Lights, Sales, Action: Spotlight on Retail Customer Experiences this Holiday
With the summer quickly winding down, it’s time to begin holiday shopping in a few weeks. Retailers are busy preparing for the important days ahead.
Despite the economic uncertainty, inflation, and changing priorities, customers are still coming through well. However, it is still hard to predict what lies ahead.
Nonetheless, it’s the most wonderful season of the year, especially for retail. In fact, retailers are supercharged for yet another competitive and happy season for holiday shopping. While 2022 holiday season was all about profitability due to the economic downturn, 2023 customer experience in retail is predicted to be all about keeping your loyal customers delighted, according to Salesforce.
Besides stocking up on supplies for the holiday season, retailers should focus on how customers feel while interacting with the business. It directly affects and influences buying behavior. According to a Salesforce study, 90% of buyers consider customer experience in retail to be as important as a company’s goods and services.
Ahead of this holiday shopping season in 2023, retailers are investing in personalization to deliver engaging and relevant experiences tailored to unique preferences and needs. There’s evidence to support this theory in a recently released survey result by Bolt, which indicates that 66% of ecommerce companies prioritize collecting first-party data of customers to prepare for the pre-holiday season marketing efforts.
This is because today’s shoppers prefer brands delivering tailored online experience. Data indicates that 75% of buyers are willing to spend more on personalized shopping experiences.
What is Customer Experience in Retail?
Customer experience ideas in retail are all about how customers are interacting and engaging with a brand and how they feel about the brand experience. Together, this influences their buying decision.
There are multiple touch points of retail experience throughout the shopper’s buying journey, starting from brand discovery to delivery. Retail outsourcing companies are focusing on customer experience more than ever before in a quest to deliver exceptional services.
Good vs. Great Customer Experience in Retail
Generally, “great” customer experience in retail is an ideal situation when a customer experiences a positive interaction during the buying journey. It not only gives a euphoric feeling but also instills confidence to purchase from the same brand time and again.
Here, the first ever interaction that converts into a purchase becomes the precursor. It influences customer experience and loyalty. However, there are other factors influencing customer journeys.
For instance, a SurveryMonkey report reveals that GenZ customers look for three things in a brand:
- Brand authenticity
Regardless of your target audience, their location, age, and related factors, bombarding them with ads is not a great idea. Rather, you should focus on a multichannel retail strategy through a preferred channel to reach out to your target.
Importance of Customer Experience in Retail during Holiday Season
However, it is imperative to understand the difference between year-round and holiday time customer service and the challenges:
- Tremendous pressure for gift delivery on time and specific date
- Holiday sales online are predicted to reach USD1.19 trillion globally
- The volume of customer inquiries to increase by up to 120%
- CX software to process the high volume of customer service data
In addition, many retail BPOs have a resource crunch due to a macroeconomic environment. All these factors combined is a recipe for a volley of challenges in the busiest time of the year. As a result, customer service teams should prepare well in advance to weather any situation successfully.
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a customer support call?
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Looking Back At Retail Customer Experience Trends
|1. Digital Transformation
|2. Contactless Experience
|3. Omnichannel Integration
|6. Social Media Engagement
|7. Remote Work for Support
|8. Voice and Visual Support
What Do Customers Expect from CX During the Holiday Season?
Customer expectations are at their peak during the holiday season. For customer support outsourcing companies, it is prudent to create backup strategies to handle the storm. To begin with, customers expect:
1. Prompt Service
Time is ticking. Retailers are reaching the point when there’s “too much to do, but too little time.” For customers, juggling between their mundane life, traveling and gifting, holiday celebrations, and work, they don’t want to spare the time for customer service. They expect prompt and immediate service, when required.
A Kustomer research shows that 77% of buyers expect immediate resolution upon contact with customer service. In addition, customers also expect you to respect the time they spend calling, typically during the holiday rush. If you fail to respond in a timely manner, they will choose another retailer.
Moreover, the same research shows that 70% of customers would stop shopping from the same retailer again if they quit a chat before a resolution, whereas 71% would quit if the waiting time was too long. That highlights the importance of customer experience in retail in the holiday season.
2. Omnichannel Presence
Thanksgiving and Christmas are the busiest time of the year and the peak season for shopping. Consumers are busy travelling with family, taking a vacation, or even multitasking during their workday. In all probabilities, customers are more likely to engage on convenient platforms for customer service – chat, messages, even email.
64% of customers enjoy interacting with customer service agents through the same channel as they communicate with family or friends. In fact, if they cannot contact customer support companies through the same preferred channel, it increases frustration.
Instead of offering fragmented customer experience, omnichannel availability can resolve these bottlenecks and deliver seamless customer experience in retail.
3. Knowledgeable Customer Support Agents
Prompt service is only effective when your agents give the right answer. However, this becomes extremely difficult during the peak season and when your agents are not trained or knowledgeable enough to handle difficult questions. This could be a major reason for customers abandoning their purchase process.
Arm your agents with appropriate knowledge, training, information, and tools. This will ensure that they can deliver exceptional customer service every time during the peak season.
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CX strategy this season
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How to Improve Customer Experience in Retail: The Right CX Strategy
Creating an exceptional customer experience (CX) is at the heart of retail success. In a rapidly evolving landscape, where consumer preferences and behaviors are changing, it’s crucial for retailers to adapt and refine their CX strategies. Here are some data-backed insights on how to enhance customer experience in the retail industry:
Embrace Omnichannel Excellence
Today, customers expect a seamless experience across various channels. To improve customer experience in retail, deliver an omnichannel experience.
- 87% of customers expected a seamless transition between different channels while interacting with a brand. (Zendesk)
- The number of retailers offering buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) increased by 43% compared to the previous year. (IBM)
This integration of online and offline experiences not only caters to customer preferences but also enhances convenience, leading to improved customer satisfaction.
Personalization has proven itself to be a powerful tool for engaging customers.
- 72% of consumers only engage with personalized messaging. (Smartinsights)
- The trend continued and businesses that adopted advanced personalization saw an average 10% to 15% increase in revenue. (McKinsey)
By leveraging customer data and deploying personalized recommendations and promotions, retailers can forge stronger connections with customers and drive loyalty to improve customer experience in retail.
Harness the Power of Reviews
Online reviews have a profound impact on consumer decisions. Reviews also contribute to innovative customer experience ideas for retail.
- 93% of consumers reported that online reviews influenced their purchasing decisions in 2021. (NLM)
- Building upon this trend, retailers with higher review ratings experienced a 42% increase in conversion rates. (BazaarVoice)
Encouraging customer feedback, responding to reviews, and consistently delivering exceptional experiences can lead to increased credibility and trust, ultimately driving more conversions.
Elevate Mobile Experience
The mobile revolution in retail has been ongoing for years. In fact, mobile connects retail and customer experience synergistically to deliver optimum service.
- Back in 2021, mobiles accounted for 72.9% of all e-commerce sales. (Statista)
- This momentum continued into 2022 as mobile commerce sales grew by 32.4%, surpassing desktop sales. (JPMorgan)
Retailers that optimize their websites and apps for mobile platforms and provide a seamless shopping experience are better poised to capture the attention of on-the-go consumers. Mobile-friendly interfaces, easy navigation, and swift checkout processes are essential to retaining mobile-savvy shoppers.
Invest in AI and Chatbots
Customer service has evolved with the integration of artificial intelligence and chatbots.
- 64% of consumers felt that 24-hour service through chatbots improved their CX in 2021. (Drift)
- This trend continued its upward trajectory into 2022. 77% of brands reported saving time with the use of AI-powered chatbots. (Salesforce)
These intelligent systems offer immediate assistance, answer routine queries, and ensure customer inquiries are addressed promptly, enhancing satisfaction and loyalty.
Sustainability has become a core consideration for consumers across all industries. During this holiday season, this will be a key factor for improving customer experience in retail.
- As of 2021, 73% of consumers considered sustainability when making a purchase. (IBM)
- This emphasis on sustainability gained further momentum in 2022. Brands with strong sustainability credentials experienced a 10.4% growth in sales. (Unilever)
Retailers that incorporate sustainable materials, reduce waste, and communicate their commitment to ethical practices can resonate with socially-conscious consumers.
Seamless Checkout Experience
Streamlining the checkout process is a crucial element of enhancing customer experience in retail.
- In 2021, 70% was the global average cart abandonment rate. (Statista)
- Addressing this concern, retailers in 2022 introduced guest checkout options, retailers offering guest checkout options saw a 30% increase in conversions. (Baymard)
Simplifying the checkout process, offering multiple payment options, and minimizing friction are essential strategies for reducing cart abandonment and boosting sales.
Real-Time Support Through Social Media
Social media has transformed into a key platform for customer service interactions. It is also the major platform for customer experience in retail.
- 54% of customers preferred social media for customer service inquiries in 2021. (Microsoft)
- This preference was met with proactive response in 2022. Brands providing real-time support on social media experienced a 20% increase in customer satisfaction. (Sprout Social)
Leveraging the immediacy of social platforms, brands can connect with customers, address concerns promptly, and foster positive relationships, ultimately leading to enhanced loyalty and advocacy.
Incorporating these data-driven insights into your retail CX strategy can lead to more satisfied customers, higher conversion rates, and increased brand loyalty. Remember, customer experience in retail isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution; it’s an ongoing process that requires adaptation and innovation.
Retail Customer Experience Trends 2023
Customer experience in retail remains a top priority for businesses aiming to stand out in the competitive market. As we step into 2023, several key trends are shaping the way retailers approach CX. Let’s explore the innovative strategies that can elevate your retail customer experience this year:
Hyper-Personalization Beyond Expectations
- Retailers are harnessing the power of AI and data analytics to offer personalized customer experiences that go beyond product recommendations.
- Real-time contextual understanding of customer behavior allows for tailored offerings, pricing, and promotions.
- Outcome: Deeper customer engagement, increased loyalty, and improved cross-selling opportunities.
Seamless Integration of Physical and Digital
- The lines between online and offline shopping continue to blur with the integration of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) experiences.
- In-store smart mirrors, virtual try-on, and interactive displays create immersive shopping journeys.
- Outcome: Enhanced in-store engagement, reduced decision fatigue, and increased foot traffic.
AI-Driven Visual Search and Discovery
- Visual search technology powered by AI enables customers to find products based on images they upload or capture.
- Users can simply snap a picture of an item and find similar products from your inventory.
- Outcome: Faster product discovery, improved user experience, and increased conversions.
Voice Commerce on the Rise
- Voice assistants are becoming integral to the shopping process, allowing customers to search, compare, and purchase products using voice commands.
- Brands are optimizing their online stores for voice search and enabling voice-assisted shopping.
- Outcome: Enhanced convenience, increased accessibility, and broader customer reach.
Sustainability as a Core Value
- Consumers are aligning themselves with brands that prioritize sustainability and environmental responsibility.
- Retailers are adopting eco-friendly practices, using sustainable materials, and showcasing their commitment to social causes.
- Outcome: Improved brand reputation, higher customer loyalty, and attracting conscious consumers.
Frictionless Checkout Experiences
- Contactless payment methods like digital wallets and biometric authentication are becoming the norm.
- Retailers are streamlining checkout processes to minimize waiting times and enhance overall efficiency.
- Outcome: Reduced cart abandonment, improved customer satisfaction, and faster transactions.
Social Commerce Takes Center Stage
- Social media platforms are evolving into shopping destinations, allowing customers to make purchases without leaving the app.
- Live shopping events, shoppable posts, and influencer collaborations are driving sales directly from social platforms.
- Outcome: Increased sales opportunities, improved engagement, and wider brand visibility.
Real-Time Support Across Channels
- Customer service is expanding beyond traditional channels, with instant support available on social media, messaging apps, and chatbots.
- Businesses are utilizing AI-powered chatbots for quick issue resolution and information dissemination.
- Outcome: Higher customer satisfaction, improved issue resolution, and enhanced brand trust.
By embracing these emerging trends, retailers can craft exceptional customer experiences that resonate with today’s tech-savvy and socially-conscious consumers. As you navigate the dynamic retail landscape of 2023, remember that staying agile and responsive to customer needs will be key to your success.
What is your customer service goals this holiday season –
omnichannel support, AI-driven solutions, reduced cart abandonment?
Proven Tips to Enhance Customer Experience in Retail
1. Prepare For the Holiday Traffic
According to reports, 49% of retailers experienced a spike in digital inquiries during this season. To prepare for a huge volume of traffic, ensure that your website is ready. Review all the services and validate to scale automatically beyond the normal operational levels. This will prevent disruptions when the traffic spikes during holidays.
In addition, make sure you review and monitor consistently so that every step is aligned. This ensures that you can detect potential problems much earlier to prevent an escalation.
2. Prepare your Response Team
Your holiday readiness is as good as your response team’s preparations. Conduct a thorough review of incident management with the support team and engineers who deal with customers directly during the peak hours.
Following this step, you will be able to get your hands on knowledge or tooling faps that could be impeding effective and quick resolution of an actual case. Additionally, align your team on the importance of this holiday season for customers and how to treat them right without any delay.
3. Let AI and Chatbots Handle some Workload
AI is capable of handling simple tasks such as routing conversations to appropriate agents. Do consider ways to leverage the AI-powered chatbots when the inflow of traffic is at its peak.
Chatbots are the best tools to collect all the initial information and provide prompt response to basic questions. They can also perform standard tasks such as answering order status related questions or modifying a booking or reservation.
While the fear of loss of personalization always looms when using automation and AI, choosing the right platform can help you reap rewards.
For example, if you have all the customer data, chatbots can be programmed to ask for personalized information based on the user’s purchase and/or browsing history. These can not only save time for agents and customers, but also increase the total time spent on an issue instead of gathering information.
4. Offer Self-Service Options
Phone calls are not the only option for customer support these days. 40% of customers prefer self-service than human contact. This increases during the upcoming holiday season because customers want prompt answers to their questions.
Update and expand your self-service tools to prepare your contact center for the upcoming holidays. It can not only help customers with quick resolutions but also free up your agents so that they can focus on complex customer issues.
To deliver excellent customer experience in retail this season, you can leverage tools like:
- Auto-reply email
- Order status
- Product information
- Downloadable content
- Proactive communication
5. Impart Omnichannel Support
Omnichannel support is the need of the hour. It brings a paradigm shift in perspectives from simple ticket resolution to long-last customer relationship. The former, as you know, is invaluable throughout the year. But, especially during this season of the year, when retailers are looking for new customer cohorts, this is an unbeatable strategy.
Typically, offering support across all prominent channels is the idea behind impeccable CX. The top three channels include:
- Live chat
- Social messaging
Customers expect to communicate with the brand through a preferred channel. Hence, the omnichannel approach is the best.
Most importantly, omnichannel presence prevents agent collision are the channels are carefully integrated. Moreover, it allows agents to view every conversation and maintain proper context despite customers engaging through different channels. When executed proficiently, this approach leads to a consistent retail customer experience at every touchpoint.
6. Eliminate Disruptions
While it is important to prepare for problems, it is equally critical to eliminate risks of disruption. Minimize any infrastructural changes and code freezes during this time.
Apart from critical changes, do not release feature updates to ensure high availability and stability during the peak traffic hours.
7. Empower CX Agents
Your CX agents are the key driving factors to ensure exemplary customer support is delivered at every stage. Cover them, train them well, and equip them with the right technology so that they can deliver the best.
Understandably, companies forecast a considerable spike in the volume of customer inquiry during the holidays. For agents to be prompt and active, it is imperative that they are rested. Avoid stretching them across multiple interactions in different directions. Test the business continuity plan for assured coverage during this season without stretching agents.
It is the busiest time of the year. We are all excited and ready to go with the flow. Your business should be prepared to make sure every customer coming with a problem finds a solution and leaves with a SMILE!
Don’t rush. Give your team some preparatory time. Train them to develop empathy skills, help them understand where to draw the line (for unreasonable customers), and you are good to go.
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How to handle customer service challenges in retail during this holiday season?
Here’s what you can do:
- Step into your customer’s shoes
- Train your CX squad
- Hire temporary staff
- Practice empathy
- Offer quick resolution
- Prioritize urgent requests
- Handle unreasonable customers
- Update the self-service portal
What is the definition of good customer experience in retail?
Good customer experience is all about meeting the needs of your customers timely, efficiently, and empathetically.
What is the future of retail CX?
The future of retail customer experience includes leveraging the right data and creating meaningful connections with your customers. Using the right tools, you can provide an enhanced experience to ensure customer return for more.
Offering outstanding holiday time customer service is critical as companies prepare for their peak time.
Today, simply launching a website is not good enough. You must craft an equally compelling, engaging, delightful and user-friendly digital transformation customer experience strategy.
Creating and maintaining exceptional customer experience principles is paramount for organizational success in the long run. In addition, it is important to ensure that the principles of customer experience continue to grow over time.