Resources / Articles

Retail Customer Communication in a Post-Covid World

Thu, July 28, 2022

We can all agree that effective customer communication is always going to be a focus for any successful brand. This is especially so during times of crisis. First of all because it’s simply the right thing to do, and secondly it’s a huge opportunity to build a deeper relationship.

The last few years have given us first-hand experience of this and whilst the lessons of COVID-19 are many and ongoing, most industry sectors are still discovering what the post-pandemic world looks like for them and their customers.

Looking at retail specifically, after the initial slowdown in 2020, as Covid began to spread and bricks-and-mortar stores shut down, e-commerce in the retail sector saw huge growth.

Across the world, e-commerce retail sales increased 2 to 5 times faster than before the pandemic, with the UK alone seeing 4.5x1 growth . With more focus on e-commerce, the online customer experience had to adapt alongside organisations’ approach to retail customer communication.

With e-commerce payment transactions expected to grow by 55% to exceed $7.5 trillion globally by 2026, compared to $4.9 trillion in 20212, strategised retail customer journey mapping that provides customers with omnichannel capability can help retail brands navigate a way forward.

What Customers Need and Expect

It’s no longer enough to expect customers to adapt to your service offering and your approach. Instead it should be the opposite. Many organisations have embraced this paradigm shift, whilst others have been much slower to react.

But 2 years on, are businesses continuing to offer an enhanced customer experience in the retail industry? When a customer contacts your business, what options are being provided that are customer-centric and help them first and foremost? Having access to customer insights can help you uncover exactly what they expect and need:

  • Customers need access to digital channels that can provide them with help wherever they are. This continues the trend set during the pandemic when people were spending more time at home to stay safe. Having multiple channels to communicate empowers your customers to get support in their chosen method.
  • The online retail customer experience needs to be just as refined as the in-store one. For businesses that relied heavily on footfall, this is essential in a post-covid world. If customers cannot find a great retail customer service experience with your brand online and through multiple channels, they will find brands that will.
  • Over 70% of customers agree that speed of service, convenience, and helpful, friendly staff are amongst the must-haves they expect3. This means those businesses lacking in any of these areas need to identify how they are falling behind.
  • A personalised experience can do wonders for brand loyalty. 71% of customers say they would feel more valued by a brand that offered this, with 70% then willing to say more positive things about the brand to others4. Brands that take the time to refine the customer experience help to improve their overall reputation.

So how can retail businesses make the most of recent developments in CX and digital channels and start meeting and exceeding customer expectations? With 70% of customers looking to continue to use digital services at least as much or more than they did during the pandemic5, implementing a strategy for omnichannel communication for the retail industry has never been more important.

Challenges Faced by Retail Businesses

Challenges Faced by Retail Businesses

Having an online presence is more essential than ever for almost any business. Those that weren’t investing in e-commerce before the pandemic found themselves with no other choice. Despite the easing of restrictions worldwide, consumers are more likely to choose the most convenient option for them, meaning travelling for an in-store experience is not as attractive as it used to be. 64% of customers find browsing online much easier than doing so in a store environment and 61% were more likely to discover new items in this way too6.

Businesses need to replicate in-store experiences with the online customer journey to ensure they do not lose business to their competitors who are doing this well. Depending on the level of investment they have put into this within the last few years, this may leave many organisations seeking help to quickly get up to speed. With 86% of buyers willing to pay more for a great customer experience7, it’s imperative that any challenges faced are overcome, whether those are to do with budget, available resources, staffing levels or expertise in implementing better CX. Some of the common challenges retailers may face include:

  • Knowing how to deliver exceptional CX – what is it customers want in 2022 and beyond?
  • Rolling out a true omnichannel experience that follows a retail customer experience strategy.
  • Maintaining brand consistency across multiple channels once implemented.
  • Not losing sight of the in-store experience whilst focusing on e-commerce.
  • Having well-trained staff available to support this strategy alongside intelligent software innovations such as chat bots.
  • Updating legacy technology and software to enhance CX.

As many businesses may be entering a new world by implementing an improved retail customer experience online, this is where outsourced customer service solutions can be beneficial. Brands can get the expert help they need, as well as experienced customer-facing staff, to start making changes quickly.

An enhanced retail customer experience should quickly reflect positively in NPS scores and feedback from Trustpilot and other review sites. Along with increased e-commerce sales revenue, these are some of the methods you can quickly prove the business for further investment in the customer experience.

What the Future May Hold

The future is always uncertain, as the past few years have demonstrated, however the shift towards a preference for e-commerce and the demand for a better customer experience in retail are trends that aren’t going away.

The best way for retailers to be prepared and be able to continue to thrive is by ensuring they are customer centric. Implementing conversational commerce as part of an online strategy, if you’re not already doing so, is no longer optional – customers seek this. 75% of customers are more likely to spend more with a brand if they can message them rather than having to call8, and this was true even before the events of 2020.

Embracing what customers need now rather than falling behind your competitors is the best tactic and is something that at Ventrica we help global brands do every day. Retail brands can implement many different types of approach to conversational commerce, and as retail customer experience software and technology evolves, the more opportunities it brings.

  • Live chat helps to avoid queue times on the phone and provides the fast response customers need. This can be automated through chatbots as well as provide human connections, helping multiple customers at once after filtering queries.
  • Using the power of social media means you can harness existing messaging apps to communicate. These are where your customers already hang out anyway, so allowing them to privately communicate their queries in an instant and receive a quicker response and resolution is a win-win for everyone.
  • In-app messaging can be more effective than traditional methods of reaching out to customers such as email marketing. It can have a 75% open rate which is 45x higher than push notifications or email9.

If you are interested in where advanced methods of communicating with customers in retail can take your brand, we have experts ready to help and discuss solutions. We’ll use our vast experience in retail and e-commerce to come to understand your goals, challenges and KPIs so that we can help implement a retail customer experience strategy that works, as we have already done for many brands. Speak to our team today.

  3. - Page 3