Amid headlines of supply chain delays and driver shortages, combined with greater demand than ever before, this peak season could put ecommerce retailers under extreme pressure to deliver an exemplary customer experience. But, with careful planning and the execution of relevant, timely marketing campaigns that take into account stock availability, delivery logistics and address real-time cart abandonment issues, they can indeed deliver just that, says Roy Jugessur, VP EMEA, at Acoustic. With the peak season retail customer experience key to sustaining medium- to long-term customer loyalty and sales, it is now more important than ever that retailers maximise the data available within their marketing portfolio.
Consumers Set to Embrace Black Friday
2021 looks set to be a bumper year for peak season retail. After what was, for many of us, a very disappointing Christmas in 2020 followed by a year of continued lockdown and staycations, British consumers are looking to go large. Research indicates that the majority of consumers are planning to spend the same amount or more this Black Friday and Christmas than they did in 2020 (70% and 78% respectively); more than four-fifths (82%) of shoppers will be the same or more engaged with Black Friday in 2021 than they were last year, and over half (55%) want to make Christmas their biggest celebration yet. Moreover, ecommerce remains key, as over half (54%) of consumers plan to make their Black Friday purchases online, Future PLC research found.
Careful planning will, therefore, be fundamental to the online customer experience (CX) this year. Ecommerce retail is crowded – with online marketplaces, independent retailers, and brand websites all vying for their slice of the online shopping pie. So, how do you cut above that noise? One key way is to ensure that your marketing communication in the run up to the peak season is timely, relevant, and personalised.
This isn’t just about making sure that your email is addressed correctly; it’s about making sure you know who you’re targeting, with which offers or promotions based upon previous purchasing history. It’s about using data to develop intelligent campaigns that help to highlight to the right customers those goods that are going to be of interest to them. And, fundamentally, with the average consumer researching potential Black Friday purchases 4.8 weeks ahead of the event and Christmas purchases 5.7 weeks in advance, you must share your communications well in advance so you can be in the best possible position to have your goods on consumers’ shopping lists.
Reward your Loyal Customers
No retailer wants a repeat, loyal, high-value customer to lose out to a one-time buyer; the potential impact on brand value and revenue is too great. One way of achieving this could be to give your loyal customers access to special offers or rewards. This might include an advance booking time slot with the chance to fill their basket for a quick and easy check out on the day, while ensuring the goods they want don’t run out of stock. Or it might include an extra code at the check out that gives these customers a priority delivery slot. And, for those retailers with a ‘clicks and mortar’ offering, why not invite loyal customers to trial new products or services in advance or offer a VIP preview evening with a chance to order in advance? Customers benefit from feeling valued. This engenders brand loyalty but retailers also get a better handle on demand in order to optimise their delivery logistics – while minimising returns. The best peak season loyalty marketing campaigns will consider all elements of today’s supply chain to ensure the best CX on the day.
Act in Real-Time
It is inevitable that you won’t be able to satisfy everyone. Regardless of how much forethought and planning might go into preparing for the holiday period, unforeseen issues can always arise. Even if you’ve done the hard work to ensuring that your ecommerce website is optimised for a seamless customer journey and tested to make sure it can cope with Black Friday visitor surges.
Did the product a customer put in their basket go out of stock? Was their preferred delivery time slot not available? Did they reject a purchase due to unexpected shipping costs?
By identifying anomalies that cause consumers to abandon their shopping cart, for example, and acting upon those specific points of failure in real-time with relevant communication, there is still the opportunity to convert customers that otherwise might be lost.
With real data that explains why a customer abandoned, the value and currency of their shopping basket and the specific products in it, you can proactively reach out with the right, personalised content. For example, someone might abandon a cart due to a back-end check out processing error. Traditional marketing might remind the customer there were items in their cart, only further driving them away. When you know the why, you can reach out, apologise for the processing error, and even offer a discount on the specific goods to make up for it.
Immediately your customer feels heard and recognised. You’ve successfully taken a bad experience and turned it around into a positive one. The customer is now more likely to complete their purchase, and your brand has exhibited consideration for your customers and their experience.
This peak season is arguably one of the most important moments in the ecommerce retail calendar; with consumers looking likely to spend more than in previous years, there is a huge opportunity to capitalise on changes in purchasing patterns. Consumer expectations have also changed, though. This, combined with well-publicised supply chain challenges, makes this year’s peak season equally high-risk to get right.
By harnessing your valuable data and applying it to the key areas of good planning, rewarding loyalty, and taking real-time action – with personalised communications at the core – ecommerce marketers can help to ensure they successfully navigate the challenges and set their businesses up for both peak season sales and long-term customer loyalty.