Christmas is a time to shine and be remembered by customers for efficient, great service so how can retailers ensure they really do deliver, asks Simon Brennan, vice president of sales Europe at Engage Hub.
These days, we barely need to leave the house to get the goods and services we want. And when faced with a long list of Christmas presents to purchase, consumers are increasingly choosing to shop from the comfort of their homes, rather than face the stress of standing in queue at the store itself. In fact, recent research revealed that nearly a third of all British shoppers will do more online shopping on their smartphone this Christmas.
This is a trend we have seen continually grow over the past few years. In 2015, UK online spending rose by 11% to £114 billion and just as soon as these numbers were released, it was estimated that this sum would grow by another 11% in 2016. And it’s not difficult to imagine this to be a reality. During last month’s Black Friday frenzy, a record one in every four pounds was spent by shoppers online with retailers taking around £1.23 billion on Black Friday alone.
But as more consumers shop online, retailers are increasingly facing a real challenge – how do we deal with the delivery deluge?
It was reported that as many as 1.2 billion parcels will be dispatched in 2016 alone. This number was 920 million two years prior. Volume, however, isn’t the only challenge retailers now face. Time, too, is a challenge. Our demand for ‘same-day’ deliveries has doubled in the last year and in order to be competitive, e-retailers are having to aggressively reduce delivery times. The pressure is truly on – especially when you consider that nearly two in five consumers (38%) would abandon a retailer entirely following a bad delivery experience.
So what can retailers do to make sure they deliver – in all senses of the word – this Christmas?
- Be transparent
Transparency of processes throughout the physical supply chain gives consumers a clear understanding of when they can expect their delivery. Without this level of insight, the risk of failed deliveries is heightened and consequently, retailers incur additional costs and potentially lose disgruntled customers.
Providing regular updates with your customers, through their preferred channel of communication – whether that be SMS, email or even Facebook Messenger – is critical to keeping them happy at a time when expectations are high and loyalty is at an all-time low.
- Enable a two way conversation
It’s important to realise that for every failed delivery, you are effectively adding another delivery onto the pile.
Transactional status messages at key points in the process remind customers to receive or collect orders dramatically reduces failed deliveries. But ultimately, a retailer or logistics firm’s best chance of getting goods delivered on time is if a customer is able to interact with them directly to change the parameters for collection or delivery scheduling/rescheduling.
- Implement a watertight process
When it comes to customer engagement at critical times however, communication through a preferred communication channel, might not be enough. And this where retails need to implement ‘the waterfall effect’.
Cross-channel communication’s platforms are able to escalate communications as required, if there are challenges establishing contact with a customer. For example, a customer may prefer to receive an email, but when they need to be contacted at short notice, an SMS message, a communication method that has a 98% read rate, may be more appropriate. The ability to do this relies on having quality data, in real-time, from all stages of the delivery process to ensure customers are informed and parcels are delivered on time, at the right location.
Of course, it’s important to remember that these processes aren’t just for Christmas – they need to be taken into consideration all-year round. The ability to proactively manage the customer journey is key to building loyalty among ever-more discerning customers who will not think twice about going to a competitor after experiencing poor levels of service.
Retailers, therefore, need to ensure they are able to enable contextually relevant conversations with their customers, keeping them happy and informed, whilst at the same time improving operational efficiency, throughout the Christmas period, into 2017 and beyond.
Simon Brennan is vice president of sales Europe at Engage Hub
Image credit: Engage Hub and Fotolia