Why a solution to cart abandonment may be staring retailers in the face
A picture is worth a thousand words – and anyone who has ever got stuck on a website clicking and scrolling endlessly while trying to fill in a form or search for product information can testify to the relevance of the aphorism to customer experience. And those without a more tech-savvy friend or family member with the patience to help them navigate the dire straits of misleading or “user-unfriendly” steps will likely end up abandoning their carts, and not returning ever again.
Visual customer engagement
A customer support or service agent equipped with visual tools such as screen-sharing, co-browsing and live video can do a tremendous job at turning frustrated and stalled customer journeys into successful interactions between the brand and the customer.
Screen-sharing, where a user on a remote computer can view and control someone else’s computer screen, is widely known. However, collaborative browsing, or co-browsing, is a more advanced and secure way of guiding someone through a web page and showing them how to resolve problems they’ve encountered.
Unlike screen sharing, co-browsing provides the agent with a much more limited access to the client’s computer. The agent’s access is restricted to the webpage enabled with co-browsing, while all other data on the customer’s computer is out of bounds, including any other tabs open in the same browser.
During the co-browsing session, the customer can mask out any sensitive information they already have in the form or document that they are receiving guidance about. Another great advantage of co-browsing, compared with screen-sharing, is that thanks to WebRTC (Web Real Time) technology, there is no need for any downloads, installations or plug-ins.
Established and emerging use cases
Co-browsing has already been used extensively by software-as-as-service (SaaS) companies. Customer support agents can click on, scroll down to or highlight any information on the client’s screen. The technology also enables them to annotate the customer’s view of the website, overlay documents, as well as insert demo videos. Therefore it has also great potential to speed up on-boarding or provide help with installation, troubleshooting, maintenance or upgrading.
Banks also rely on it when assisting customers with navigating their online accounts, and it has been increasingly used during the pandemic as physical sales have shifted online, alongside embedded software that enables electronic signatures for closing contracts.
In these applications, the relationship between the client and the support agent is ongoing and, to a large extent, built on trust. In this sense, customer support agents are different from the one-off, rather transactional relationship between the customer and a customer service agent in a distant call centre sorting out the complaints of disgruntled customers.
The question is whether customers will find the trade-off that co-browsing technology offers between security and quick problem resolution appealing enough in areas such as e-commerce, where relationships between them and customer service agents are much more impersonal.
Can zero-trust boost co-browsing uptake in e-commerce?
Although co-browsing has much more robust cyber-security features than screen-sharing, its safety is highly impacted by the security features of the site being co-browsed. Websites, for example, with the standard hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP), which transfers data from a web server to a browser to view web pages, use no encryption, meaning it’s much easier for third parties to intercept data traffic on them.
Meanwhile, the HTTPS protocol, where the S stands for secure, encrypts all requests and responses, and therefor makes the co-browsing function safer as well. Although encrypted web traffic is estimated at more than 90 per cent, rather than addressing all the different levels of co-browsing security (protocol, session authentication, messaging), a watertight solution built on zero-trust – the concept in IT that nothing attempting to access a network should be trusted before it is verified – could increase customer’s appetite for co-browsing sessions even for sorting out minor difficulties.
Remote browser isolation: making co-browsing safe by default
Remote browser isolation is a relatively recent technology that moves web browsing sessions off devices into cloud containers, which means that no threats coming from hackers or unreliable co-browsing agents can reach the devices of customers. The user will only see a replica of the webpage in the cloud when looking at their own device.
Recent events in the space, such as American website security company Cloudflare’s acquisition of browser isolation start-up S2 Systems last year, seem to be indicators of the maturing technology’s future potential. As these browser isolation solutions become ever cheaper and faster, they will inevitably enter the commercial market as well.
As soon as browsing, and thus co-browsing, become robust zero-trust systems, customers will also feel more inclined to fall back on them when feeling stuck on a commercial website or facing difficulties of varying degree. A major shift such as this could, in the short term, turn co-browsing from an underused technology for customer service which currently supports only 0.1 per cent of interactions, according to SaaS company LogMeIn, into the main driver of online visual customer engagement.