With Black Friday and Cyber Monday just around the corner and Christmas only a few weeks behind, plans to maximise sales during the Golden Quarter are no doubt a top priority for retailers. More important than ever, given the latest ONS figures for September, they will be hoping to capitalise on the peak buying season that will hopefully not only boost sales but deliver the much needed bounce back that the sector requires .
Looking back to this time last year, it was obviously a year like no other, with restrictions limiting and then squeezing footfall and sales into a short window before Christmas itself. The heightened move to online shopping was a logical and practical move for retailers and consumers alike so, despite many of the challenges faced at the time, it’s no surprise that online sales for Black Friday 2020 alone were up by over a third.
The shift to online spending is clearly here to stay and while consumer behaviour has naturally had to evolve over the course of 2021, it’s imperative that retailers also continue to evolve their omni channel offering in order to meet changing customer expectations.
This is borne out again by the latest ONS figures which indicate that in-store retail sales remain subdued and the proportion of retail sales online rose to 28.1% in September, from 27.9% in August, substantially higher than the 19.7 % recorded in February 2020.
The post-pandemic consumer is better informed, more savvy, more likely to search and make their purchases online or only visit a store in person to finalise the transaction. So as we prepare to make the most of the 2021 Golden Quarter, we need to work harder than ever to be mindful of any issues that might:
- Deliver a poor experience
- Trigger a reason for mistrust
- Put your brand in a poor light
This might be slow or non-delivery of a product as a result of current challenges in the supply chain. It could be frustration that Black Friday deals are not for premium or ‘in season’ products. It may because the ‘best ever price’ offered one day is undercut two weeks later.
Nobody likes to feel misled but if we damage the emotional connection between our customers and our brand, if consumers feel cheated, winning back their trust will be a huge challenge.
Now more than ever, we need to think about the long term and not just rapid acquisition, even if that impacts one off purchases or dents end of year sales targets.
So, while it may be tempting to jump on the discount bandwagon, we’d recommend focusing on value, straightforward and consistent pricing, quality and giving customers what they want. All of which contributes to customer loyalty and retention.
You’re best able to achieve this by understanding, measuring and monitoring customer experience so that you know what is working now and what is most likely to work in the long term.
Carefully evaluate your customer experience programme so that you can be sure that it is providing the insight you need to prioritise areas for improvement that will increase your return on investment and help you to measure and improve core KPIs.
It’s also worth investing in solutions that could help to you streamline and enhance the online customer service overall. Consider the following:
- A virtual assistant with Artificial Intelligence to efficiently deal with customer queries and capture information on customer intent.
- Intuitive Artificial Intelligence to guide agents, removing the need for further support, improving consistency, and helping to provide a positive experience for customers.
- An app with triggered feedback channels to derive continuous insight.
- A revitalised customer experience programme which is digital-first and omnichannel integrated.
These solutions are easily implemented into online journeys and not only do they offer an improved customer experience, but can also provide relief and support for agents, leaving them better placed to deal with complex enquiries which require empathy and carry increased risk of error.
Harnessing the instant data on customer behaviour provided by these solutions can provide companies operating in all sectors with much needed insight and understanding of their customers in the run up to Christmas and beyond.