How  Retailers Can Adapt To A New Holiday Reality in 2020

Customer Experience, CX Automation

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How Can Retailers Take the Customer Experience Lessons of 2020 and Apply them to the coming Holiday Season?

To date, the effects of the pandemic have not been spread equally among retailers. Some are thriving, while others struggle to stay afloat.  Analyst firm Forrester divides the industry into those in adaptive or growth mode and those in survival mode.

Those retailers that have devoted attention to building out their ecommerce infrastructure and offering consistent CX across all customer touchpoints as a core business practice quickly separated themselves from the pack, with names like Best Buy, Target, Lowe’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods enjoying triple-digit year-over-year growth due in no small part to their adaptability.

Ramp Up Your Return Process

As shoppers make purchases online this season that they would previously have bought in person, retailers should expect a higher volume of returns. Without the benefit of try-ons or a hands-on examination of the product, not every purchase is going to be a hit, which means more returns and the need for a robust and flexible  return process(extended return windows, home try-ons, etc.) return process.

Making a return is tedious at the best of times, but it’s especially fraught these days. To combat this, your return process needs to be as seamless as possible for the customer.

They should be able to initiate the return from their device of choice, track the package via web or SMS and be notified when the return is both received and processed.

Offer Pickup Flexibility

Even before the pandemic, Buy Online, Pickup In-Store (BOPIS) and Buy Online, Ship To Store (BOSS) were rapidly growing order fulfillment options, with 90% of retailers looking to implement BOPIS in 2021.

COVID-19 has only accelerated consumers’ preference for an order delivery method that meshes the hands-off nature of eCommerce and the speed and convenience of bricks and mortar buying, with an estimated 4X increase in shoppers using BOPIS in recent months compared to pre-pandemic numbers. And it looks like this is one pandemic-driven behavior that’s likely to stick–almost 60% of US consumers say they’ll continue with BOPIS post-pandemic and nearly 70% report that curbside pickup is going to be part of their new normal.

With shoppers looking to reduce their exposure to crowded stores while also retaining the flexibility of picking up purchases on their own schedule, smart retailers are embracing and aggressively marketing  this hybrid option for the 2020 holiday season.

Invest in Live Chat

We’re seeing shoppers be much more deliberate about their purchases this holiday season than in seasons past. Shoppers are doing significantly more pre-purchase research than usual, whether they ultimately buy online or make a purposeful trip to a physical store.

They want their questions to be answered upfront and they’re less willing to take a chance on an online impulse buy (no matter how big a bargain) than they were pre-pandemic.

Beyond being a revenue generator and competitive differentiator, live chat is a key piece in successfully scaling to satisfy this new focus on pre-purchase digital discovery.

Channels such as on-site AI-driven webchat allow customers to engage with you before they buy and satisfy their product questions fully. Whether it’s inquiries about your return policy, product availability, or order tracking, an eCommerce-trained chatbot can handle up to 70% of routine customer inquiries.

Make Order Inquiries Easy

Holiday purchases are highly time-sensitive, so expect your shoppers to have greater anxiety about their order status than usual, especially the cohort of shoppers who are newer to the world of eCommerce.

During the pandemic, extended shipping times have become the new normal, as retailers struggle to keep up with increased demand and respond to supply chain disruptions and delays from the shippers themselves.

While your customers may have resigned themselves to waiting a little longer for their orders, they’re not willing to tolerate a lack of information about those orders. This holiday season, real-time, automated cross-device order look-up capabilities should be foundational elements of your holiday planning strategy.

Concentrate on Cross-Selling and Up-selling

The research is clear–living through a pandemic taxes everyone’s brains. One of the key questions retailers need to ask themselves is, “How do we make things easier for our customers?” A valuable way to do that is to take the work out of digital product discovery for them.

By using your automated customer care platform to leverage data about their purchase history and the common purchases of customers of a similar profile, you can expose customers to personalized product recommendations that take some of the strain out of their gift shopping.

For example, you can provide them with the opportunity to add an additional gift card to their order at a discount or snag the same backpack in a different color for their other nephew. Timely, relevant recommendations and upsells not only drive revenue, but they make the process of checking names off a holiday gift list less stressful for your customers.

If you are interested in learning more about CX Automation and specifically, how you can quickly implement an easy to use conversational AI experience as part of your CX strategy, tailored to your brand, schedule a call today.

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