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Customer loyalty stems from this shopper expectation

Loyal shoppers only want to buy from online retailers they believe "have their back."

DEENA M. AMATO-MCCOY

The irony is that this technology has been around for decades - but it is only recently that it has gotten traction. Then again, there has been a convergence of various technologies that has made AI a reality.

This was according to a new retail study from Radial and CFI Group which revealed that 84% of respondents said their experience with a superior online retailer elevates their expectations for all other retailers' performances. These respondents added that the central element of a superior retail experience is the feeling that the retailer is looking out for their best interests.

This mindset has changed how customers approach loyalty programs. For example, 40% of customers refrain from joining loyalty programs because they don't believe membership benefits are worth the time, money, or effort of signing up. Among those who do join, 76% do so to qualify for special promotions. Retailers should closely evaluate special offers for loyalty members to ensure the promotions are competitive.

Customers also expect more balanced fraud protection, however retailers often find it hard to juggle rigorous detection mechanisms with smooth customer ordering. For shoppers who experience a wrongly-identified fraud attempt, 26% said they will never shop at that retailer again. Retailers should seek sophisticated solutions, combining machine learning, robust analytics, and manual review to help strike this balance. Looking out for the customer involves protecting against fraud while also preventing unnecessary difficulty in the purchase process, the study reported.

Loyal customers also expect multiple return options. However, this too can be a double-edged sword. Returns are costly and create uncertainty in a retailer's financial projections. Yet, offering flexible and easy returns is precisely what enables more sales in the first place. It turns out that 48% of online customers said that they are much more likely to purchase from a retailer when that retailer offers multiple return options.

"Customers expect retailers to protect them from any unexpected or unreasonable issues that may occur," says Sheri Petras, CEO of CFI Group. "They expect a smooth process with flexible options. Best-in-class retailers are meeting these expectations and continue to make improvements that raise the performance bar across the industry."

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