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DTC brands have a big impact on traditional retail

modcloth, bonobos and jet logos in a walmart shopping cart, harry's, casper, and care/of in target shopping cart. DTC brands impact traditional retail

Direct to consumer (DTC) products have been wildly popular in the past few years, and as they slowly infiltrate big box retailers’ shelves, brands such as Casper, Harry’s and Bonobos are gaining more attention and getting an even bigger sales boost.

But traditional retailers are learning from them as well.

For the biggest retailers, partnering with DTC has been mutually beneficial. Walmart bought men’s fashion retailer Bonobos in 2017 for $310 million. Target is partnering with Harry’s to sell the well-made, discount-priced razors in stores, as well as Casper mattresses — which can also be found in top-tier stores such as Nordstrom’s.

Mutual gains

two businessmen shaking hands - DTC brands impact traditional retail and it's mutually beneficial

Part of the draw of those and many other DTC brands is their popularity: They will drive customers into stores and online. Forging partnerships with newer, more sought-after brands helps retailers attract and create relationships with a new segment of shoppers who may not have otherwise shopped with them.

In addition, what big retailers such as Walmart, Target and Nordstrom’s can gain from well-established DTC brands is digital expertise. These products have successfully launched and sold products online with no physical stores. They are marketing powerhouses, and big box stores are learning from their strategies, particularly for their own private-label merchandise. For example, Target’s partnership with Harry’s spurred it to step up its men’s grooming selection by expanding its own Goodfellow & Co’s offering to more than 30 products. (Target is clearly focusing on the segment and rounding out its offerings by also incorporating Ulta Beauty shops this year into 100 locations this year.)

Fluid shopping

dark skinned woman with big short curls wearing orange shirt shopping on laptop on couch, DTC brands impact traditional retail - teaching big box stores about online marketing

What these relationships mean for consumers is that brands and retailers are becoming more attuned to the future of shopping. Customers are fluid in how they want to shop: One day they may opt for a personal, immersive experience at Sephora and the next they’ll order lipstick online. Convenience is a driving force, but it doesn’t always mean ecommerce. Sometimes, convenience is the ease of being able to go to a physical location and try on, inspect, and ask questions.

Successful retail has always meant providing what customers want, when they want it. Today’s technology merely widens the possibilities, and requires retailers to be intuitive and flexible.







Seeking to be more inclusive, retailers increase adaptive clothing offerings

Photo by Kampus Production from Pexels

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in the United States, more than one in four adults are living with “some type of disability.” That is a huge opportunity for today’s retailers to meet the needs of a significant market segment.

Retail responds for accessibility needs

For some time, retailers have adapted their online presence as well as their physical stores to meet the needs of people with physical challenges.

Online websites, for example, must ensure the proper use of HTML, so assistive technology can accurately interpret the page content. In addition, the tab key should be able to navigate through all an ecommerce site’s web pages and access all interactive features.

But while retailers are making their websites more accessible, the items they sell do not always meet everyone’s needs. Gradually, clothing retailers have started to recognize the segment of people with disabilities by offering adaptive clothing, i.e., apparel that helps people with disabilities to get dressed or to simply live life. The segment includes people with specific physical impairments, the elderly and people who have recently had surgery.

Adapted for style & function

Photo by Cliff Booth from Pexels

Tommy Hilfiger drew on its athletic wear experience, which focuses on movement, performance and functionality, to create its Tommy Adaptive collection.

Hallmarks of these pieces include easy closures, ease of movement, seated wear, easy open necklines, magnetic buttons, hook and loop closures, internal pull-up hoops, low front and high back, part openings, and side seam openings. The designer was inspired to create a line of adaptive clothing when he saw the dressing challenges faced by his autistic daughter and son.

Hilfiger is not alone. Ugg’s iconic shearling lined boots are now available with side zippers for easy access and pull tabs on the back to help secure the shoe. Aerie has partnered with Abilitee Adaptive Wear to offer adaptive accessories, such as fabric belts to hold insulin pumps and water-resistant ostomy bag covers.

But the big brand names are also facing competition from startups who saw an opportunity to serve people’s needs and jumped on it.

For example, Careandwear realized cancer patients have unique clothing needs during treatment. In response, it developed and sells a Chest Port Hoodie, which provides wearer easy access to a chemo port. And Alter Ur Ego makes comfortable and adaptive jeans that feature accessible pockets, elastic waistbands, and straps for easy dressing.

Today, brands are reaching out to the disabled community, confronting social-emotional, environmental, and physical barriers and exceeding those customers’ expectations.

Slowly but surely, retailers are providing products for the one-quarter of the population that identifies as having a disability.







Specialty brands partner with big box retail to boost foot traffic—and sales

It’s a retail conundrum: Foot traffic in malls is decreasing, and brick and mortar stores are losing ground to ecommerce – yet shoppers still want to visit stores to touch and try out products before buying.

To capture more sales and remain relevant to shoppers, big box stores are thinking out of the box and partnering with popular name-brand product manufacturers.

Bringing Apple to you at Target

rendering of mini apple store in all white target store with light wood kiosk  and shelves. Featuring black male worker behind the kiosk in red shirt wearing a mask greeting a white lady customer wearing a mask approaching
Image from Target

Target recently announced it will double the size of Apple’s footprint in 17 locations, expanding offerings in stores and online. In addition, Target team members will receive specialized training from Apple.

The retail behemoth has also partnered with Ulta Beauty to open 1,000-square-foot beauty shops, which will be staffed with Target employees who have been trained by the beauty retailer.

Notably, Ulta also provides customers with many services such as in-store hair salons, which drive considerable foot traffic: Salon customers reportedly make twice as many trips to an Ulta Beauty store as those who do not use those services.

And Target isn’t the only big box store looking to pretty itself up: Kohl’s will open 200 “Sephora at Kohl’s” locations this fall, with at least 850 locations planned by 2023. The cosmetics retailer will launch on Kohl’s website in 2022, offering more than 100 beauty brands, some of which are exclusive to Sephora.

Products across price points

smiling blonde salesgirl in all black holding product up for a customer

The beauty segment is notable because America’s department store makeup counters have historically been the place to purchase upper-end cosmetics.

The American beauty counter is iconic.

However, they’ve gradually been losing popularity as shoppers prefer to visit specialized retailers – such as Ulta and Sephora – which can provide a more extensive variety of products at different price points.

However, by collaborating with those same cosmetics retailers as well as be increasing their in-store footprint, department stores could win back many of those customers.

Department stores are using the popularity of brands such as Apple, Sephora and Ulta to lure customers back into their stores.

Once inside, the customers can be tempted to continue shopping for other products.

In a way, department stores function like mini-malls: From motor oil to bikinis to wrapping paper, these stores have it all.

The tough part today is getting the shoppers to come into the store.

The addition of top brand names will help provide the visibility needed to get shoppers in the automatic door.







Integrating Retail Pro POS data and COVID-influx of ecommerce data for hyper-personalization

two businesswomen wearing face masks, facing each other looking the same direction.

Amid recent retail turbulence, there has emerged an opportunity to provide customers a better, more intuitive shopping experience in the wake of a global pandemic that had serious repercussions in the retail sector.

With many shoppers staying out of brick and mortars due to COVID concerns, online shopping became significantly more popular, especially for buying everyday items like groceries and toiletry items.

As a result, retailers now have a year’s worth of data on new (and existing) ecommerce shoppers that can be integrated with store sales data from the Retail Pro POS for personalization, providing a more holistic customer view.

By preparing personalized and integrated customer solutions, retailers can be better positioned for success as the ability and customer willingness to visit stores increases.

Learning from your customer data

Hyper-personalization refers to enabling personalized, contextualized interactions across all channels, including sales and marketing.

A study from Ascend2 found that 62% of marketing professionals consider hyper-personalization to be critical, but only 9% have successfully implemented the strategy. Traditionally, personalized marketing would include, for example, inserting a customer’s name into an email or serving up specific content on a landing page. Personalized experiences in stores would stem from a salesperson’s ability to engage in clienteling based on the client’s history with a brand, especially in luxury retail.

Today, hyper-personalization uses intelligent tools like visual analytics software like Retail Pro Decisions to aggregate store and ecommerce data, the marketer’s email engagement data, website interactions, and other sources of third-party data to predict customer behavior.

AI algorithms can also compare a company’s shoppers with others online who display the same interests.

AI can aggregate similarities and predict future actions based on those that have already been taken by similar users.

That allows companies to deliver extremely relevant offers or product recommendations.

Rather than making recommendations to shoppers based on their own purchase history, AI compares their preferences and buying patterns to millions of others to discover more advanced, nuanced purchasing habits.

The strategy also builds brand loyalty: The more personal the customer experience feels, the stronger the relationship can be. Integrated data analysis combined with AI-powered loyalty and personalized marketing tools like AppCard for Retail Pro offers retailers something more than the competition.

Acting on data gathered during COVID’s ecommerce upsurge

With the sudden influx of customer data during COVID, retailers are learning more about what is truly important to customers, and what is not.

For instance, curbside pickup is a highlight coming out of the new normal shopping experience, a feature that in particular is helpful to parents of young children, those with disabilities or anyone on a tight schedule.

Prior to the economic lockdown during the first half of 2020, curbside delivery was pretty much limited to grocery pick up.

Retailers must leverage their data analysis capabilities while considering how recent customer trends will impact their supply chains.

They can then accurately respond to both vendors and customers in specific, relevant ways. By understanding the context of what customers want, retailers can adjust to meet those expectations. Retailers can move beyond providing customers with a robust product selection online and in-store. Today, the top retailers also offer a customized, cross-channel, personal shopping experience, resulting in loyal, satisfied customers.







Post pandemic, big retailers think small

couple pan shopping wearing masks
photo by Anna Tarazevich

One of the big reveals during the past 13 months is that people need (and want) to shop, and that e-commerce filled that desire both for necessities and luxuries.

Small, neighborhood businesses with no online presence had the toughest time surviving, while online stores with brand recognition — ironically, often due to a brick-and-mortar presence — fared the best.

Most strikingly, big, traditional shopping mall “anchor” stores felt the sting of greatly reduced foot traffic, while also enjoying a significant uptick in e-commerce revenue.

For example, Nordstrom forecasts sales to increase more than 25% this year, with digital accounting for roughly half of all revenue. Malls have been losing foot traffic for years. Moody’s industry research arm Real Estate Solutions (REIS) forecasts that malls vacancy rates will reach 14.6% by the end of the year as retailers regroup post-pandemic and reconsider their store locations.

Brick & mortar format shift

two young women wearing face masks in a concept nike store look at a jacket one is holding up
Photo by RODNAE Productions

And yet, customers consistently report enjoying an in-person shopping experience. Nothing truly can replace an experience of being able to touch and feel merchandise.

A case in point is the venerable Macy’s department store, a 162-year-old retail institution, which announced a year ago it would be closing 125 stores in “lower-end” malls during the next three years.

Macy’s strategy was to focus on locations with stronger sales as well as online operations. Then came lockdown and the pandemic era, and as shoppers tried to avoid malls, stores found ways to adapt.

Macy’s mall exodus is not unique; Dillard’s, J.C.Penney, Kohl’s, and Belk are also reportedly looking at freestanding and strip center locations.

Nordstrom, too, has been successful with its small format stores and intends to continue expanding those outlets along with its digital presence as part of its “Closer to You” long-term growth strategy.

Small stores, customer-forward strategies

Photo by Taras Chaban

According to reports, the stores will have full-service and possibly self-checkouts as well as same-day deliveries.

In addition, they will offer “buy-on line, pick-up in store” or “click and collect” service, which often comes with curbside pickup.

Such smaller stores are embracing the concept of offering a curated product selection, a characteristic more often associated with luxury stores. It provides these large retailers an opportunity to be flexible, react more quickly to buying trends and become more relevant to today’s clientele.

By showing a willingness to experiment with innovative merchandising ideas, these prominent retailers may not only rediscover their place in the industry, but also once again become leaders.







Gartner: Retail’s role in sustainability improvements

woman shopping in store

Increasingly, retailers are learning that sustainability matters to their customers, and the COVID season did not stop sustainability efforts.

Recycling, energy conservation and reduction of waste are all everyday topics of conversation.

That desire to help conserve Earth’s resources has helped unite customers who may otherwise be very different from one another.

To meet the increasing requests from customers for carbon-neutral packaging and products, retailers are offering more environmentally friendly options. Gartner has recommended three ways retailers could improve sustainability within their supply chains: source responsibly; use recyclable or minimal packaging; incorporate “recycled goods” into product offerings.

Source Responsibly

Image:  Tom Fisk 

Retailers can choose vendor and distribution partners who practice sustainability.

When reviewing vendors, retailers can weigh sustainability as quality.

Sustainability includes processes that mitigate the harmful impacts of pollution and waste on the ecosystem, including reducing freshwater contamination and greenhouse gases.

Retailers benefit too, because sustainable practices such as decreasing energy usage, cutting back on waste generated and eliminating equipment for pollution control lower operating costs.

Packaging

Image: Karolina Grabowska

Many suppliers are coming up with innovative packaging to reduce waste.

For example, dental floss can now be purchased in reusable glass vials, rather than hard plastic packages.

Not only has the product cut back dramatically on waste, but because of its very nature, it creates its own pool of customers who return to buy the floss replacement on a regular basis.

On the recycling side, L’Oreal cosmetics will market its first cosmetics in recyclable paper bottles to consumers this year.

“Re-commerce” Goods

Image: Nataliya Vaitkevich 

Thrifting — or shopping secondhand—is in vogue, and not solely because items are bargains or bespoke.

Because these goods are living a second life, they aren’t taking up room at the local landfill.

In addition, significant amounts of resources are saved by not creating a new product. For example, making a pair of jeans uses approximately 1,800 gallons of water.

The production process also generated greenhouse gases equal to driving more than 80 miles.

A number of retailers are focused on the “re-commerce” market, such as ThredUp and Poshmark, but some clothing brands including REI and Patagonia are selling their own gently used clothing, similar to the way in which luxury automobiles have sold “certified pre-owned vehicles” for many years.

Retailers wanting to strengthen or embark on a sustainability program should ensure their suppliers are committed to the same long-term vision.

Increasingly, customers are looking to buy from retailers and brands that share their values, and that includes companies that recycle, reduce waste and promote sustainable business practices.







In-store shoppers, in-store fulfillment: Planning for inventory challenges

safe retail shopping during COVID

Handling a supply chain is always part art, part skill — but during 2020, it sometimes seemed like it was also part magic act.

Getting products on shelves was a testament to the relationships retailers had built over the years with their suppliers, and only the strongest survived.

COVID inventory crisis

man staring at wall with papers pinned to it

A little more than one year ago, COVID-19 lockdowns began — ushered in by a period of consumer buying never before experienced.

Within days, paper goods and disinfectants were out of stock, available only on the black market for outrageous prices.

A year later, quarantines are gradually being lifted, in some areas more quickly than in others, and most — if not all — of the items once in short supply are reliably back on retailers’ shelves.

A year ago, however, many retailers were forced to close very quickly, with little notice and stockrooms full of inventory.

Those retailers not considered “essential” were left with a surplus of stock that during the ensuing weeks and months became outdated and unwanted; many people weren’t leaving their homes, so foot traffic hit all-time lows.

Adapting stock strategies

Online retailers and brick-and-mortar shops alike depend on good inventory management to run an efficient business.

Now that stores are open on a more regular schedule, their managers are recognizing that inventory strategies must change.

By offering a more curated selection than pre-COVID, retailers can more adeptly handle the ongoing uncertainty in customer traffic and buying behavior.

A number of retailers, including Gap and Nordstrom’s, reportedly reopened with a limited stock strategy, to hedge against a less-than-robust shopping season.

BOPIS challenge

In some respects, offering customers the option of buying online, picking up in-store (BOPIS) saved the day.

Many retailers further simplified the process for customers by offering curbside pickup; customers never had to leave their cars to retrieve their purchases.

By allowing customers the flexibility of purchasing online and retrieving products safely without leaving their cars, retailers eliminated a point of customer friction: Customers had the convenience of ordering online plus, in many cases, same-day pickup.

However, retailers faced the challenge of maintaining the right amount of inventory in stores to keep brick-and-mortar shoppers happy while still profiting from opportunities to move inventory through digital channels.

Stores that came up with the perfect balance will likely continue to offer the service post-COVID because of its popularity with customers.

Visibility into inventory movement

Retailers can only be successful at both in-store selling and e-commerce with accurate insight from trading partners into what is coming in and when.

With integrated inventory visibility from suppliers, retailers won’t be risking the safety stock they’ve built for in-store consumers.

For example, sending shipment information within two hours of shipment departure, and including scannable barcode labels on all packages can help retailers manage appropriate safety stock thresholds for in-store and BOPIS experiences.

Inventory management tools like Retail Pro also make the process more efficient for retailers.

When ordering merchandise on a multi-store Purchase Order in Retail Pro, a retailer can generate an advance ship notice for each store so each store knows what merchandise to expect.

When the merchandise arrives at the store, managers can generate a voucher from the advance ship notice to receive the items ordered on the PO into inventory.

Recovery ahead

Inventory management pre-COVID required effort and attention to detail.

During COVID, the supply chain was thrust into chaos, as manufacturers slowed production due to workers’ illness at their facilities, and orders fluctuated from exceeding capacity to trickling in.

Post-COVID, in the weeks and months ahead, the economy will begin to recover, and inventory management will face challenges as demand increases and stock levels race to meet it. When vendors are transparent and help retailers plan based on accurate delivery forecasts, retailers will be able to pursue sales opportunities in digital channels, resulting in improved top-line revenue and contributing to a global economic recovery.







Why the ‘Last Mile’ should be retailers’ first thought

person signing for delivery on ipad over a box that a delivery person wearing a denim shirt is holding

The anticipation of receiving that perfect order can be easily derailed by a poor product delivery experience.

The “ultimate” shopping experience depends on excellence from beginning—the order—to end, the delivery.

How quickly goods get from a warehouse to a customer depends on what’s called the “last mile” of the supply chain.

The efficiency of that final leg ultimately determines the customer’s satisfaction with the buying journey.

The Last-Mile challenge

person in fuzzy brown sweater holding two smaller boxes

Retailers face the challenge of managing their supply chains to keep delivery times short while keeping costs low.

Customers overwhelmingly opt for fast, free delivery when placing orders, which has led to a growing need for a broad distribution network, including warehouses.

Logically, such distribution centers should be in close proximity to the customers they serve.

CBRE Research analyzed the 15 largest U.S. metro areas and found that distances range from six miles in the San Francisco Bay Area to nine miles in the “Inland Empire,” a region east of Los Angeles County.

Not surprisingly, highly urbanized and dense population centers tend to be closer to last-mile facilities, while more suburban locations were farther away.

Proximity is important because customers expect fast delivery.

As Amazon continues to push the limits of logistics by offering same-day delivery, other retailers are expected to provide two-day delivery — at the latest. That final step in the delivery process is the most expensive and complex.

Gather and analyze logistics data

person in front of brick wall in denim shirt holding medium cardboard box

Companies collect so much data that it’s easy to suffer from information overload.

Gathering data is only the first step in understanding what is happening.

The real valuable information only comes to light after the analysis.

Put all of the “last leg” data in one centralized visual analytics tool, crunch the numbers to better understand the ins and outs of the last mile delivery process, and make regular adjustments as needed.

Offer Real-Time Delivery Tracking

Static tracking numbers are so last decade.

Invest in building or sourcing an app for your customers that tracks driver locations live and provides accurate ETAs, like the Uber of last-mile deliveries.

In addition, text messaging customers with updates on the delivery process creates a transparent process that supports a frictionless buying experience.

Many challenges associated with last mile delivery are outside of the retailer’s control, for example:

  • The number of orders picked and packed daily
  • The frequency that orders are picked up by the carrier
  • The proximity of the warehouse to the customers
  • The number of deliveries made daily

Many retail businesses partner with external fleets and use multiple carriers.

But there are ways to improve the “last mile,” and retailers can take more control of their business’s last mile logistics to identify inefficiencies quickly and improve their customers’ experience in a delivery-first world.







Retailers benefit from unified commerce insights

For retailers, a unified commerce strategy is built on the foundation of integrated retail technology for an efficient, frictionless customer experience across channels.

Unified commerce gives retailers a smooth, efficient means of transacting business, because inventory, sales, e-commerce, and fulfillment system data is integrated to regularly and automatically keep inventory availability and customer details synced and up to date.

From Point of Sale to e-commerce, from CRM to inventory management, all these technologies need to be connected so retailers have a clear picture of who their customers are and how to provide what they want.

Interaction with customers

Woman examines various items of dishes. Beautiful woman shopping tableware in supermarket. Manager helps a costumer.

Each time a customer enters the retail store, they leave behind a wealth of data for any retailer who can measure their interactions within the store:

  • What was bought?
  • What was picked up but not purchased in the end?
  • What was the dwell time near products that were not purchased?
  • How long was the customer in-store?
  • Was this an online pickup?
  • Did they purchase other items along with their online pickup?

Those answers, when documented with technology, inform a retailer’s back-end systems, so inventory can keep pace with demand, and so marketing teams can keep pace with customer needs.

To collate and analyze that information, retail processes and tools must be intelligently integrated in a retail management platform like Retail Pro to enable sharing of relevant data across both customer-facing systems and those that integrate with backend vendor systems.

Applications from the point-of-sale report on purchases, inventory, and customer data. Sharing this data with an integrated warehouse management system allows warehouse staff to have insight into stock levels currently on the shelves, and to place orders with suppliers as supplies diminish.

Sharing the data with a loyalty and personalized marketing platform like AppCard for Retail Pro allows marketing teams to create targeted campaigns around a customer’s purchase history.

Consistent data across channels

That principle also applies to in-store sales staff—they should have the same product information available as retailers’ online channels.

Integrating your ecommerce software with your POS can give store staff the visibility they need to serve customers who call in to verify stock availability before coming in.

Customers who started their retail journey at home but then switch “channels” to come into the brick-and-mortar store must be certain that inventory is in sync: Surprises such as realizing that products aren’t in stock when the web site said they were there are unacceptable.

If your website indicates there is a pair of shoes in certain size on the shelf, your in-store staff should be able to verify that through an inventory management application.

Retailers that use disparate, unintegrated systems risk delays in communication because data is manually updated at the end of the day, causing inventory counts to become out of sync and unreliable.



Customer-facing systems for engagement

There are a number of technologies that retailers can put in place to provide a seamless customer-facing experience.

Shelf labels and cameras can map consumers’ movements within the store. That helps in product layout for future products, and in product forecasting. They can also indicate where is the heaviest foot traffic within the store.

Beacons can communicate with an app on the customer’s phone to notify them of product sales when customers are in the store’s vicinity, enticing them to stop in.

When integrated with the POS as well, interactions in the app which originated from a beacon trigger and resulted in the ultimate purchase can be properly attributed to track the efficacy of the tools and campaigns put in place.

The connected data then provides insight also on unvoiced customer needs which are nevertheless discernable through their interactions with a retailer’s various channels.

Integrating data in retail technologies provides the foundation for retailers to more effectively determine and act on customer needs for a better customer experience.







Retailer innovations during COVID aim to keep customers happy

Excellent customer service has always been the hallmark of well-established, highly respected retailers.

Nordstrom’s, Zappos and Trader Joe’s are a few of the best examples of retailers that make concerted efforts to make and keep customers happy.

Before 2020, many retailers were happy to let those top-rated companies be the standard bearers for superior customer experience.

Meanwhile, many retailers continued servicing customers with no real CX roadmap.

It appeared to the uninformed that the return on investing in the customer service wasn’t worth the time and money spent.

And, the truth was, mediocre customer service was tolerated – until COVID came and retailers were forced to answer a deluge of customer questions and provide new services without much preparation.

In 2020, customer service became the only thing that mattered to customers.

COVID led to an expanded definition of customer service

Image: Anna Shvets

Shopping last year meant dealing with lockdowns caused by COVID-19.

The global pandemic made getting to stores difficult, so, at first, many if not most customers were ordering online.

And while those retailers may have believed they dodged the CX bullet, they were in for a surprise.

Retailers learned the customer service is not simply to answer questions about shipping and billing, but it is also to offer information and help for those struggling with the Coronavirus.

Customers may be desperately searching for products or information on payment options because can’t pay a bill, or are otherwise frustrated by the pandemic hindrances to getting products they need are reaching out via texts, online chat and phone calls.

This year, Forrester predicts customers will continue to look toward retailers for sympathetic customer support.

Forrester Principal Analyst Ian Jacobs recently wrote, “With U.S. unemployment peaking in April, millions of individuals found themselves struggling to pay for food, bills, and other necessities. Organizations must react to provide high-quality, emotionally sensitive customer support in the flexible ways that consumers need.”

In Forrester’s retail predictions for 2021, Jacobs said digital customer service interactions will increase by 40%. That gives retailers many more chances than ever before to prove their mettle.

Self-service options improve customer experience

One way to improve CX, ironically, is to offer more self-service opportunity.

Customers have reported liking to use self-service options, if the process is quick and easy.

In a word, it must be frictionless. For example, a capable site search tool can be invaluable for customers.

Likewise, chat bots are particularly helpful for providing succinct answers quickly; in addition, bots with the power of artificial intelligence bots can reflect whatever personality a brand wants to project.

Adding relevant services based on discerned customer needs

Image: Laura James

Another way to differentiate customer service is to launch a virtual service based on fulfilling a defined need.

Online pet supply provider Chewy, for example, has seen a huge surge in business during the coronavirus pandemic.

But its newest offering, a telehealth service for pets, was launched in response to customers telling service agents about their pet’s problems – while they are ordering food, treats, toys, etc.

The virtual service was on the roadmap for years down the road, but the company saw the need was for now, and launched in October.

Which services will carry on beyond COVID?

Image: Anna Shvets

This year, consumers will let retailers know which innovations will “stick,” and become part of their future shopping expectations.

Top of mind are questions such as: Will the evolution of click and collect to curbside delivery remain a shopping option? Will jewelers continue to offer virtual consultations? How will retailers be able to support the expansion of the sales channel without spreading their staffs too thin?

Those and many others will be answered by 2021 shopping patterns. And perhaps some new “kings of customer service” will be crowned.







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