3 Last-Minute Tips Using Transparency to Avoid Upsetting Customers This Holiday Season
With the supply chain crisis causing headaches for retailers, brands must not pass their inventory problems onto holiday shoppers. Due to various factors, including the pandemic, countries changing trading status creating port backlogs, and unplanned fluctuations in demand, brands can be affected by supply chain snags and stock-outs. If a retailer doesn’t have a current plan to deal with these issues it can cause customer dissatisfaction.
Alleviate customer dissatisfaction by being transparent about the availability of the products on your site. Indicate how much product is left in stock and set realistic thresholds for products that are running low. If there's only one product left in stock, or it’s running low in a particular region, don’t display this as being in stock online.
It’s a poor experience for a customer to place an order with your brand expecting that to be the end of their potentially long research and consideration journey, only for the product to be out of stock and the consumer left back where they started. It's even worse if your customer has placed an order for click-and-collect, only to discover after travelling to your store that the item they purchased is unavailable. Your customers should have to make as minimal effort as possible to purchase a product from you, and if you’re unable to deliver after they've made a large effort, they’ll be likely to leave unsatisfied and be unafraid to tell others about their negative experience.
If a customer is searching for a product on your website that's out of stock, you should give them more options. Show the consumer that, while the specific product they were looking for isn’t in stock at the moment, there are similar products that might be a suitable alternative. Alternatively, offer to contact them once their item is back in stock.
Incentivize the shopper to compromise on buying your suggested alternative similar item by offering it at a discounted rate. For example, offer a 20 pack of batteries at a cheaper cost per unit than a 10 pack, or free shipping. You should be apologetic that you weren’t able to meet your customer’s expectations so they feel helped, just as they would if they were to visit your store in person.
If a customer is let down, don’t hide from mistakes. It’s your responsibility to resolve the issue by communicating with them via their preferred channel.
Be aware that during the busy holiday season, customers will be inundated with emails from retailers, so some won’t be looking out for a message from your brand informing them of a problem with their order. A potentially more effective way of communicating with customers this holiday season is through SMS or a phone call. Not only does this cut through the noise, but it also enables you to provide a personal touch and clearly explain the customer’s options.
Elliott Jacobs is director, digital marketing and MarTech at LiveArea, a Merkle Company. LiveArea is a full-service global customer experience and commerce agency for B-to-C and B-to-B brands.
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Elliott is the Director of Digital Marketing and MarTech at LiveArea. He is an experienced global commerce and multi-channel retail professional, specializing in helping B2C and B2B companies achieve measurable success by reviewing current strategies and processes, and identifying and capitalizing upon emerging digital opportunities.