Retail Holiday Guide 2020: How Data Can Help Retailers Prepare
Editor’s Note: This post is the third installment of our 2020 Retail Holiday Guide. See part one, and part two.
There are plenty of holiday shopping trends that seem almost quaint in a post-pandemic landscape. Lining up for hours to sit on a stranger’s lap, while he “Ho, ho, ho’s” right in your face? With no masks, face shields, or sanitizer? Santa is going to have to get with the times.
Faced with this strange new reality, it might seem like all the old rules no longer apply. But one thing retailers can count on is the continuing value of personalized and relevant customer service. Providing an exceptional customer experience has become even more crucial in a time of increased physical isolation and greater reliance on ecommerce and digital connection.
One way retailers can prepare for this unprecedented situation is to take advantage of online and offline customer data to present instantly actionable insights. With access to information on intent, purchase and browsing history, available inventory, and more, it’s possible to provide next-level CX at every point along the customer journey—whether online or offline—to make up for the lack of in-person interaction during this year’s winter shopping season.
The Power of the Omnichannel Customer Experience
Brands need to be proactive about meeting customers where they are. For many, that means turning to online purchases because they don’t feel safe about shopping inside. Some might even be engaging in online holiday shopping for the first time, and they’ll expect the same level of service they receive in-store.
This situation only underscores the value of the omnichannel continuity that a CDP makes possible. A retailer’s ability to access and leverage a 360-degree view of customer data from both online and offline channels and marry that with real-time inventory data helps create a seamless customer experience no matter how consumers choose to shop.
Omnichannel data is especially important since this season many customers will likely be using what might be called “hybrid” shopping options like BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store) and taking advantage of amenities like curbside pickup. For example, stores can track customers who opt for BOPIS through their mobile app. The app can trigger the workflow system when customers pull up for pickup, which sends an alert to an associate to have the item ready to load in their car. Besides supporting greater convenience, such omnichannel systems reduce wait time and allow retailers to serve more customers more quickly.
Less in-store shopping and potential lockdowns over the winter may result in call centers becoming the main point of customer contact, making it vital to tie them into omnichannel data—especially when representatives might be working from their homes. With data pooled into a CDP, representatives can instantly access customers’ online and offline purchase histories, past interactions with customer service, and more. The visibility into purchases and inventory that CDPs support also enables representatives to solve problems in real time, reducing service backups and wait times while enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Using Data to Influence Customer Behavior
Of course, many shoppers will still choose the in-store experience. For these folks, brief moments of interaction between staff and customers can be very powerful opportunities to promote sales or cement customer loyalty. Consider that 11 percent of shoppers in a survey went to a store specifically to speak to a sales associate; people crave human interaction, and personalization can make these interactions more meaningful.
Integrating a CDP with store workflow systems enables staff to leverage these moments across channels. For example, when phone representatives or associates at that curbside pickup point have access to customer information, the CDP can provide guidance on the next best action. That might involve reminding the customer about an item that’s still in their shopping cart or letting them know about a special deal on a product they browsed online in the past.
Mobile apps provide another avenue for personalized outreach. When customers opt in, the app can track their path and product interactions throughout a store and combine it with POS data to add to their profiles. In addition, location tracking can trigger reminders and promotions on items in the physical store that the customer has looked at online.
However, it’s important for retailers to be sensitive to privacy concerns, as well as to avoid tone-deaf messaging. For example, promoting in-store deals in an area where coronavirus infections and lockdowns are on the rise might inadvertently communicate a disregard for customers’ health and safety.
The Value of Post-Purchase Nurturing
With a combination of online and offline data, retailers can solicit feedback on reviews, recommend related items, or offer supplemental product information via email and mobile apps. Such initiatives have the added benefit of generating even more customer data that can drive additional personalized recommendations and services.
Because many customers will be unable or unwilling to visit physical stores for support, retailers need to supply virtual services to replace these experiences. In addition to training and preparing representatives across channels accordingly, information like product specs, directions for set-up and installation, and troubleshooting advice should be easily accessible within the CDP for instant deployment, whether delivered directly via the representative or in a manual or video. Retailers can also collect data on which products result in the most calls for support, which can help them optimize their efforts.
Returns are an inevitable reality of holiday shopping as well, but the data capabilities of a CDP can help make the process more efficient. CDPs can support innovative solutions that enhance convenience and reduce physical interaction, such as curbside return of products no matter how or where they were purchased. The return process should be as seamless as the purchase experience, with customers able to arrange returns via email, website, mobile app, or the call center.
In addition to making returns painless and frictionless, a CDP can also help stores support public health and safety by tracking returned items that must be quarantined before being released back into inventory.
Data as a Retailer Aid Over the Holidays—and Beyond
This might be a surprisingly active retail season, given that consumers will be redirecting funds they would have spent on experiences and travel and focusing on physical gifts. To capitalize on this trend, retailers must be ready to provide customers with not just products and services, but also exceptional customer service and support.
Retailers with access to data-driven insights and the foresight to design workflows and systems will be able to quickly pivot to this new holiday shopping landscape. A CDP collects and organizes customer data from disparate sources to provide a complete view of each customer, from past purchases to behavior to probable intent.
Regardless of how the pandemic plays out in the coming months, customers will continue to expect high levels of service and innovative, convenient shopping experiences. That makes a CDP a solid investment for every retailer’s future.
Learn more about preparing your retail business for the holiday season and beyond: request a demo today.