We are on the cusp of the festive shopping season, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday kicking off the spending spree in the run up to Christmas and Boxing Day.
By Dharshan Naidoo, senior sales manager at Infobip South Africa
However, this year’s shopping season will be very different compared to previous years as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The upshot is that many South Africans are emerging from the pandemic with considerably less spending power. Not only does this put pressure on brands and retailers to fight over fewer customers, but they will need to work harder to convince consumers to support them. Even with South Africa’s rapid advancement this year in terms of online demand due to the pandemic, bricks and mortar stores are still the preferred choice for many consumers.
To avoid in-store Black Friday stampedes and to ensure that stores stay within the covid-19 regulations, retailers are opting to adopt and enhance their eCommerce platforms whilst also extending the period of the sale in-stores.
From the outset, retailers have cluttered their digital platforms with pre-Black Friday sales marketing by emailing offers and discounts and putting up webpage banners. However, in order for businesses to drive strong sales results, they need to leverage technology and innovation to engage with their customers via digital platforms in a targeted approach. An e-commerce enterprise is only as good as the communication channels it uses, so businesses in this space should aim to drive convenience through Customer Experience (CX), by reaching their customers in the most convenient and beneficial way.
Customers are expecting interactions that are informed by insights into their preferences and behaviour, meaning that they are demanding personalisation and context to significantly shape engagement. In order to fulfil this customer expectation, an organisation’s shopping season communication strategy must be data driven. Based on customer insights, businesses can see a complete picture of consumer behaviour, and develop a rock-solid messaging strategy in tandem.
Customer data profiles allow organisations to personalise conversations, based on demographics, geographics and past purchases. In addition, retailers can set behavioural triggers that indicate when and how customers use their apps and visit their websites.
Targeted and personalized communications
To cut through the noise, targeted communication campaigns are the way forward. With price slashing expected around this time of year, it is personalisation that will help organisations edge ahead of their competitors. By understanding customers’ needs and desires, retailers can get creative in providing tailor-made offers and building segmented campaigns.
Once data has been segmented, businesses must ensure that the messages and deals sent to consumers are personalised, not only using the consumers name but by communicating relevant product promotions. A 50% blanket discount is lazy and impersonal. A children’s toy brand, for example, should promote relevant high range products to parent customers, informed by contextual information like ring pools for the summer holidays.
In this modern era, retailers must realise that a solid CX strategy is one of their biggest assets, especially as customers are relying on technology as a means to engage with brands and purchase goods and services. Organisations must place a higher emphasis on digital communication channels in response to customer demands.
For enterprises to reach customers across multiple touchpoints, there is need for an all-encompassing solution; an omnichannel customer engagement platform that will unify channels and personalise messaging to customers. This platform should enable enterprises to send targeted communication through Emails or messages via social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp – ubiquitous channels used by people every day intelligently.
Furthermore, there is need for a platform that will co-ordinate customer behaviour traits and engagements across each touchpoint in a way that delivers a set of outcomes, such as operational efficiency and finally optimise CX.
Setup your store, website and app
The festive shopping season attracts higher footfall and online traffic than usual, which means a retailer’s stores, website and app must be ready to take on the increase in traffic without sacrificing CX.
The physical stores should be branded with promotion signage whilst adhering to the COVID-19 restrictions; this includes one way shopping directions, social distancing, encouraging the wearing of a mask, and hand sanitiser stations, amongst others.
For the website and app, retailers should look to invest in the right omnichannel customer engagement solution that will deliver advanced opportunities for connecting via digital channels. The solution for enterprises is to build connected customer profiles and push automated campaigns at the right time across key channels. Also, customer support may require a boost by integrating intuitive chatbots with a smooth transition to live agents for complex enquiries.
Customers have a tendency to window shop before they purchase, so e-tailers should encourage them by making it easy to pick up where they left off enhancing their omnichannel connectivity with triggered campaigns that prompt consumers to finalise a purchase. This can be done through automated workflows for email campaigns, chat apps like WhatsApp and Messenger, SMS, or push notification campaigns to maximise conversions.
During the shopping season, many customers are looking for the best deals and are likely to be enticed by discounts in the long term, however, retailers should build on this and incentivise newly acquired customers to become advocates. Data driven insights should inform targeted and personalised communication campaigns on the customer’s preferred channels. This is what will drive sales and a competitive edge for retailers this Black Friday.