As we head into another lockdown, demand for online shopping has never been greater with drastic growth predicted in the retail sector. Forecasts for the final quarter of 2020 suggest that online sales will grow between 25% and 35% versus the previous year. For those online retailers who are getting it right, profits have soared.
As if further proof was needed of how contactless commerce and digital strategies can help retailers, Aberdeen Group research recently reported that strong digital customer engagement strategies such as messaging retain on average 89% of their customers, while weak strategies retain just 33%.
Today’s virtual shoppers are tenacious. They want to be met on the channel of their choice with experiences that are both personal and unique. Meeting these expectations means delivering relevant experiences through the right technology.
Given what we are seeing happening in the retail space, here are 4 engagement strategies;
- Lead with the right channels
Virtual shoppers can easily compare products, features, and prices between your brand and competitors — meaning that many of your customers can, and will, switch brands to find a better experience. The lack of physical store visits brought on by COVID-19 means shoppers can peruse and research products online as much as they want before making a purchase.
Channels are typically reactive, but data capability is developing so that retailers can now become proactive and anticipate what their customers are going to do, and surprise and delight them by serving them across their preferred channel of choice.
Invest in conversational messaging to remain competitive with digital savvy brands by being present on the channels consumers already use. Brands can interject a sense of expertise and personalisation into messaging channels to not only replicate but enhance traditional in-store experiences from their own place of comfort.
- Deploy ‘smarter’ digital tools
Traditional messaging bots scan messages for keywords and respond with common related phrases. It is a rigid response that does nothing to differentiate from competitors and leaves irritated customers right where they started. Technology for technologies sake is a no-go in the modern retail environment. Smart bots deploy natural language processing and machine learning to listen, understand, and respond to consumers in a conversational manner. Creating a two-way discussion with technology helps consumers feel heard and valued— and forget they are chatting with an AI.
AI solutions in retail can effortlessly improve customer engagement by building interactive chat programmes. Chatbots can be an effective way to communicate with customers. They can answer frequently asked questions, recommend products, address grievances, and collect valuable data from your customers before diverting the call to an agent, if needed. The chatbots can be programmed to self-learn from past data to keep refining and personalising their subsequent interactions with the customers. The accuracy with which AI-powered chatbots handle data and customers cannot be matched by human intelligence.
- Let employee experiences shine too
A great customer experience begins with a great employee experience. But how do you redefine these moments in uncertain times? Many virtual support agents are working remotely in uncontrollable environments, the flexibility, connectivity, and support they need to feel productive and valued is harder to ensure. This can directly impact your employee’s morale and your brand experience. The benefits of messaging channels enjoyed by customers can also empower support agents to communicate better through their own channels of choice anywhere, anytime. Deploying messaging means that work-life balance does not have to be at odds with customer expectations.
- Deliver beyond expectations
Virtual shopping puts your brand on an even playing field with competitors. Show your consumers (and agents) that you are listening and deliver the experiences they have come to expect. Brands who can provide a seamless and consistent single point of communication will flourish in this new-digital age. Ensure agents are equipped to handle all levels of complexity and can seamlessly pick up and route conversations across every point of the customer journey.
And on a final note;
I leave you with some exciting stats that reveal the opportunities for today’s retailers, according to LivePerson’s “Portrait of a digital consumer”;
- 30-40% try new brands when shopping virtually
- 50% say they prefer to connect with customer support through messaging channels
- 88% have a positive or neutral opinion of bots
- 25% expect a wait time of less than one minute to rate a service experience as “excellent”.