22 October 2020 | MOF Team
With uncertainty around the economy, and lockdown rules constantly changing, one thing is for sure: a bigger proportion of spending will be done online.
Retailers must ensure their online strategies are effective in meeting the demands of these shoppers. We explore some of the eCommerce strategies and trends that will help brands see commercial success in the golden quarter.
Somehow, the countdown to Christmas has already begun...
I know, I know. Every year, there is widespread collective outrage and shock as the shelves start filling with Quality Street and advent calendars in September, and the festive ads ‘premiere’ in ad breaks on prime-time Saturday night TV.
But a 2020 Christmas? What might this entail?
It’s safe to predict, with some certainty, that there will probably be: a TV ad featuring people on their doorsteps clapping for the NHS in slow-motion, featuring a line about us being ‘stronger together’. And possibly a wide-eyed, loveable animal character that will be available to buy in plush soft-toy form from John Lewis.
But the high street’s golden quarter is going to look pretty different from the norm this year. New research from Klarna and Retail Economics shows that 71% of British consumers are reluctant to shop in-store this Christmas, and more than half (56%) of shoppers expect to do a higher proportion of Christmas shopping online this year.
Is it even Christmas if you don’t spend a tense afternoon elbowing your way through a luxury department store’s food hall, panic-buying overpriced chutney?
Retail Economics chief executive, Richard Lim.
"A successful Christmas trading period will be a make or break moment for many retailers who remain in survival mode following the impact of the pandemic. The major shifts in spending this Christmas will be towards those retailers who offer the best online proposition and who have the capacity to cope with the levels of demand"
With Covid-19 affecting everything from employment, as well as an uncertainty about numbers of people in households for Christmas, more than a third of consumers (36%) expect to cut back on their festive spending, and adjust who they buy for.
So, with all this in mind, what can online retailers do to ensure they offer the very best experience for customers shifting their attention to eCommerce this Christmas and beyond?
According to the Retail Rebirth report, 79% of consumers feel that it’s important to have multiple ways to contact customer service. But it’s interesting how many online retailers bury their contact details at the bottom of lengthy FAQ sections.
Clearly, many retailers want to minimise the requirement for CS teams to have to deal directly with customer enquiries, and it certainly is wise to optimise the user journey to reduce the need for customers to ask questions.
But those personal interactions with customers are where you’re likely to make the most impact and make customers feel connected to your brand. When in-store interactions are at a minimum, this is where online customer service has to step up.
Burberry uses HERO to connect online customers with in-store associates to answer their questions. Simple chatbot logic helps route the query, which is then picked up in real-time by a Burberry Sales Associate.
Not only does this take the pressure off call centres and online chat teams in head office, it helps the stores utilise the skills of their in-store staff for online interactions, and lends the online experience a more personal touch. With footfall lower in stores, this is a smart use of shop floor staff’s expertise and skills.
Luxury has been hit hard by the pandemic, as consumers reined in their spending during an uncertain period. Coupled with the closure of physical stores, this has resulted in expert predictions of a 25%-45% drop in personal luxury sales year-on-year.
To mitigate damage, luxury stores need to be able to replicate the quality of their in-store experience on online channels, and the absolute cornerstone of this is impeccable and swift customer service.
With shoppers less able to travel, the use of video chat helps bring the in-store experience to their consumers’ living rooms.
Fine jewellery brand Anoushka employs HERO technology so sales associates can demonstrate products in real-time, bringing static pages to life without the customer even leaving the site or needing to schedule a consultation. Video is much more effective at showcasing the detail of each piece, and allows the sales associate to deliver as close to an in-store service as possible.
“With a global pandemic in hand, which has almost entirely frozen travel for a population who account for 60% of luxury sales outside of mainland China, never have our virtual sales platforms been more important to us as a business and for our global clients.” Annoushka Ducas MBE, Founder of Annoushka.
Almost two-thirds (59%) of shoppers are interested in personalisation as part of their online shopping experience. Brands can improve conversion rates by implementing AI tools to predict consumer behaviour and serve them the most relevant products at the right time. Findologic’s Li.S.A is a ‘virtual shopping assistant’ that recognises the search intent of the customer and uses ‘skills’ to create the best shopping experience for them. The technology is constantly learning and evolving through every user interaction that takes place.
Personalisation is also key to driving customer loyalty –– retargeting campaigns and abandoned basket offers should be part and parcel of any good online retail experience, with on-brand messaging that is designed to make the customer feel valued and unique.
Retailers with personalisation strategies see sales gains of 6-10%, a rate two to three times faster than other retailers, according to a report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
Despite voice search getting most of the press, visual search has been quietly on the rise for a few years. The ASOS app allows you to either snap a photo with your phone camera, or upload an image of an item of clothing or an accessory, and it’ll show you the closest matches. It can be hit and miss, but is often pleasingly accurate, able to differentiate between a glittery slip-on plimsoll and a canvas one – though it did show me a brown leather coat when I’d uploaded a red jumper, so it’s not perfect. Similar apps exist for Amazon, using the Echo Show camera, and Pinterest Lens.
Customers who can find the products they already know they want are already one step closer to making a purchase. It also negates the need for the customer to think of what keywords to use to describe the product.
In 2021 and beyond, AI will become more adept at helping you find customers, too. Intelligent algorithms will be able to forecast trends alongside your products, sales channels, customers and their buying behaviour; and recommend where and when you should promote your products, and at what price.
For repetitive tasks, such as returns or stock availability, chatbots can bridge the gap between self-service and customer service. With many consumers now shopping via e-commerce for the first time thanks to Covid, it’s important to cater for their needs without overwhelming customer service teams.
With high engagement (the typical outreach CTR ranges from 15-60%) and dynamic communication sequences, bots can be the first customer touchpoint, qualify sales leads, provide 24/7 support, and reduce waiting time for multiple people at once.
Chatbots can also help beautifully with gifting, providing recommendations based on questions around age, gender, likes and dislikes.
Seriously. Free shipping. Time and again this comes out as a key purchase driver in all categories, and yet, online retailers – particularly luxury retailers – still often charge £6 for standard shipping.
In a Rakuten survey about 2020 shopping peaks, 79% of those aged 55 and over cited free shipping as the most impactful incentive for them to make an online purchase.
This falls when it comes to younger generations, with 57% of 25-34-year-olds and 52% of 18-24-year-olds.
Europe saw a 35% rise in ecommerce app installs during the peak of the coronavirus outbreak, higher than the usual Q4 holiday rush which sees peaks on Singles Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.
In-app shopping activity surged during the pandemic, eclipsing the holiday season. These findings point towards 2020 being unlike any other when it comes to shopping via apps. So it’s vital to optimise the experience.
Drive installs during a fiercely competitive period by offering an incentive for purchasing through the app, which will also acquaint new users with the browsing experience. Ensure the UX is intuitive, uncomplicated, with a seamless onboarding flow. Data shows that in-app performance is substantially higher than mobile due to a better native user experience and push notifications, so it’s important to build your users up sooner rather than later.
Looking ahead to 2021, 54% of global consumers have said there will be no change to their spend for key shopping dates in the first half of the year, such as Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day.
Smart retailers will leverage insights from this year’s peak shopping moments to prepare for and succeed in 2021.
At MOF we’re passionate about creating exceptional brand-led experiences that leverage our knowledge, design methodologies and the latest in what technology has to offer in terms of human interactions and business efficiencies.
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