This article takes a look at the retail landscape, including top tips for converting online shoppers into customers this Christmas.
Competition in the ecommerce space has never been tougher or more intense. The switch over to online shopping from physical stores as a result of the pandemic allowed for mass growth, since the reopening of physical stores in April 2021 we have seen this drop and physical stores regain footfall. As a result, this Christmas season online retail providers need to step up their game across the board in order to both acquire and retain customers.
Black Friday, Cyber Week and the general Christmas season is chaos for online retailers, and this madness has only multiplied in recent years. Online channels have begun their seasonal sales earlier year on year and customers have the emails, texts and social media messages to prove it. But it is important to ensure that the process from clicking onto the website to the post-purchase is seamless.
Understanding the customer and their customer journey has never been more important. This starts from the opening email announcing your sales or offerings, to the post purchase service. Everything in between – clearness of your site, transparent marketing, design and aesthetics, delivery and customer service – all play an integral part, and to not pay attention to every aspect of the customer journey may just make a shopper switch off before the point of purchase. The website has to be seen as both a storefront and the world’s best sales assistant in that it is great if they can get people in the door, but better if they can get them out the door with their bags full. The design should be pleasing and fit the desired aesthetic in a coherent way, but it also must be accessible – especially as so many people never shopped online before, the flow from adding to chat to the point of purchase should be easy and clear.
While having an aesthetically pleasing website and app design is great, it is crucial to ensure that they will not crash at peak periods. This is an area of massive concern for online retails and clear communication within the team is needed to solve any problems that may arise. Knowing the key points of contact across the board in order to avoid mass hysteria and fix problems as quickly and seamlessly as possible is key. There is no point in having a website with all the bells and whistles if it does not work – if your website is down, there is 0% chance of returning a visitor into a customer.
Reviews of your store and processes are visited more frequently at this period than any other during the retail year. Trustpilot found that traffic to their site has increased year on year on Black Friday – in 2019, increase in users browsing the website had gone up 44% from 2018, and in 2020 this had increased an additional 40%. Moreover there was a 84% increase in searches made on the website from 2019 compared to 2018, and again an additional 12% in 2020. You are directly compared against competitors, showing the importance of good customer service. Retailers need to ask themselves if their profile and reviews available to the public are something they are proud of – if not, they need to listen to the reviews and alter their services accordingly. This could be your greatest tool and final push for a shopper to click that purchase button, or have them closing the tab and switching to your competitor’s website – ultimately TrustPilot traffic is an example of how good customer service and experience can be transformed into revenue.
A major area where trust is built between an online retailer and the consumer is in the post-purchase and delivery process. While consumers turned to online shopping as a result of the pandemic, an anxiety looming for many customers is that their package may go missing and they will not have access to tracking it down. It is crucial for a business both when gaining and retaining their customer base to reduce the risk of this occurring, and in the case that it does, have the correct systems in place to rectify the error.
While the UK continues to struggle with the delivery driver shortage and other supply chain issues, such as manufacturing issues globally and political tensions as a result of the ongoing Brexit and NI protocol row, a lot of the post purchase process is no longer in online retailers’ control. While feelings of worry are valid in these circumstances, it is important for retailers to not feel at a total loss of control. One of the best ways to ensure that a customer feels comfortable with this and is not led to believe that you always have delivery issues, is to be honest and transparent with them about the situation at present. Peak seasonal periods place larger amounts of pressure on customer service teams at a time where competition is high. Online retailers should aim to do everything they can to give customers the answers to their shipping questions on their own via the website, FAQ sections and social media channels. Additionally, it is pivotal to ensure that retailers equip their support staff with all of the resources they need in order to help customers quickly and efficiently.
In advance of issues arising, online retailers should have dedicated time and resources to ensuring the shipment and delivery partnerships and processes in place are equipped to handle the buying mania. All necessary equipment should be available in excess, including labour. Paying extra attention to the post-purchase process during the Christmas period not only alleviates stresses left in other areas of the business, such as on customer service teams, but shows a first time customer that they are of interest and importance to your business past the point of sale. Policies on returns and refunds should be clear and communications both between the delivery partner and business, and business and customers, should be transparent at all stages.
Choice is key for a consumer in this day and age. Online retailers should seek out delivery partners that offer a wide range of shipment and delivery choices for the consumer, illustrating how they know that there is no longer a ‘one size fits all’ approach in modern commerce. A new customer needs to feel like they are the only customer and that your offering stands out against the mass competition.
Converting online shoppers into customers
All these steps will help ensure that you turn a shopper to a customer and hopefully to a returning customer down the line. It is no shock or surprise that the acquiring of a customer is the first step towards retaining them. Customer retention will be crucial for the new retail year, and this Christmas season is the time to make that move.