The end of 2020 brought an atypical shopping experience for many consumers facing lockdown restrictions. Whether brands were prepared, unprepared or fell somewhere in between in order to meet the rapid shift in consumer behavior due to the pandemic, they all had lessons to learn and room for improvement when it came to meeting and exceeding customers’ needs.
Lesson Learned No. 1: Foot Traffic is Down, E-Commerce is Up
According to recent Mastercard SpendingPulse data, U.S. e-commerce sales grew 47.2 percent year-over-year between Nov. 1, 2020 and Dec. 27, 2020. Additionally, in the week before Dec. 24, 2020, foot traffic was down 31.3 percent compared to the year prior. Today’s consumers are spending more time on the web than ever before and are going to expect service and support that reflects this shopping experience.
Lesson Applied: If you aren’t digital in 2021, you won’t keep up.
Get started by ensuring the online shopping experience is seamless and customer support options offer rapid response and fast resolution with low customer effort. Leveraging conversational bots is an ideal first step to digitizing the customer experience, as they can handle high volumes while managing frequently asked customer inquiries. However, ensure that customers always have easy access to live support if needed.
Lesson Learned No. 2: Consumers Expect a Future of No-Touch Strategies
Retailers are offering new ways for customers to obtain their items with options like curbside pickup, enhanced delivery efforts, and click-and-collect activities. For instance, retailers offered these click-and-collect activities to provide faster online order fulfillment during the holidays. According to a survey by TSG and ETA, 33 percent of shoppers say they frequently use click-and-collect, and a survey by Podium found that the majority of consumers avoided local businesses that didn’t offer contactless services.
Lesson Applied: In order to keep customers, businesses need to be able to quickly adapt their strategies in ways that may be out of their traditional working model.
For instance, cloud customer experience platforms have proven to be a scalable and easy-to-implement tool for allowing brands to pivot to working from anywhere, allowing for in-store operations to have access to the same platforms and information as head office.
Lesson Learned No. 3: People Are Still Spending
During last year's Cyber Monday, consumers spent $10.8 billion, which made it the largest e-commerce day in the history of the United States. This indicates that customers are still shopping, in some cases more than ever, and businesses are reminded that they will need to do big things to stand out among the multiple options consumers have.
Lesson Applied: The success of your business is closely tied to user experience, and an uninterrupted shopping experience is crucial during times of great volume.
Implement quality assurance and testing programs to simultaneously enhance quality while reducing risk. Furthermore, incorporate workforce management solutions to find the perfect balance of support needed during various business cycles to continuously optimize support supply and demand.
Lesson Learned No. 4: New Challenges Continue to Arise
It's expected by the National Retail Federation that about 13 percent of merchandise sold during 2020’s holiday season will be returned. Specifically, I predict that as more shopping is done online, the more online returns will be a larger part of the customer journey.
Lesson Applied: Investing in top-of-the-line, digitally enabled customer service is a surefire way to support customer inquiries, and the ease of a return is critical for building customer loyalty.
Given this, it's important that your customer experience strategy includes an easy way for customers to complete returns and offers them access to the necessary return slips and shipping labels — whether through online portal, chatbot, or email — to seamlessly support customers through the process.
Lesson Learned No. 5: Continuous Investment and Improvement is the Norm
Customized offers and the understanding of their personal needs and expectations will be of utmost importance for consumers in 2021. These are items in the customer journey that can no longer be considered negotiable and should be integrated, especially when the customer is contacting your business with a question or concern.
Lesson Applied: Find a trusted partner with ever-expanding knowledge and experience across industries with their finger on the pulse of the latest trends and best practices in customer experience.
The right partnership will inspire innovation in the customer journey, ensuring that it will be a memorable and impressionable one for all customers.
Based on the experience and learnings we can gather from 2020, it's apparent that businesses will need to take e-commerce seriously, get creative with their no-touch shopping experience, digitize all aspects of the customer journey, and prepare for a future of constantly evolving customer expectations.
Chuck Koskovich is the chief operating officer at TELUS International, a customer experience innovator that designs, builds and delivers next-gen digital solutions for global and disruptive brands.
Chuck Koskovich, is the Chief Operating Officer at TELUS International, a customer experience innovator that designs, builds and delivers next-gen digital solutions for global and disruptive brands.