Consumer’s expectations for speed and convenience are always on the rise, and the pandemic has sharply shifted the focus from excellent in-person experiences to even better digital ones. With 86% of consumers saying they expect businesses to be even more convenient after the Covid-19 restrictions lift, now is the time for businesses to implement and perfect a messaging strategy that meets the increased demand for effective online communication with customers.

In this NRF Conference webinar, Doug Regner (VP of Retail at Podium) and Katie Osberg (Global Retail Partnerships Lead at Google) discuss how communication behavior and expectations have changed within the last two years and how businesses can appropriately respond to the shift by improving how they approach messaging. 

1. Focus on 1:1 Messaging 

The most successful way for businesses to limit friction in messaging is to center their efforts on one-to-one communication with their customers. Users value individually connecting with retailers on their own terms and at their convenience. In fact, 90% of customers prefer to communicate with businesses via text vs other channels. 

Two tips that Doug Rener offered—be asynchronous in your messaging and re-engage with buyers post purchase. Message customers at the peak of their interest to answer questions and offer help—it’s the most profitable approach. And by offering more post-purchase support, you’re not only signaling to the customer that they’re valued, you’re building a road for increased loyalty to your brand. One-on-one messaging is crucial in today’s retail climate to create and maintain relationships with customers.

During the webinar, Doug shared an example of the largest mattress retailer in the United States. In the wake of a global pandemic, physical stores were closed and potential customers were no longer able to physically shop for a product that traditionally requires an in-person experience. The retailer quickly prioritized 1:1 messaging, enabling web chat to connect leads with their local store directly from Google search and the parent website. And the results were amazing! In just a few months, during tight social distancing guidelines, messaging resulted in 24% conversion, an astounding $14 million in sales.

This mattress retailer also optimized their local search results with automated requests—via text—for Google reviews post purchase. They doubled their number of online reviews in just four months and found that customers asked to submit a review in store were three times more likely to leave a review. 

2. Leverage Automation

Automation in customer messaging can satisfy customer service needs in real time and conserve the resources of a business, if executed correctly. And the benefits are clear.  76% of businesses that implement marketing automation generate positive ROI in just one year

However, many shoppers have experienced frustration with automation. Regner encouraged businesses to invest in new ways to reduce friction and improve the automation experience, suggesting retailers think through the type of experience they would like to experience and use those insights to redefine what needs a real person versus what can effectively be done with AI for their business. 

In another example, Doug highlighted Mathis Furniture, a furniture retailer in Oklahoma and California. Mathis found an opportunity to utilize messaging, leverage automation, and introduce a contactless payment solution to keep their customers and staff safer in 2020. Customers received a payment link on their phone and could use Apple Pay, Google Pay, or a credit card to complete their transaction. And Mathis Furniture saw amazing results—the automated payment link over messages generated nearly $10 million in payments collected over text and improved the time-to-payment to an average of five minutes.

3. Perfect the Omnichannel Experience

The best omnichannel experience for today’s customer is personalized, automated to answer frequently asked questions, and offers multiple avenues for individualized support. Users expect experiences that are assistive, asynchronous, and evolve to meet their fluctuating communication demands. 

Currently, one of those demands is for businesses to utilize all possible channels and technology, from texting to online chat on your site. Meeting consumers where they like to spend their time—their phone—and delivering content they prefer—video—increases engagement at every touchpoint in the customer journey. And when a business implements strong omnichannel customer engagement practices, they retain 89% of their customers

Gucci, a globally recognized brand, well-known for their highly personalized, high attention shopping experience, also experienced store closures during the global pandemic. In order to pivot and continue offering a great Gucci experience to their customers, they implemented messaging. Customers made appointments via text and then chatted with a personal shopper over video, all from the comfort of their mobile device. 

When these three elements are actively implemented into a messaging strategy, a business creates a competitive and a frictionless customer service experience. 

To see examples of each key point and to learn more, listen to the entire webinar here

Logan Wooden
Logan Wooden Product Marketing Manager, Retail

Logan Wooden is a Product Marketing professional at Podium, the premiere marketing and communications platform that connects local businesses with their customers.

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