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The Future of Online Customer Service

In 1964, at World’s Fair in New York, Olivetti unveiled the Programma 101. It was the first computer of its kind, about the size of a typewriter. The Italian-born “desktop personal computer” was available to consumers the following year for a measly $3,200. Since then, the proliferation of the ‘pc’ made it’s way into NASA’s Apollo 11 mission, ABC’s 1969 presidential election predictions, and helped the U.S. military plan operations in Vietnam.

The last forty years, personal computers evolved from heavy corporate usage, to home computers, and more recently to personal smartphones. Every iteration; technology became more friendly to work with, more powerful, and ultimately – more intimate with end users. In 2014, mobile device usage is a considerable driver of commerce and new technologies. Shoppers are pushing retailers to keep up with demands, asking for hyper-relevant omni channel experiences and device agnostic websites.

At eTail West, Nicholas Franchet, Head of Retail and E-commerce, Global Vertical Marketing at Facebook was quoted on Twitter saying, “The future of shopping is personalized discovery.”


Wow, a spot-on insight to the trajectory of the relationship between personal computers and consumers. I’m betting the possibility of purchasing tennis shoes on Amazon with a smartphone and having it delivered via drone wasn’t on Olivetti’s radar when this was conceived. Still, the ‘personal computer’ is fulfilling its self-titled destiny.

Technology Affects Customer Service

This year, some 74% of business leaders say their company has a digital strategy while only 15% believe that their company has the ability to act on those plans. By those numbers, just over 10% of companies are truly adopting digital into their business model, leaving consumers limited options to interact with online. Since the beginning of 2012, personal computer sales worldwide fell 14% year-over-year. While both, tablet and mobile device sales continue to rise, changing how the consumer shops and interacts with retailers. This shift will make or break businesses.

Customer service in 2014 is far more than a 24×7 call center or a speedy return policy; consumers want personal communication and DIY services online. As devices have crept closer to the consumers daily lives, the expectation of what these devices deliver experience-wise has shifted as well. Retailers without technical tools to help online customers will feel revenues tighten now that shoppers are buying the experience, not just a product.

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The Future of Online Shopping is Personalized Discovery

In a recent Neilson article, Amy Schade mentions five shopper types – Product focused, browsers, researchers, bargain hunters, and one-time shoppers. Shade goes on to say, “A good e-commerce user experience is crucial to all shopper types, but different elements take on significance based on the shoppers goal.” Another really valuable insight into online shopping’s future. Note ‘user experience’ and ‘elements’. Elements are specific to a certain shopper, while user experience is a holistic online standard.

Stepping back from customer ‘types’, we can say that all types fall into the ‘customer’ bucket. Shoppers have their own tendencies, but all shoppers in some regard should receive a standard level of service (user experience) from businesses. Those standards should represent the most crucial components of the online shopping experience, and they should be set high.

Three solutions that improve customer service and personalize the experience are ecommerce site search, faceted category navigation, and mobile site search. Each solution supports the user experience, in-turn heightening customer service. Regardless of what type of shopper they are, the discovery of products can be done easily, within a matter of words or clicks.

Ecommerce site search, good or bad, is typically used by 30% of online shoppers. Leaving the other seven out of ten people to find things via category navigation. Both modes of navigation should offer personalized results and methods of entry.

Examples could be:

  • Category Navigation: Multi-facet selection allows shoppers to filter on the product attributes that mean most to them.
  • Ecommerce Site Search: a synonym directory could eliminate regional differences in product descriptions, giving shoppers highly relevant results regardless of the keyword used.

Improve Your Customer Service

Knowing that 100% of website traffic interacts with either site search or category navigation while shopping, it’s critical to evaluate the performance via those features.

Most shopping carts have rudimentary search and navigation by default, allowing for personalized discovery for the shoppers, but create underwhelming product results. The addition of Searchspring to a shopping cart platform creates a richer, more relevant shopping experience, enhances personalization and collects shopping data for continual personalization.

Using our platform, merchants have access to more than two-dozen site search solutions as well as advanced analytics for reporting. Personalizing shopping experiences has never been easier.