Over the past few years, the way people shop for the holidays has changed — perhaps permanently.
When lockdowns forced physical stores to close almost overnight, a record number of shoppers depended on e-commerce to play the role of Santa. Instead of waiting in long lines at the store, customers discovered that they loved the convenience of contactless store pickups to get their gifts.
During the first three months of 2020, e-commerce penetration in the U.S. vaulted ahead by 10 years, according to research by McKinsey, and 59% of total retail sales in the U.S. in 2021 were digital-influenced, according to Forrester.
Taking note of these shifts in shopping habits, smart retailers shifted their priorities from in-store merchandising to omnichannel sales. Even though many shoppers clearly prefer shopping on their smartphones to hitting the mall, a surprising number of retailers have been slow to react to customers’ changing habits.
Recreating the high-touch experiences that customers expect in stores on digital platforms may be challenging, but it’s worth the effort. If customers can easily interact with stores on their favorite digital channels, the result is happy shoppers and retailers in the black.
And this holiday season, the stakes are high. Businesses globally stand to lose $4.7 trillion in consumer spending due to poor customer experiences — and it takes just one bad experience for half of customers to switch to a competitor..
Fortunately, there are proven strategies that can help reluctant retailers improve their customers’ digital experience for a successful holiday shopping season this year.
Get personal with messaging
With everyone on their smartphones, shoppers now want to connect with companies on the same digital channels that they chat with friends and family. Channels like Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp can offer customer service that’s fast, personalized, convenient and secure. And if you’re not ready to connect on social messaging apps, adding native mobile messaging to your existing mobile application is a great way to create a frictionless customer experience with engaged customers.
More customers are using these channels to interact with brands. The popularity of social messaging apps rose faster than any other channel in 2020, particularly among younger customers. And the number of these new social media shoppers will continue to grow. Zendesk’s research shows that nearly a third of customers messaged a company for the first time in 2020—and 74% say they’ll continue.
With its immediacy in familiar apps, most customer issues can be resolved quickly and easily. Social media channels can offer customers rich, interactive conversations with agents in real time. And customers love it — messaging has the highest CSAT of any support channel.
Agents also love messaging. They’re 50% more likely to prefer messaging to live chat when communicating with customers. With messaging, agents can simultaneously work on multiple tickets — and conversations don’t disappear when the chat window closes.
Streamline operations with AI
For many retailers, the holiday season may mean more complaints from the occasional Grinch. Implementing artificial intelligence can help your CX team work smarter — and maybe even help heal a heart that’s three sizes too small.
Artificial intelligence, or AI, can help retailers streamline operations by organizing conversations by intent and increasing visibility on where to prioritize. AI’s powerful machine learning and natural language processing can be leveraged to identify customer intent and show agents recommendations on what to do next.
Common customer questions like, “Where’s my order?” can be answered almost instantly with a conversational bot. These chatbots work 24/7, allowing agents to focus on more complicated inquiries.
Well-served by self-service
Bots can be a big help during the holidays — and a solid knowledge base can help your customers help themselves.
Knowledge bases provide on-demand support by answering common questions and providing articles on how to use products or services successfully. Agents can also use knowledge bases to quickly find solutions, increasing their efficiency and reducing wait times.
According to Zendesk’s research, about 60% of consumers say quick problem-solving is a mark of great customer service. And when your CX agents get an assist from messaging, AI, and self-service — this holiday season is sure to be a hit.