The e-commerce industry has grown immensely in recent years, with automation as a critical driver allowing for its unprecedented and increasing scale. As a result, many regional e-businesses expanded into new markets and reached a broader international audience with comprehensive products, more efficient services, and global delivery. However, with this rapid growth has come the concern about ensuring a relevant quality of Customer Experience at a substantial volume. This article explores the impact of automation on e-commerce organisations and their challenges. It also suggests practical strategies that can be employed to overcome them.
Automation has facilitated and accelerated digital processes previously performed manually by humans. It enabled online businesses to effectively and consistently handle more orders, address queries more accurately, streamline and automate repetitive tasks and prioritise consumer support based on urgency and relevance. As a result, it allowed online stores to increase efficiency and speed to consumers, boost productivity, and reduce operational costs.
The critical advantage of automation was a greater capacity to deal with many more buyers simultaneously with similar resources, significantly and rapidly transforming how e-commerce businesses operate. Empowered by automation, e-companies have been able to remove barriers such as geographical limitations and a lack of tools or people to ensure substantial growth.
This trend has become global as automation was treated as a significant disruptor for businesses in numerous industries, including e-commerce, and it is still constantly improving. According to the Grand Research Review report, the global industrial automation and control systems market was worth USD 172.26 billion in 2022. Analysts project that this market will continue to grow, with an annual compound growth rate (CAGR) of 10.5% from 2023 to 2030.
Understanding the risks: scalability impact on CX quality
While automation-driven expansion has brought e-businesses exciting opportunities, it has also exposed them to the risk of poor customer support and weak interactions, which can hinder long-term progress, and this is something that cannot be neglected or ignored. As Gartner states, “A great Customer Experience strategy is the pulse of every business today and drives more than two-thirds of customer loyalty, surpassing the combined impact of brand and price.”
Therefore, the lesson for each modern growing online company is to make an outstanding CX a guiding principle for survival and thriving in today’s highly competitive digital landscape. By determining and understanding the threats that may appear while operating more extensively, e-entrepreneurs can take appropriate actions to mitigate the critical risks and deliver a high-quality CX for everyone.
Some of the most common and key threats that can appear are:
Over-reliance on automation
As e-commerce businesses scale, there is a risk of a decrease in the quality of customer support. Efficient management and relevant addressing of many requests with the same resources or technology can be insufficient, leading to buyer frustration and the potential loss of consumers to competitors.
Lack of customised care and special attention
As e-commerce businesses scale, there is a risk that buyers may feel the care they receive is insufficiently personalised or tailored to their current preferences. This can result in feeling undervalued, dissatisfied, and unappreciated, ultimately making them more likely to switch to competitors offering a more customised experience.
As e-commerce businesses scale, there is a risk of inconsistent experiences across different touchpoints and channels if they are not managed appropriately. When consumers receive various messages via different channels or are not treated equally across all interaction points, they may get confused and offended, resulting in a loss of trust.
Misunderstanding and disappointment
As e-commerce businesses scale, there is a risk of losing the human touch that many customers await and appreciate. In such situations, when lacking empathy and compassionate understanding, buyers may start feeling unsatisfied and disappointed and are less likely to return when not receiving appropriate care to meet their expectations.
Financial penalties and loss of trust
As e-commerce businesses scale, there is a risk of financial penalties from regulatory bodies and loss of trust, reputation, and potentially even legal action due to data breaches or mishandling of customer data by e-commerce companies.
Non-adaptation to changing conditions and circumstances
As e-commerce businesses scale, there is a risk of failing to adapt to changing market circumstances or customer behaviours. This can result in missing the deterioration of selected areas of CX, leading to a decline in customer satisfaction, loyalty, and, ultimately, revenue.
Mitigating risks can be achieved with a robust Customer Experience strategy, flawless execution, and constant improvement. Such a strategy should encompass both the operational and reflective components, promote a holistic approach, and include tailoring to the needs and preferences of the target audience. The result depends on e-businesses’ willingness and ability to prioritise customer-centricity, adjust cost-saving measures, and add human touch interventions where necessary.
“Enhancing CX strategy is crucial for creating a competitive advantage when scaling e-business. Gaining new buyers is not all. A cornerstone of achieving success is retaining them and turning them into loyal advocates of our brands. Otherwise, buyers may become frustrated and dissatisfied with their experience, leading to negative reviews, reduced repeat business, and decreased revenue.” – Iulian Bacain, Sales and Marketing VP at Conectys, says.
How to overcome the risks and ensure both scalability and quality in e-commerce CX?
Here are some suggestions on ensuring scalability and CX quality in e-commerce when investing the effort in the right technology, tools and undertakings. Thus, to avoid:
1. Over-reliance on automation – Leveraging more advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Natural Language Processing is essential. These tools enable e-businesses to create more enjoyable experiences that adapt to changing customer needs and preferences, resulting in contextualised CX. For example, AI-powered chatbots can provide accurate and personalised responses in real-time, engaging in human-like dialogue with consumers at a much higher level than previous chatbot models.
2. Lack of customised care and special attention – It is essential to prioritise hyper-personalisation for customised care and special attention. With automated data collection and AI-driven analysis, digital entrepreneurs can generate valuable insights into customers’ preferences and behaviours and tailor all customer-facing activities to customise experiences that resonate with buyers deeply. This may include more targeted and relevant assistance, personalised communication, custom recommendations, and proactive outreach. As a result, online stores can provide more satisfying experiences, develop long-lasting relationships with consumers, strengthen the brand’s equity, improve customer satisfaction metrics such as CSAT and CES, and drive revenue growth, regardless of the business scale.
3. Inconsistent experiences – Establishing and promoting a clear brand voice and a unified strategy that aligns with all possible touchpoints is necessary, ensuring a seamless and consistent experience across all communication channels. A multi-channel CRM solution can integrate various engagement points into a single platform to achieve the desired consistency. This system automates customer data collection, provides insights into customer behaviour, helps identify weaknesses in the CX strategy, supports organising marketing campaigns, and contributes to the continuous improvement of the digital Customer Experience.
4. Misunderstanding and disappointment – In this case, customer-centricity can be a great solution to avoid misunderstandings and disappointment and to drive loyalty and satisfaction. By incorporating automation and a human touch, digital businesses can provide an outstanding experience that combines agility and compassion. While the technology allows you to streamline routine tasks and provide initial assistance through, for example, chatbots, a more personalised human agent’s support should also be at hand. Such a way of interaction with the company’s representatives is important as it sometimes goes beyond AI-driven solutions, bringing empathy, added value and making a difference in resolving complex complaints when needed.
5. Financial penalties and loss of trust – It is crucial for e-commerce companies to protect consumer data privacy by securely collecting, storing, and processing vast amounts of information entrusted by customers. This requires implementing relevant measures such as encryption algorithms, multi-factor authentication, and secure data storage protocols. By prioritising data security, online stores can promote a safe online environment and earn customer trust by safeguarding their information properly. Furthermore, it is essential to balance maintaining adequate security and privacy while preserving customers’ freedom of choice and consent when collecting and processing their personal data in e-commerce CX.
6. Non-adaptation to changing conditions and circumstances – It is critical to accurately measure and track the performance of an e-commerce CX strategy to identify areas for further improvement constantly. This involves gathering customer feedback using relevant metrics, devising effective KPIs, and monitoring results over time to pinpoint weak spots or opportunities for enhancing the Customer Experience. Key measurement areas should include loyalty, satisfaction, and operational measures such as NPS, CRR, RPR, CSAT, CES, AHT, FLR, ACR and many more.
What are the future trends of e-commerce CX automation?
The future of automation in e-commerce CX will bring new efficiencies, revenue streams, and empowerment to the industry. By leveraging emerging technologies, companies will provide even more personalised and immersive experiences for customers, increasing customer satisfaction and driving more revenue growth. In the future, we can predict to see:
- More advanced AI-driven automation technologies like Machine Learning, AI, and Big Data. They will enable more common data collection, deeper analysis, and relevant interpretation to create more personalised customer experiences across multiple channels.
- Virtual and augmented reality. They will help consumers to simulate realistic, interactive, and fully customised environments.
- Conversational AI technologies, such as chatbots and voice assistants. They will allow for tailored human-like responses to inquiries more efficiently and effectively.
- The metaverse expansion. It will become a crucial component of the e-commerce industry, providing customers with an immersive and seamless experience to engage with products and services.
When is CX outsourcing the right solution for e-commerce business?
When an e-commerce company does not have sufficient resources, technology, or expertise to manage its Customer Experience effectively (CX) processes in-house, outsourcing the processes to a Business Process Outsourcing provider is a viable solution. By partnering with a BPO, companies can ensure 24/7 availability of services and consistent quality while reducing operational costs and shifting focus to core business operations without the necessity to bear investments and grow skills internally.
Regarding online businesses operating globally, it is crucial that an outsourcing provider can deliver not only solutions and human resources but also experience, multilingualism, knowledge of specific data protection laws and expertise in navigating CX in different cultures and legal environments.
The right BPO partner should be selected based on the factors such as team-specific skills, language proficiency, scalability of services, domain knowledge, geographic coverage, innovative technologies, flagship partnerships, and budget-friendly frameworks. It is a guarantee of successful and streamlined CX services, which are aligned with specific needs and e-business goals.
Automation has been instrumental in driving the growth of the e-commerce industry by enhancing efficiency and productivity, especially when dealing with the increasing number of virtual orders and requests. The expansion was inevitable and at full speed. However, this reliance on automation has also introduced a new risk of potentially decreasing the quality of the Customer Experience. Successful businesses understand these threats well and implement strategies to adapt to new conditions while constantly improving CX capability.
What is worth remembering?
Automation allowed e-commerce companies to scale their operations, expand into entirely new markets, and reach a global audience.
At the same time, ensuring a high-quality Customer Experience at scale became increasingly challenging for e-businesses.
Among the most critical risks related to scalability is a decrease in the quality of customer support, a lack of customisation, inconsistent experiences, misunderstandings, loss of trust, and a lack of relevant feedback.
Reducing the risks can be accomplished by implementing a solid Customer Experience strategy, executing it flawlessly, and continuously enhancing it.
Incorporating solutions such as AI-driven automation, personalisation, an omnichannel approach, consumer-centricity, data security measures, and utilising Voice of Customer measures is necessary.
In case of a lack of appropriate resources, technology, expertise and knowledge, partnering up with a proven BPO provider can be a viable solution.