A Holiday Season Like No Other: Here’s What Retailers Can Expect From Shoppers
Superior customer experience (CX) has long been understood by marketing teams as a driver of new revenue and business growth. However, brands must now re-evaluate strategies for meeting a shifting set of customer expectations. The ever-changing consumer is reflected in a new study from the U.S. Commerce Department, which found that e-commerce sales in Q2 2020 jumped 44.5 percent year-over-year (YoY), accounting for 16 percent of all U.S. retail sales. The dramatic one-year rise in e-commerce as a percentage of overall retail sales was roughly equivalent to the rise over the previous 10-year span.
With consumer expectations for a digital-first, contactless experience solidifying as we enter the holiday season, retailers must be prepared. A recent survey from Dynata highlights the stakes for retailers: 62 percent of U.S. consumers said they plan to shop exclusively online this year.
Orchestrating a journey that's personalized in the context of a unique customer requires a single customer view and an ability to access the data to tailor messages and offers in real time. A real-time capability is essential for infusing relevance into every engagement, which shows a customer that a brand recognizes their behaviors and preferences across channels. Consider that 70 percent of consumers surveyed said they will only shop with brands that demonstrate they personally understand them this holiday season. Furthermore, 49 percent said they will be more likely to purchase from retailers that send personalized content and/or offers.
By applying real-time decisioning to a single customer view, retailers can intelligently orchestrate an omnichannel journey, delivering personalized experiences that demonstrate a deep understanding of individual consumer preferences.
A Single View Across Digital and Physical Channels
Preparation is more than creating a seamless online experience, however. A digital-first mind-set also includes customers’ increasing use of curbside pickup services and buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS). In the same Dynata survey, 50 percent of respondents said they will take advantage of one or both of these capabilities this holiday season. For a retailer, delivering a positive curbside or BOPIS experience requires synchronizing a lot of moving parts, such as matching and updating online and store inventory, arranging pickup logistics, notifications and other process-related issues. The goal is for the experience to seem second nature to a customer, when in reality it reflects a careful and delicate orchestration on the part of the retailer.
BOPIS illustrates why a seamless CX extends beyond just being available to consumers in every channel. Rather, it’s the orchestration that forms an impactful and meaningful connection with a customer throughout an omnichannel journey.
The BOPIS example also illustrates how a failure to utilize a single customer view and real-time capabilities can introduce friction into a customer experience. If, for example, the customer is directed to a landing page to select a pickup time and is provided options that aren't aligned with store hours, or even before an item is ready, that has the potential to derail the entire customer journey. It’s akin to receiving an irrelevant offer, which according to the survey is the top consumer frustration for the second year in a row, and largely responsible for why 39 percent of consumers say they’re overwhelmed by marketing from retailers during the holidays.
Close the Customer Experience Gap
This holiday season, brands must work on closing the gap between the type of CX customers expect and the actual experience that's delivered. Brands that get it right have an opportunity to end the year on a high note. The National Retail Federation forecasts that retail sales during 2020 will increase between 3.5 percent and 4.1 percent to more than $3.9 trillion — even after unprecedented and unforeseen challenges the year brought.
Consumers have spoken and made it clear that they will spend their holiday dollars with brands that meet their expectations for a personalized, frictionless buying experience across all channels. Brands that are ill-prepared to adapt to changing consumer habits and spending patterns will not only miss out on holiday growth potential, but may suffer long-term consequences in 2021 and beyond.
John Nash is the chief marketing and strategy officer at Redpoint Global, a customer data platform and engagement hub.