The retail industry was making slow-but-steady progress toward mobile becoming a dominant —if not the dominant—digital commerce mode, but the pandemic sped this process up significantly. The need for a seamless omnichannel experience, strong customer support, and a mobile-first strategy has increased.
In 2020, e-commerce growth was a whopping 32%. For reference, the average e-commerce growth per year before this was just 2 to 3%. When the pandemic hit, retailers listened to the needs of customers, adding contactless payment options, curbside pickup, and other BOPIS practices. Many customers chose to skip the physical store entirely, ordering non-perishables and food for delivery straight to their homes.
The pandemic accelerated the digital transformation of shopping and it looks like those changes are here to stay. As such, retailers need to ensure their customer experience (CX) is prepared to handle the new demands of consumers. At the very least, retailers should pay attention to the following tips.
1. Stay on Message
In the world of digital customer experience, texting is crucial. Customers appreciate the efficiency and speed of texting. On top of that, texts have an impressive 98% open rate, making them a great way to reach your customers.
There are plenty of ways to incorporate texting into your day-to-day operations—and doing so will greatly improve your customer experience. One very popular example comes from curbside pickup. Many retailers offering this service ask customers to text upon arrival so that their staff can immediately bring the items to the customers.
An effective messaging strategy will include these key messaging types.
This includes the use of chatbots to answer FAQs. Automated messages can reduce your call volume, giving your team more time to handle other tasks.
The downside of automated messaging is that connections are very superficial since your customers won’t be interacting with a real human. Many customers want a deeper connection with the companies they do business with. Some customers simply get annoyed if they have to follow their message up with an email or call. On top of that, customers can get frustrated when their messages somehow slip through the cracks and remain unanswered.
This type of messaging takes the chatbots and adds AI capabilities for deeper conversations. One example is when the chatbot asks customers about products they’re interested in. From there, the bot can display the merchandise. Customers could then click a link in the chatbot that takes them to checkout.
This type of messaging offers the ultimate personalization and the best customer experience. Customers can start a conversation on their computer and then easily switch to a mobile device. They can even continue the conversation the next day—there is no fear of the message thread closing out after hours of inactivity in the chat.
This is beneficial to the customer because the conversation adapts to their schedule. This can even be applied to conversations with AI or agents. Asynchronous messaging is crucial for companies as it drives consumers to their chosen products with effective follow-through. It can even suggest cross-sells, upsells, or additional information. For example, if someone buys new running shoes, asynchronous messaging goes the extra mile by giving running tips.
Example Use Cases
With some creativity, retailers can easily tailor their messaging platforms to meet customer needs.
One example comes from Lululemon’s virtual waitlist during the pandemic. Brick-and-mortar stores had limited capacities, so shoppers could sign up for the virtual waitlist. They would then receive a text when their turn came. This enabled them to attend to other things while waiting.
Texting can also be used to facilitate returns or discuss damaged items. For example, customers text a photo of the product to be returned, and the entire transaction occurs over text.
Some companies even use text messaging for their remote shopping experiences. Jerome’s Furniture, for example, lets customers text in-store associates. Through this service, associates can look for the products in question and send pictures to the customer. This also creates a warm lead as interactions occur before the customer gets to the store.
Choose the Platform Customers Prefer
While texting is a universal preference, some audiences may prefer Instagram direct messages or Facebook Messenger. Use the channel your customers prefer and integrate tech that can funnel all of these communication channels into a single inbox.
2. Embrace Text-based Payments
The consumer preference for texting isn’t just for communications. Text-to-pay is another popular and convenient feature. Customers can use this feature to skip the checkout line. Customers receive a text with a payment link, from which they can connect to a mobile wallet or enter payment information.
This type of payment method makes customer service simple and fast, both of which are priorities for any business. For example, Mathis Brothers Furniture has been using text payments and Podium Payments to process almost $9 million in sales since April 2020.
3. Maximize Customer Reviews
Customer reviews are a crucial part of marketing since most potential customers browse through online reviews before buying a product. But getting your customers to submit reviews is challenging, especially when doing so means they have to navigate to another app or website. Simply put, a clunky review process makes it harder to gather reviews.
To address this, use links in chats and text to encourage reviews. Start with Google Business Profile links. This feature may already be familiar because most consumers use Google for product research. As you gather more positive reviews, your company will rank higher on Google.
From there, work toward traditional social media reviews, such as on Facebook or Yelp. Using text message reviews also removes the clunkiness of having customers switch to another platform.
Examples of Success
Coast Appliances, an appliance chain with 17 stores, is an excellent example of how to maximize customer reviews. After using review-invitation messaging in 2020, Coast Appliances received 1,000 more reviews compared to 2019. Consumer reaction trends via the Podium portal also enabled them to make immediate changes to address consumer needs.
Also, Mattress Firm gathered reviews by sending review links via text after a sale. This increased reviews by 100% during the test period.
What’s Next? How to Embrace the New Retail CX
Keeping up with text-based payment options, asynchronous messaging, and simplified review links doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Podium offers an interactive management platform that integrates all of these interactions from one inbox, even if your customer service team is spread across various physical stores.