3 Keys to Upgrading Your CX Strategy for the 2021 Holiday Season
Black Friday 2020 broke records, representing the second biggest e-commerce spending day in U.S. history. With 2021 likely to offer more of the same, competition for wallet-share has never been higher and the margin for customer experience (CX) errors never thinner. Retailers looking to gain an edge should focus on how they can upgrade their CX strategy for the coming holiday season. Here’s where to start:
Get Ahead of Returns
From the customer’s perspective, returns are never fun, even at the best of times. Over the last 18 months, pandemic-induced changes to the brick-and-mortar retail experience, shipping delays and supply chain disruptions have made them even more arduous. Given the growth in e-commerce on top of the usual hit-or-miss nature of holiday purchases, it’s critical for retailers to streamline their return process to provide a frustration-free return experience for shoppers.
Adopting a CX automation solution can kill two birds with one stone. Firstly, collecting and analyzing customer data to predict likely returns based on the order itself (multiple sizes or colors of the same item, for example) allows you to predict and plan for return volume. Secondly, a robust full order lifecycle automation solution also allows you to provide more engagement with an individual customer, including real-time on-demand updates on return shipping and refund processing that they’re able to access on their channel of choice.
Set Order Inquiry Expectations
What smart students and employees learn quickly is that it isn’t failure to meet a deadline that gets you in hot water, it’s the failure to communicate in advance that you can’t meet a deadline that does. Customers are willing, especially in this climate, to tolerate unusually long ship times, waiting for items to come back in stock or a protracted return processing period if they’re fully aware of the situation and they’re able to access up-to-date order information in real time. There’s no such thing as overcommunicating when it comes to order inquiries. Savvy retailers realize this and already offer real-time cross-device order lookup capabilities as a foundational component of the CX strategy they’re using to navigate the “new normal” and beyond.
Support Robust Pre-Purchase Discovery
We fully expect that last year’s emphasis on tangible gifts vs. experiences to continue this holiday season. Deals will roll out, at least from major retailers, well before late November as happened last year, especially given lengthy shipping windows. Customers will again have limited budgets, a long window in which to comparison shop and, if anything, have become even more particular and stringent about which retailers they do business with.
This means a widening of the chasm between retailers that adapted to changes in customer behavior brought about the pandemic and those that didn’t (and paid the price for it). A smart play for this holiday season is to focus on risk mitigation as a key component of your brand’s pre-purchase CX. How do you increase customer confidence in their purchase while providing a seamless, low-stress e-commerce experience? This could take multiple forms, but artificial intelligence-powered webchat is poised to be a key strategic tool, allowing shoppers to engage with your brand before they buy, get product questions answered, understand promos, and get support in applying any relevant discount codes to their individual order.
For some retailers, the 2020 holiday season represented unprecedented boom times, while for others it spotlighted shortcomings in their existing CX strategy that needed to be addressed. This year, retailers of all stripes have a golden opportunity to put their learnings from last year into practice and to upgrade their CX strategy to meet what promises to be another banner season for e-commerce.
Durk Stelter is the chief revenue officer of Linc, the award-winning customer experience automation platform working with brands such as Levi’s, Vineyard Vines, and GoPro.