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GUEST COMMENT Preparing UK businesses for the Christmas retail rush

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Christmas is fast approaching, and retailers are thus entering a critical period of the year that they can’t miss. With 80% of the UK population making purchases online – as research shows – ecommerce is booming and there will be numerous challenges for retailers and customers to navigate this Winter. To succeed in this highly competitive environment, retailers must be equipped with the tools required to deliver a first-class service that meets the demands of the modern consumer, writes Dean Clark, head of retail, Mitel UK.

The benefits of embracing technology in preparation for the Christmas buzz are clear: retailers that can deliver a seamless and personalised shopping experience will enjoy higher sales, improved brand reputation, and more engaged customers and workers. This means leveraging technology to optimise every aspect of the customer journey, from frictionless transactions and smooth returns to real-time inventory management and omnichannel fulfilment.

Building resilient supply chains and streamlining communication
Consumers have demonstrated that they prioritise stock accessibility over allegiances to a specific brand. This shift emphasises the need for businesses to prioritise flexibility in their supply chain management. Resilience in challenging times is primarily achieved through diversification, anticipation and adaptation. Key factors involve sourcing from multiple suppliers to reduce dependency on a single source, employing predictive analytics to foresee potential disruptions and maintaining strategic buffer stock levels.

Harnessing collaboration technology is another vital tool in adapting to this shift. Retailers can leverage digital technology and platforms to facilitate real-time, transparent communication with both customers and suppliers. This enables data-driven decision-making, such as inventory optimisation and demand forecasting. Proactive communication with customers during busy periods builds trust and loyalty, while close collaboration with suppliers ensures resilience. The key to building effective supply chains in today’s uncertain market is the fusion of strategic planning and technological innovation, ensuring that retailers remain agile and capable of responding to rapidly changing consumer expectations.

Experience-driven interactions
Retailers are increasingly recognising that technology plays a pivotal role in enhancing both customer satisfaction and the overall employee experience. To create meaningful interactions, it’s essential to embrace best practices that utilise technology effectively. One fundamental factor is personalisation. Retailers should harness data analytics to tailor their interactions with customers, offering them products and services that align with their preferences. Whether through direct communication, like personalised emails or product recommendations, or indirect means, such an intuitive website interfaces, personalisation creates a more engaging and satisfying shopping experience.

Furthermore, rapid and responsive communication is critical. 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies that offer excellent customer service highlighting that real-time communication can be a game-changer. Using online chat services and social media for customer support allows retailers to connect with their audience in a convenient and efficient manner. This not only resolves issues swiftly but also builds loyalty by demonstrating a commitment to customer needs. In addition to improving customer interactions, retailers should also prioritise the use of technology to streamline internal communications and operations, thereby enhancing the employee experience and enabling them to better serve customers.

Covering all touchpoints
In today’s fiercely competitive market, the implementation of an omnichannel strategy is paramount for retailers aiming to deliver consistent and exceptional service. However, retailers encounter a range of challenges in establishing a seamless omnichannel experience. One of these is the blurring of lines between physical and digital shopping, with 64% of consumers valuing the in-store experience even when making online purchases from the same retailer. To address this, unified communications (UC) play a key role by enabling customers to stay informed about their orders and any potential delays through their preferred communication channel. Storing this data in customer profiles empowers contact centre agents with up-to-date information to quickly address queries, ensuring higher customer satisfaction.

To take this a step further, retailers should integrate AI into their contact centre solutions. AI is instrumental in capturing and analysing essential data, enabling access to a comprehensive history of customer interactions for personalised engagement. Additionally, AI can scrutinise buyer behaviour, making product recommendations based on similar queries and past customer interactions.

Furthermore, omnichannel communication tools not only benefit external interactions but also streamline internal communications for retail staff. Features such as group and individual chats help employees connect whether they are in warehouses, sales areas, or offices, ensuring they can access all necessary information and collaborate effectively. This is especially true in today’s hybrid working environment. These tools are essential to maintaining an optimal customer experience by supporting agile and connected staff.

The retail industry is undergoing a significant transformation in response to evolving customer expectations and behaviours. In this dynamic landscape, communication and collaboration technologies have emerged as vital tools for brands seeking to adapt to these changing dynamics. Amid the flurry of Christmas promotions, retailers can distinguish themselves from competitors by harnessing modern unified communication and collaboration technology. By prioritising mobility, instant connectivity and omnichannel strategies, retailers can position themselves at the forefront of the industry and better serve their customers.

Dean Clark, head of retail, Mitel UK

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