“Ask L2” is a weekly series where we answer questions about all things digital.

Question: What tools can help retailers fight Amazon’s domination?

L2 predicts Amazon will become the first trillion dollar company by 2018. The unveiling of Amazon Go—Amazon’s brick and mortar grocery experience complete with computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning—predicts a bleak future for retailers. However, human interaction – which Amazon is focused on eliminating for the sake of efficiency and speed – can be a retailer’s point of differentiation and method of combatting Amazon.
Few brands are doing so, according to L2 research. While all Big Box Index brands list some form of customer service on their site (e.g. toll-free number, webform), anything that goes beyond the basics is often left out. For example, only two thirds of the Index list hours of operation and only 45% have live chat capabilities. Advanced features like 24/7 support are even less prevalent indicating a lack of sophistication in customer-facing service features.

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Personalization options that mimic an in-store customer experience exhibit similar trends. Diagnostic tools or personalized recommendations are utilized by less than a third of brands in the Data & Targeting study, and advanced live chat features are only adopted by a minority of brands.

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Beyond replicating a store experience online, brands can create an uninterrupted experience when shoppers shift from digital to in store. Lowe’s made the guided selling experience a point of focus for its business, equipping employees with a plethora of ways to meet customer needs through their in-store mobile equipment. Beyond access to real-time store inventory levels, employees can also compile customer orders and arrange deliveries. If a customer needs an estimate on how much to buy, Lowe’s has estimation calculators.

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A brand should not just check off boxes when creating a customer service journey. Instead, brands need to consider what sites their user frequents (e.g. live chat versus Facebook Messenger) and what steps can improve the path to purchase (e.g. staffing customer support at appropriate times to reduce wait time). Understanding these factors can help brands deliver a consistent human element for shoppers, regardless of how they shop.

 

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