In the early 2000s, ecommerce promised us an unprecedented world of shopping convenience previously thought impossible. Massive online catalogs, products from all over the world, and lightning-fast fulfillment became overnight norms. We flocked to this new retail experience in droves as a consumer culture.
But the convenience factor of ecommerce forces a plateau at a certain point in a company’s success. Eventually, the ability to click a button and place an order became so impersonal that people almost started to miss the glory days of brick-and-mortar. Ecommerce brands needed to face a hard truth — they could not continue to expand their capabilities without leading with a strong, radically personal customer experience.
For far too long, customer service was relegated to the back end of a budget sheet. These cost centers were the last thought on many CEOs’ minds. If this section of their business wasn’t generating revenue, it only existed to maintain a standard of service. Until progressive brands came along to shake up the status quo, this area of thought persisted, preventing numerous brands from accessing an untapped customer experience goldmine.
One of those precursor brands in the customer experience was Chewy, the pet e-retail brand now taking in more than $7 billion in yearly revenue. Not long ago, in the mid-2010s, the company was stuck at that fabled ecommerce plateau and stagnating against middling sales, turnover, and limited long-term value from those customers they did manage to keep.
Co-founder Ryan Cohen thought if he could “deliver the same kind of personalized experience as the neighborhood pet store, but do it online and deliver a convenient value proposition, that [they] could build a really big business.” This ethos, which embraces radical personalization to bridge the gap between convenience and warmth, catalyzed an entirely new approach to customer experience. The brand started empowering its agents to promote deep, value-driven relationships with each and every customer.
Chewy’s service division initiative spread like wildfire, earning them an enormous amount of praises and drawing even more customers while endearing existing ones to return to their business time and again. In just a few years, the company went from a convenient pet food retailer to a multi-billion-dollar Amazon rival. Through a customer experience-led philosophy, Chewy outlasted and outperformed the ecommerce plateau, unleashing their business toward unprecedented levels of growth.
So what does this mean for the rest of the ecommerce landscape? Is having an exceptionally responsive and personalized customer experience attainable for everyone as it was for Chewy? The answer boils down to how companies prioritize their avenues of growth. Certainly, brands can continue to price slash and release new products to push profit margins to their very limits. But the simple truth remains that these myopic focus points limit truly exceptional brands’ potential.
More willing to put their dollars toward a brand they’re excited about, customers are becoming less interested in a simple exchange of goods. Fostering that relationship and building your brand’s image lives and dies by the strength of your customer experience division.
Instead of thinking about your agents as another cost center, see them as the foundation of your long-term revenue growth. If you want a company that can outlast the competition and evolves into a major brand, your future needs to be built around customer experience. As Chewy demonstrated, this effort isn’t about plugging holes in a leaky boat but rather about rebuilding your vessel as a battleship that leads by service values in alignment with your brand’s overall identity.