The good old telephone hotline only plays a minor role in customer dialogue. New techniques such as chatbots or live chats are in demand. A recent study by ECC Cologne and iAdvize shows how online retailers should position themselves here.

Customers appreciate personal service. So far, this has mostly been a bonus with which stationary retailers have been able to score points against the online shop. But e-commerce is catching up in the customer dialogue. In the beginning it was mostly telephone hotlines and well-maintained service pages, but now webshops are increasingly adopting modern technology. For the study by ECC and iAdvize, 100 marketing decision-makers from companies were interviewed online and expert interviews were conducted with executives. A total of 81 percent of companies already offer personal online customer services. The call back service is in 1st place. In second place is chatting with service employees, a service offered by 50 percent of online shops. Also frequently offered are chats via social media channels. The online shops are preparing for the future with these services. After all, classic services such as telephone hotlines and newsletters are taken for granted by customers. New features such as chats, curated shopping or service areas on the shop side, on the other hand, are consciously perceived and appreciated by buyers.

Consumers also expect progress in digitalization in customer dialogue

The online shops benefit from this. The study shows that they use personal services in customer dialogue primarily for customer loyalty and to win new customers. Anatol Sostmann, Head of Marketing Rose Bikes, confirms: “Conversion is the be-all and end-all – as soon as the customer is on our website, we want to encourage him to buy. A live chat can be a good support.” Because one thing is clear: customers know the latest technology and expect a corresponding offer. HDE Managing Director Stefan Genth made this clear at the German Trade Congress. “Digitalization offers the opportunity to respond more and more individually to customer wishes. But this also leads to rising consumer expectations.” In order to meet these high demands, retailers would have to resort to the latest technologies. In the service sector, chatbots could offer online customer advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week, thus avoiding waiting times. Artificial intelligence will continue to gain in importance in retail and its increasingly digitalized value chain.

Financial and personnel challenges for smaller online shops

Large companies show how this works. The online giant Otto – number 2 in e-commerce in Germany after Amazon – has been relying on its chatbot Clara since 2013. Among other things, it answers questions about delivery or service. Otto was one of the first companies to launch its own Augmented Reality (AR) app on the market. This gives customers at the Otto subsidiary yourhome the opportunity to test the effect of a piece of furniture within their own four walls online before purchasing it. Such services and the associated investments, however, present many smaller shops with challenges. According to HDE, they cannot make the necessary investments in hardware and expertise on their own. “This is where cooperation is required. In this context, cooperative groups can play an important role,” says Managing Director Genth. The ECC study also highlights this problem. A lack of employee capacity (62 percent of respondents) and a lack of budget (49 percent of respondents) are the biggest barriers to customer dialogue when it comes to innovations.


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Link: Live chats, chatbots and the like are an important differentiating feature in online trading, according to a new study by ECC and iAdvize.

Image: Otto