It’s fair to say that this will be a holiday season unlike any other. Not only are retailers contending with a pandemic and an economic recession, holiday customer behaviour will be shaped by social distancing, expansive hygiene protocols, and limited shop capacity. What’s more, traditional shopping events that created excitement such as Black Friday and Boxing Day have gone virtual, placing a spotlight on inventory, logistics, and digital transformation preparedness.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed, which is why we recommend focusing on concrete projects that can be deployed quickly and show fast outcomes. Here are 4 ways for retailers to align themselves with the shifts in customer behaviour this holiday season and beyond.
1. Make it easy for customers to get fast answers
More than ever, convenience is a competitive differentiator. Back in December 2019, more than half (52.5%) of UK residents preferred online shopping due to its convenience, according to a WePack survey. Today, convenient online shopping has become a necessity. UK retail ecommerce sales will account for 27.5% of total retail sales this year—up from 21.8% in 2019, reports eMarketer.
CX opportunity: Convenience isn’t limited to contactless deliveries. Make it easy for shoppers to get fast answers to their questions by enabling conversations anytime, anywhere, on any mobile device. Working with a partner that can quickly stand up sales and service messaging specialists on popular platforms like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and SMS enables retailers to engage and support customers where they are.
2. Collaborate on innovative experiences
Without traditional doorbusters and other in-store events, retailers will have to be more targeted and creative in getting customers to open their wallets. Rather than throw various campaigns at customers to see what sticks, a structured process should be put in place to develop innovative ideas across key stages of the customer journey. This can be done in a series of brainstorming sessions involving stakeholders across the organisation and customers with the purpose of creating a number of ideas to select from.
CX opportunity: Start with ideas for eliminating or mitigating causes of negative experiences that can be turned into positive experiences, and in turn, trigger an emotional connection. Where might feelings of stress, confusion, anxiety, and frustration emerge during the customer journey that can be preemptively solved? If customers often call customer service to enquire about their package’s status, for instance, work with marketing and IT to include a tracking solution and make sure customers are aware of it.
3. Focus on core strengths and let a partner handle the rest
At a time when retailers large and small are fighting for survival, standing out requires an even greater focus on the end-to-end, digital-first customer experience. However, most companies are operating on razor-thin margins and resources. Working with an outsource partner that has the knowledge, technology, and staff to fill those gaps provides numerous cost and innovation benefits while improving a brand’s customer experience.
It’s also important to move quickly. Contact centre volume continues to be high as shops reopen and we’re already seeing an increase in labour demands with finite labour pools, especially for nearshore/offshore support.
CX opportunity: Look for an outsourcer that is more like a partner. When selecting a partner, ask questions such as, has the company made an earnest effort to understand our customers and our needs or are they merely checking a box? Does the company have a foundation of best practices and resources to pull from to help us drive growth and innovation faster?
4. Refresh your story
Consumers increasingly want to shop with companies that have a sense of purpose. A recent global study found that consumers are four to six times more likely to buy from, trust, champion, and defend companies with a strong purpose. A good story that makes a case for slower—but earth-friendly—delivery options, or highlights the value of a limited inventory, for example, can cut through the noise created by other retailers.
CX opportunity: Crafting a compelling narrative doesn’t require a massive budget, but it’s also not a one-and-done project. Once you’re satisfied with a brand story for the holiday season, continue to check in with target customers and employees to ensure that your brand story and company decisions are aligned with their values and priorities.
A savvy omnichannel strategy, reliable fulfillment technology, and well-trained staff—as well as robust customer insights—are the keys to staying ahead of rapidly evolving customer behaviour. And while this will be an especially challenging holiday season, the retailers that remain customer-focused can rise to meet that challenge.