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Customer service goes beyond a smiley face and a friendly personality. In the world of ecommerce, where there is a lack of human touchpoints, customer service plays a vital role. When done well, it can help you increase your Average Order Value (AOV), boost your conversion rate, and create brand loyalty.

But gone are the days when customer service translated to 24-hour hotlines. In this day and age, customer service often comes in a form of live chat, recently popularized by all the hype around AI-driven chat bots.

In order to craft an effective customer care strategy, it is important to benchmark the level of customer service in the marketplace. To do that, ecommerceIQ conducted an experiment to test the responsiveness and effectiveness of brands offering live chat on Lazada Thailand.

Methodology

We randomly picked three brands from each category offered on LazMall, sampling a total of 27 brands across Lazada Thailand.

Each of the brands was asked the same single question – “How long does it take to deliver a product from your brand?” – during two time periods: during lunch time and after work. These are typically peaked online shopping hours, translating into peak load hours for live chat operations too.

Results: How Do Brands’ Customer Service Perform on LazMall?

From our observations, 25.9 percent of the brands offer a real-time response through Lazada live chat. 22.2 percent replied within 30 minutes, 22.2 percent replied within the first hour, 11.1 percent replied within 6 hours and 24 hours, and 7.4% of the brands did not reply at all.

It is also noted that the categories that are the most responsive are Electronics & Mobile and Home & Lifestyle.

Since our sample covers after work, off-hours too, this allows us to identify brands that have configured auto-replies for their live chat. Only 37 percent of the brands tested had auto-replies enabled. Setting up auto-replies is easy and a no-brainer in this day and age when everything is on-demand and 24/7.

ecommerceIQ’s observations about the responsiveness of live chat on Lazada Thailand

From our observations, 25.9 percent of the brands offer a real-time response through Lazada live chat. 22.2 percent replied within 30 minutes, 22.2 percent replied within the first hour, 11.1 percent replied within 6 hours and 24 hours, and 7.4% of the brands did not reply at all.

It is also noted that the categories that are the most responsive are Electronics & Mobile and Home & Lifestyle.

Since our sample covers after work, off-hours too, this allows us to identify brands that have configured auto-replies for their live chat. Only 37 percent of the brands tested had auto-replies enabled. Setting up auto-replies is easy and a no-brainer in this day and age when everything is on-demand and 24/7.

Xiaomi’s automatic reply which indicates the working hours and apologizes for the slow response in both Thai and English.

Most brands do add some human touch to their chats, such as using stickers and offering detailed information. But that is not enough to make an impression and the current live chat offering from brands are far from using live chat at its maximum ability.

How can Brands Improve their Live Chat on E-Marketplaces?

With these findings, brands should start paying more attention to their customer care strategies. We spoke with the Ms. Ratchaneewan Vichaisorn, Head of Customer Service at aCommerce, an end-to-end brand ecommerce enabler in Southeast Asia. Here are her suggestions:

1. Equip your Customer Service / Chat Agents with Product Knowledge

As the agents operating your live chat are an extension of your company’s brand, it is important that they receive adequate training for your products. This is especially the case for Mobile & Electronics and Beauty categories as product knowledge are often the deciding factor for shoppers in Thailand.

According to Ms. Ratchaneewan Vichaisorn, Head of Customer Service at aCommerce, during non-campaign periods, 35% of the inquiries through live chat are about products, while the number of inquiries about products surged to 45% during campaign periods like 9.9. (See how to prepare for the annual online mega sales here.)

2. Leverage the Opportunity to Up-Sell and Cross-Sell

Based on their product knowledge, your agents should be able to provide recommendations of similar products or complementary products that consumers may be interested in.

Brands can also take this opportunity to inform consumers of upcoming promotions to keep them coming back to buy the next time too.

3. Collect Data and Monitor For Customer Feedback

Talking directly to your customers is a great way for brands to collect data and feedback from end users. This information can then be used to improve a brand’s products and services. Because live chats are automatically logged, the chat histories can be mined for patterns and insights.

4. Promote Your Brand

Your customer service agent should be encouraged to offer more information about the brand to improve the relationship between the brand and the consumer. Towards the end of the chat, inform the customer about the channels that they can follow your brand for content, updates, and promotions.

These are a few tips that your brand can adapt to improve your customer service. If you’re interested in a similar audit for your own brand or a consulting session to improve your live chat operations, please contact us via hello@ecommerceIQ.asia or fill out the form below:





 

 

In the US, consumers have more channel choices when it comes to purchasing toiletries, soft drinks, processed food and other fast moving consumer goods than ever before.

According to Nielsen, 50 retailers accounted for nearly 80% of all FMCG sales in 2016. Specialized companies drove more than half of all FMCG growth over the last few years by focusing on particular verticals, while the bigger companies on average posted flat growth.

Beauty and pet care specific companies are experiencing higher sales than others, evident by the popularity of beauty subscription boxes – Althea and Birchbox – and pet food/accessories platforms such as Chewy.com in the US.

The wide FMCG umbrella is increasingly filling with online players that are offering what Nielsen coins the “total customer” something more than simply walking into a department store.

A total customer is someone who wants to the ultimate shopping experience from top quality, to brand value and a personalized product offering.

In the US, beauty care and pet care are the two categories with the highest ecommerce dollar share of total sales.

As the grocery-retail landscape continues to incorporate digital, there are six core (and relatively broad) factors that make determine whether customers will likely stay your customers.

  1. Trust
  2. Value
  3. Experience
  4. Assortment
  5. Convenience
  6. Personalization

It’s pretty obvious to most retailers that the total customer wants products delivered on time without damages, special discounts to save money, and an easy to navigate online interface.

But the latter three factors: assortment, convenience and personalization are particularly important to the more digitally engaged shopper as they tend to have higher expectations.

So what kind of things will appeal to this group?

Well, when it comes to experience, assortment and personalization, these online players are currently doing it right.

According to Nielsen, “click and collect” services like Amazon Fresh Pick Up will increasingly bring perimeter-store shoppers online. Currently available to only employees, Amazon-run stores will have groceries brought out to your car if you order online as a Prime Member.

In China, both Alibaba and JD.com lead online grocery sales. Why? Because delivery men on electric bicycles pick up orders from supermarkets and small corner shops to provide same day delivery.

Grocery delivery service Instacart from the US focused on personalization by partnering with PlateJoy last year to deliver customized meals to customers who shared their health and taste preferences.

Entering groceries in Southeast Asia

Although not as mature as the west, the rising popularity of on-demand platforms such as honestbee and HappyFresh, and food delivery specific services such as foodpanda, Line Man and UberEats creates a highly competitive space.

Each player is attempting to entice Southeast Asians with aggressive promotions and value added services. In Thailand, HappyFresh often has “buy-one-get-one” periods, 30% flash sales and more recently, begun targeting pet owners, stated by Nielsen as a growing vertical for ecommerce.

Source: HappyFresh Thailand Facebook

Competitor honestbee is instead working on creating a “convenience ecosystem” for its shoppers by adding extra verticals such as a laundry service and food delivery.

It’s very likely each market in Southeast Asia will have its own dominant grocery service as the region is highly fragmented and therefore highly differentiated preferences but one thing they all have in common is their obsession with convenience and personalization.

Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Thailand’s Box24 is moving beyond laundry service

Through Box24, customers simply had to deposit the laundry, make a payment, track the status of their laundry through the mobile app and pick-up when its ready.

Founder Bond Thaiyanurak saw potential in his startup, and soon looked to explore into other verticals under the Box24 brand.

For ecommerce delivery, Box24 partnered with leading retail chainsTesco and BigC to launch a service called ShopBox24. For parcel delivery, it partnered with delivery company Kerry Express to deploy MoveBox24.

Box24 will also be deploying personal storage services with Kerry this year.

Regionally, there are already a handful of ecommerce lockers available, but Box24 differentiates itself by building hardware in-house. “We have a very different business model from other players — we are selling the lockers,” said Thaiyanurak.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

2. Pypestream raises $15M series A for its customer messaging platform

 Pypestream has expanded to offer messaging capabilities in businesses’ own apps and elsewhere. This goes beyond just sending text and images — users can also make payments, schedule appointments and send files directly from the messaging window.

“Brands thought, or agencies think, that people actually want to have general conversations with businesses and brands that aren’t specific to utility or aren’t specific to a need,” founder Smullen said.
“Just as a consumer, I don’t need to have a general conversation with Nike — but if my sneakers are broken, then my conversation with Nike is very necessary.”
Read the rest of the story here.

 

3. SCB Fintech Forum reveals key industry trend in Asia

According to key panelists at SCB’s fintech forum held on 28 February, agriculture tech and healthcare will become more prominent this year. We should be seeing the integration of big data which will help drive more movement within agriculture, including new digital platforms that will fund agritech projects.

Doctor-on-demand will also be introduced on a larger scale in Asia.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

4. BCBG Max Azria files for bankruptcy

Fashion house BCBG Max Azria Group LLC has filed for bankruptcy protection , the latest casualty in the struggling U.S. retail sector, as shoppers abandon malls in favor of internet shopping.

The company is taking steps to close its freestanding stores in Canada and consolidate its operations in Europe and Japan, in addition to the 120 retail stores closed as part of the restructuring efforts.

The re-shuffling will allow the company to hone in on customer shopping patterns, selected retail locations and ecommerce, a spokesperson for BCBG said in a statement.

Read the rest of the story here.

Customer support plays an integral role in delivering an enjoyable online shopping experience. Your online store could be optimized with tips from beautyIQ series, but a poor customer experience will drive 89% of consumers to go to a competitor. The last article of the beautyIQ series will provide guidance on how to best support your Southeast Asian customers online and keep them loyal to your brand.

The importance of customer service seems obvious in traditional brick-and-mortar shops – your salesmen on the floor represent your brand’s image and values through interactions with customers. This is especially true in Thailand and China where shoppers rate customer service as one of the most important factors driving their favorite retailer perception.

For ecommerce, customer care is more integral to the experience as shoppers lack the touch and feel of a product and convenience of a friendly salesperson ready to address any questions. Customer support is also important to containing the damage of a negative review spreading on social media, where more than 50% of consumers in Southeast Asia turn to read product reviews.

Providing excellent customer support can be the make or break of a company as demonstrated by Zappos.com, an online shoes, clothing and accessories store owned by Amazon. Just this July, the company set a new internal record with a customer-service call that lasted 10 hours and 43 minutes. It is stories like these that keep Zappos in the online shopping spotlight and customers coming back.

To be as accessible as possible for online shoppers, brands and merchants should ensure the following:

1. Make Customer Service Contacts Visible

45% of respondents to PwC retail study say reviews, comments and feedback found on social media influence their shopping behavior. This means it is extremely important to quickly diffuse a frustrated customer as they are more likely to turn to social media and post a negative comment regarding your brand.

Mitigate this situation by making your phone number or other contacts highly visible to increase trust in your online store and give browsers a ‘shopping safety net’.

Bobbi Brown’s online store in Thailand lists a live chat button at the top of its webstore and uses large icons for email, chat and phone communication at the bottom of the page, leaving no questions where customers should turn for answers.

customer support

customer support

 

Clinique also lists customer service contacts at the top of its webstore under ‘Help’, which is easy to see and comprehend.

customer support

2. Support Customers on Channels They Use

As internet users spend from 1.6 hours in Singapore to 3.7 hours in Philippines on social media every day, consumers in Southeast Asia show a stronger desire to communicate with brands through social media than consumers elsewhere in the world.

Facebook is the most popular social media network and a quick look at local pages of popular beauty brands show that customers don’t hesitate to express their positive and negative experience online. Developing a capability to respond to customer reviews online will help brands improve their relationship with customers.

In Thailand, global beauty brands state on their local brand.com webstores (Bobbi Brown, Kiehl’s, Estee Lauder, MAC Cosmetics, Clinique, L’Occitane and Laura Mercier) that they mostly provide customer support either by phone on weekdays from 9 AM to 6 PM or email.

Bobbi Brown is the only brand that offers a live chat on weekdays, while Laura Mercier has official account in LINE, one of the most popular chat apps in Southeast Asia. All brands mentioned engage with customers and their inquiries on social media channels like Facebook and Instagram, but the response time varies.

3. Train Customer Service Agents to Listen, Reply and Execute

“I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now,” sings rockband Queen, and it sums up quite well the expectations of customers nowadays. Every third customer who has attempted to contact a brand for customer support through social media expected a response within 30 minutes. Research shows that customers even value a quick response over a more informative one.

To track your customer inquiries, use software like Zendesk, as used by Lazada, one of the biggest marketplaces in the region. Keeping track of customer inquiries is important to calculate customer response time and ensure customers who have turned for support have actually received it.

Having knowledgeable customer service agents who are familiar with product properties, brand policies and other issues will speed up time taken to reply to customers and positively impact the chance of a returning shopper. ecommerceIQ sent inquiries to the above mentioned global beauty brands and they all responded within 24 hours.

Customer complaints may not be the most pleasant thing to handle, but it is the best feedback a business can receive as it highlights holes in its business model. Internal data from aCommerce, service provider for ecommerce fulfillment in Southeast Asia, shows that concern about expiry date of skincare or cosmetics products are among the most common complaints in Thailand. Shoppers may ask for a refund or return the product if, for example, two years have passed since the manufacturing date.

It is the responsibility of customer service agents to communicate these problems to the right departments and ensure the same issues do not arise again.

Customer care is the key factor impacting consumer trust – not surprisingly a good customer experience will bring shoppers back for more, while bad support will drive them away. With the widespread usage of social networks in Southeast Asia and across the world, word of mouth has never traveled faster. 47% of digital consumers in Southeast Asia inevitably go online to share their experience, which will impact decisions of other potential customers for buying online.

With this article beautyIQ series finishes. We hope you found the tips useful in creating an enjoyable online shopping experience for your customers. You can read all articles on ecommerceIQ.  

For more insights about ecommerce trends in Southeast Asia, visit the report section on  ecommerceIQ.

 

BY AIJA KRUTAINE AND ANUTRA CHATIKAVANIJ

 

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Facebook is trying to make Messenger bots more active, reports Marketing Land.

Facebook has announced that it is restricting how long Messenger bots have to respond to someone before they’re muzzled, but is relaxing its rule forbidding promotional messages. This seems to be Facebook’s way of pressuring companies to make their bots responsive.

A new 24 hour window is the pillar of these changes. Now a Messenger bot will only be able to message someone within 24 hours of that person interacting with the bot.

Messenger bots can now send promotional messages to people, such as “Hey, check out this sale”, but only within the 24 hours restriction.

However, the 24 hour window isn’t fully sealed. A bot will be able to send one follow up message after the window closes. This will reset each time a person interacts with a given Messenger bot, and it will be able to send a ‘template message’, such as sales receipts and flight notifications.

Not all bots will be held to the 24 hour restriction. Messenger bots that sends news, or track personal information will be able to send messages on a regular basis.

Users will have to sign up for subscriptions by messaging the bot, which is required to tell the user how often it will be sending messages. Unlike the non subscription message, subscription messages cannot be promotional.

Messenger bots will have until November this year to modify their bots to comply with Facebook’s new guidelines, and until February 2017 to apply for subscription based messaging access.

This new guideline should streamline the way brands use bots to interact with customers, as well as promote a more effective way of utilizing the technology.

A version of this appeared in Market Land on August 15. Read the full version here.