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Black Friday Lesson #2: customer service is key

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Last week we saw, in the immediate aftermath of Black Friday, how the first real lesson that retailers need to learn from this year’s peak was that consumers are really mobile. This week, as more analysis takes place, our second learning is that customer service is key.

After a relatively sober Black Friday – especially for real world stores – many retailers are looking at how their customer service strategies need to be adapted to make consumers feel happy, engaged and ready to spend money for the remainder of the Christmas period (and beyond!). And once again, mobile is central to this.

Firstly, a new report by PCMS, a global provider of unified commerce solutions, reveals that consumers still value human interaction and ‘traditional’ customer service when they go into stores, but that they want it augmented by technologies such as tablet-wielding shop assistants, much better, more efficient check out processes and the ability to get online and order stuff via their – or the shop assistant’s wielded tablet – goods that aren’t in stock there and then.

Secondly, for those shoppers that are heading online to do their shopping, new research by payments provider Klarna finds that being mobile centric, offering alternative payment options such as the ability to pay later and enabling one-click repeat purchase are all key to winning over online Christmas shoppers.

Taken together, these two separate studies show us that, while the way people shop has changed and will continue to evolve around the technology available, shoppers still want to be taken care of.

Leveraging personalisation through mobile and the web is a strong part of this, but in many ways, what consumers really want is for retailers to work out how technology fits in to the traditional way of doing things.

It might just be that Christmas, with all its tinsel, roaring log fires and seasonal goodwill to all men brings out the ‘traditional’ in people, but Black Friday and the run up to Christmas seems to be telling us that what people want is Brazil rather than Blade Runner: a future world that incorporates new tech into the old ways of doing things, rather than the technology totally changing how things are done.

This is an interesting turn of events. At the start of 2017 I would have said that with tech savvy shoppers keenly embracing tech such as AR and VR on mobile, and with mobile commerce becoming ever more prevalent in stores, we would be looking at a 2018 that would be dripping in technology. Instead, I find that this Christmas we will be using our face recognition to pay for things in shops where we have to queue to check out.

But I digress. While technology is marching along and having a huge impact on retail, it isn’t really changing retail. If anything, the clamour for better customer service and personalisation is taking retail back from the Supermarket age and putting it firmly back in in the era of having a local shopkeeper who knew just what you wanted. The Ghost of Retail Past, if you will indulge my Dickensian Christmas spirit.

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