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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Thum, Ph.D., CCXP

COVID19 E-Commerce Stats Are Staggering. What Now for Businesses?

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

This article originally appeared on The Future of Customer Engagement and Experience.

Mind-blowing. Eyebrow-raising. Staggering.

No matter which word you use to describe it, there have been some remarkable COVID-19 e-commerce stats coming out recently in connection to the COVID19 pandemic.

For example, some traditional brick-and-mortar retailers saw online orders go up by 42% in the U.S. and Canada in just a couple of weeks alone, according to this article.

There was a 218% surge in downloads for Instacart, which is an app you can use to arrange for home delivery of your household groceries, according to this article.

These e-commerce statistics and others got me to thinking…

The numbers and opportunities are incredible, but what do businesses need to DO?

Practically speaking, what do businesses need to consider, operationally, in getting feedback from all those new and returning e-commerce customers? With the surge in online buying, do customer feedback collection practices need to change? If so, then how?

Because here’s another statistic for you: According to analysis, the number of customers leaving feedback in the form of online reviews on recently doubled. Retail giants Walmart and Target also saw a surge in online customer reviews.

Customers have more to say than ever before in those online reviews. Not only is the volume different, what customers are saying about products, service, and delivery is different now. Simply put, expectations and preferences are changing.

Based on that spike in online buying, a corresponding surge in online reviews, and customers’ changing sentiments, it’s safe to say companies may need to rethink when, where, and how they collect and analyze customer feedback.

Surveys are probably no longer enough

Continual surges in online buying will inevitably lead to more customers sharing feedback where, when, and how they want, through online reviews.

That means customer surveys that many organizations have leaned on for years to gather feedback from customers will no longer be enough.

Unstructured data from online reviews is now calling for the business world’s attention. Companies will need to collect and analyze other forms of feedback with as much vigor and commitment as customer surveys.

But approaching the unstructured feedback from online reviews, especially in a quickly changing business landscape, requires a different practical approach.

Fast is the new reality: Artificial intelligence comes center stage

In some instances, companies and government organizations employ full-time analysts who manually scan that unstructured data for trends. That effort can take days, weeks, or sometimes months to complete.

Unfortunately, though, few organizations have the leisure of time right now. The world – and customer expectations – are changing every few days or weeks. Fast is the new reality. Long analyst triage times can lead to too many missed business opportunities.

There is almost no other choice now. Voice-of-the-customer (VOC) tools that are powered by artificial intelligence need to take a more dominant spot in companies’ CX toolboxes.

Artificial intelligence VOC tools can scan large volumes of customer comments and unstructured feedback—spotting problems, opportunities, business risks, and threats for businesses quickly before humans can.

Consider the competitive intel

If that’s not enough to convince you, then consider this:

Online reviews are public information. Because of that, AI-powered tools that help you understand your own customers’ experiences can also help you understand what your competitors are doing well that you should consider in your own service design, products, and business policies.

Imagine what can be done with that type of business and competitive intelligence.

The world of customer experience—specifically the ways in which companies collect and synthesize customer feedback—is about to get more fascinating than what we ever imagined.

The new era of e-commerce that’s upon us now, along with AI-powered VOC tools, will make it so.

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