3 Easy Ways Retailers Can Harness Technology this Christmas.

Simon Brennan
Author: Simon Brennan
VP Sales

‘Tis the season of contradiction. On the one hand, the pandemic and lockdown restrictions have exacerbated the pre-existing retail crisis. The demise of Debenhams and Arcadia hardly heralds a season of joy. On the other hand, e-commerce is booming, and there’s pent-up demand for in-store retail, with shoppers flooding the likes of London’s Regent Street and Nottingham’s Christmas market.

Consumers are clearly eager for the right retail experience.

How can retailers deliver that experience? In this blog, we’ll look at ways technology can help this holiday season.

1. Making self-service easy for customers

With more traffic to your website, more people calling up and more people roaming your digital shop floor, it’s worth expanding your self-service functions to manage routine questions and issues.

Can you automate certain interactions within your IVR system? This could include deflecting calls to alternate digital channels. Can you integrate artificial intelligence (AI) into your chatbots? And can you expand chatbots to new channels? Most of these self-service capabilities are surprisingly easy to implement – and they streamline engagement and improve customer satisfaction when the holiday pressure is on.

Many Engage Hub customers saw contact centres overwhelmed at the start of the pandemic. These unprecedented volumes led to an urgent need to  deploy automated contact handling solutions to help manage the demand. Here’s one example from a retail client. Before coronavirus, peak periods had a maximum of approximately 300,000 daily contacts across all inbound channels. When the pandemic struck, they received up to 30 times more every day. This made it impossible to provide the levels of support to cater for all customers.  The immediate focus was to urgently mobilise priority contact handling for vulnerable customers to ensure their needs was catered for.

To reduce the pressure on contact centre agents and help every customer get the support they needed, the retailer implemented Engage Hub’s NextGen IVR solution. This helped enable priority call handling for vulnerable customers and to deflect less urgent queries to other digital channels where messaging was regularly updated with new opening hours, the status of online shopping slot availability and how to access the online stock check tool. Thanks to the Engage Hub solution, the retailer achieved a >25% call deflection rate.

2. Cost-effectively scaling post-order communication

Coronavirus has turbocharged online sales – they were up more than 30% year on year for the May to August period. According to IBM, the pandemic has accelerated digital shopping by five years.

This holiday season, differentiation in this competitive area will come from fulfilment and logistics. Amid warnings of overwhelmed delivery services and potential delays, people want confidence their orders will arrive on time. Communication is key to providing that confidence, and a quick win is to bolster the post-order experience.

Take a cross-channel approach and make use of chatbots to scale this personalisation cost-effectively. Make sure confirmation emails pull through order details, so it’s easy for people to juggle the many transactions they’re monitoring. Proactively notify customers of relevant order progress on their channel of choice (email, push notification, SMS, WhatsApp, Messenger). And make it easy to chat on those channels (via an NLP-powered chatbot) if there’s a question.

3. Streamlining last-mile logistics

Another valuable technology use case is digitising and automating operations across the last mile. This covers accurate quotation, digital self-scheduling, real-time delivery tracking and more.

With the right solution, you can easily and cost-effectively customise your delivery and fulfilment models – while getting real-time, end-to-end visibility of the status of every order. This insight will help you optimise costs in what’s traditionally an expensive area (the last mile traditionally accounts for about 50% of total shipping costs and up to 40% of total supply chain costs).

You can also use machine learning and AI to forecast demand and predict delivery timings more accurately. This helps ensure that the right inventory and delivery methods are available to fulfil orders. You can therefore mitigate against the risk of disappointed customers (and associated lost revenue).

Technology will help make it a more joyful holiday season for retailers

These 3 technology use cases benefit retailers and consumers – not just this holiday season, but over the medium and long term. From personalised communication and faster resolution times to more efficient delivery – they offer opportunities to delight customers, foster loyalty and boost profitability.

To find out how Engage Hub can help you deliver an exceptional customer experience this festive season, get in touch.

Simon Brennan
About the author: Simon Brennan

Simon Brennan has more than 14 years’ experience in the customer engagement sector, working with a wide variety of companies from tech start-ups to FTSE100 organisations. He is an expert in improving corporate customer communication, using technology to supercharge internal processes and deliver increased sales. Simon has a strong track record of successfully delivering cross-channel communication solutions for Engage Hub's corporate customer base, across multiple divisions within an organisation.