication channels and the retailer a complete robust view of customer interactions. The data provides better insight into the customer’s needs and is integrated with back-office functions to make sure sales, marketing, and supply chain are fully aligned to deliver personalized digital commerce experiences and avoid catastrophes like sending the wrong dress.

“Being up-front goes a long way to win customer confidence – and that’s how you create lasting connections,” Botelho concludes.

The bottom line

Maria Morais, global industry principal of SAP Customer Experience, believes that if a fashion retailer is not ready to respond to the demands of customers and business supply networks are not prepared with clear, data-driven allocation and replenishment plans at a reasonable price, it may be best to refrain from trading at a global scale or even advertise in multiple channels.

“Advertising can help sell more. But if the product or services are not good, the retailer should invest that money in improving the product instead,” says Morais. “One disappointed customer is one that will never trust the brand again and will make sure all her friends know about it!”

Visit us at NRF: Retail’s Big Show, SAP Retail to learn more about Experiences You Can Trust.

Follow Judith on Twitter @magyarj.

This article originally appeared on Forbes.