Solid Customer Relationships Will Drive Retailer Success This Holiday Season
The 2020 holiday season was riddled with frustrations for consumers and no small number of challenges for retailers as they juggled shipping delays and stock shortages among other operational hurdles. Last year's arduous season pushed retailer-customer relationships to their limits, leaving a mark on consumers, shifting their shopping habits and expectations for the upcoming season. Now more than ever, retailers will make or break the holiday season based on how effectively they adapt to this new purchasing behavior. Here's what sellers need to keep in mind:
Customers Are Expecting the Worst
This year, half of all consumers are trying to complete their holiday shopping by Cyber Monday to avoid frustrating delays, and with good reason. In fact, 42 percent of U.S. shoppers reported that their package was delayed by at least one day last year, which can be critical during a time-sensitive gifting season. Even worse, nearly one in four consumers (23 percent) received the wrong item altogether. Despite how it appears on the surface, these negative expectations aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Retailers readily equipped to remedy these pain points are well positioned to surpass expectations, laying the groundwork for a more positive shopping experience that outperforms their competition, fostering greater customer relationships in the process.
Communications Shouldn’t End at 'Package Delivered'
The customer’s journey doesn’t end when a package arrives. Retailers often neglect the importance of providing a smooth return process, downplaying its potential to bolster customer relationships. Nearly one-third of consumers (32 percent) want regular updates on a return’s whereabouts, while an additional 45 percent want to know when it's been received at the warehouse. Another 50 percent just want to know when they can expect their refund.
Retailers that meet these expectations with pertinent updates provide more transparency for customers during a return and will have an advantage over those that don’t. Nearly half of consumers (45 percent) that were unsatisfied with last year’s returns would now rather inconvenience themselves by driving to a physical store location to directly return an item than go through with a frustrating return shipping process.
Good Communication Can Overshadow a Bad Experience
Even the greatest retailers will be hard pressed to maintain a perfect track record. Negative experiences are bound to happen and can present a daunting challenge, with nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of consumers responding that they wouldn’t place an order with a retailer that they’ve already had a bad delivery experience with. To combat this, retailers can implement an operations experience management platform that allows for personalized communications throughout every step of the delivery process, including returns. Managing delays and issues is critical, and these platforms allow sellers to proactively identify issues and alert shoppers of a delay, and in that same communication, reassure customers they care to repair the relationship. Customers welcome the communication, showing an overwhelming receptivity to shipping confirmation and update emails with a massive 148 percent open rate.
No matter how you look at it, good customer communication is a top priority for retailers heading into the 2021 holiday season. It will be imperative for brands to equip themselves with the right e-commerce tools to automate and trigger these personalized touchpoints throughout the entire customer journey. With customers actively looking for these communications, brands must harness their operational data to create valuable touchpoints that build trust, loyalty and a relationship that extends beyond holiday shopping.
Tobias Buxhoidt is the CEO and founder of parcelLab, a leading operations experience management platform.
Tobias Buxhoidt is the CEO and Founder of parcelLab, where he leads global business strategy and is focused on bringing the parcelLab platform to brands across global markets. In 2015 he co-founded parcelLab to create a platform that would help brands build engaging customer experiences around complex operational processes and data.