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You don’t see many full service gas stations these days.

It used to be the standard: an attendant would fill up your tank, wipe down your windshield and maybe even check your oil and tires while you waited in the driver’s seat. This was essential to providing good customer service. Anything less would have been like a restaurant forgetting to bring out complimentary glasses of water.

There are still a few places where full service gas stations are the norm. But for the most part, today’s drivers do things for themselves. On those rare occasions that you pull into a full service station, it can actually be confusing when the attendant expects you to wait in the car. And no matter how quickly they work, it’s easy to feel impatient not doing things at your pace.

Online shoppers are no different. ERP-integrated e-commerce provides an engagement platform whose primary engine is online self-service: the ability for customers to do things for themselves.

If, like many good business owners, you believe in providing excellent customer service, self-service can seem gimmicky—even lazy. But the simple fact is that not only is it extremely profitable, online self-service is what your customers want.

Here are four reasons why it’s critical to e-commerce success.

Online Self-Service Means More Sales

With online self-service, customers can place orders from literally anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day. This is an obvious benefit to both the customer and to your business.

An ERP-integrated e-commerce platform automates orders and invoicing. Even if a customer places an order in the middle of the night, your web store transmits the order information directly to your ERP, and your ERP sends the invoice back to the web store.

Online self-service grants your customers the convenience of being able to purchase directly from home, even outside of normal business hours. Your business, meanwhile, accepts the orders that come in overnight and literally grows while you sleep.

Online Self-Service Means Easier Sales

The rise of the internet hasn’t just increased consumer expectation for speed and convenience. It has also increased their expectation for information.

Customers want to be able to find the products they’re looking for in the shortest amount of time possible. But they also want to compare models and compare prices. They want to know where the product is coming from, where it’s made, how it’s sourced.

The self-service functionality of an ERP-integrated e-commerce solution makes all of this possible. A dynamic multimedia product catalog with robust search capabilities can connect your customers very quickly to your product line. It permits you to display full specs along with images, video and more, providing the product and pricing transparency customers need to make purchasing decisions.

All of which makes the sale that much easier.

Online Self-Service Means Lower Costs

This is obvious when you consider something as simple as an order update.

Every time a customer calls your service team to ask for an order update, the support agent assisting the customer has to go into your system and check on the status of the order. This may only take a few minutes. But the more of these calls your agent has to field, the more time that gets spent on a fairly simple task.

With online self-service, the customer can log into his or her account and check on the status of the order any time. The same is true with other routine tasks such as updating addresses, adding payment methods, and so on.

In the long term, this translates to huge savings for your company. A business with 100 orders per week that spends $5 per order answering status update calls is saving $26,000 per year in post-order costs just by switching to online self-service.

Online Self-Service Means Happy Customers

Over and above all the points we’ve discussed, again: online self-service is what your customers want. It’s an integral part of an optimized customer experience.

Successful e-commerce businesses understand that it isn’t enough to just make a sale. Long-term success depends on keeping your customers coming back. Among other things, existing customers are more likely to buy than new customers, which makes customer retention a crucial metric in maximizing your ROI.

Configuring your e-commerce platform to foster customer independence builds loyalty in a number of ways. Obviously when your shoppers are able to find what they’re looking for quickly and make purchases through a smooth, streamlined checkout process, you’ve already gone a long way towards providing a winning customer experience.

But you can take this even further with options that encourage future purchases based on user behavior. Order history is an easy example: by granting quick access to products they’ve purchased in the past, you make it that much simpler for them to reorder.

Even better, you can offer the option to automate recurring orders. Cross-selling and upselling based on similar (or complementary) items is another great way to engage your customers and grow your business continually without the need of a sales rep.

If you’d like to learn more about how an ERP-integrated e-commerce channel can automate key business processes and keep your customers coming back, check out the sessions at our Let’s Learn LIVE: Virtual Summit and discover even more ways to maximize your investment in Microsoft Dynamics GP.

Click here to watch the recordings

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