With Christmas now just over two months away, retailers across Australasia are facing unique challenges including a sharp decrease in sales in traditional brick and mortar stores.
Foot traffic is down by 93.6 percent compared to the same time last year, retail sales are down 2.6 percent, and with supply chains being disrupted, the effects of the pandemic are set to have a significant impact on the most important retail sales period of the year.
Thanks to COVID-19, vendors are actively seeking ways to encourage and drive sales.
Mobile messaging is one tool playing a vital role in helping turn the tide of dwindling foot traffic due to social distancing restrictions.
The Register spoke to Jonathan Ryan, Country Manager at OpenMarket Australia and New Zealand. As a leader in mobile messaging technologies and solutions, Jonathan discusses the tools available to retailers that can help boost engagement with their customer base during the holiday season.
How are the effects of the pandemic set to have a significant impact on the most important retail sales period of the year?
Sadly, it is inevitable that retail will see a big impact due to the pandemic. However, it provides a great opportunity for retailers to differentiate themselves, put the customer first, focus on long term engagement and build brand loyalty. Retailers need to focus on personalised shopping promotions and experiences, giving customers a reason to visit retail outlets, and reassurance that they’re safe in doing so.
Two common points I hear which may have an impact are shoppers’ safety and income loss due to the pandemic reducing spending. A premium apparel retailer has told us that they believe their set of customers will be worried about safety. Another of our customers, a multi-brand apparel retailer, believes their target segment of medium income earners will visit outlets if given attractive offers. Most expect some direct loss of revenue to shopping online/ecommerce.
Another is increased use of online sales channels. If you have these, you need to ensure you have messaging in place to drive traffic (Black Friday offers based on pre-registered preferences, sales alerts, last delivery days before Christmas) and conversion (shopping cart abandonment reminders, failed billing alerts, offers to move them along the sales process, and back in stock alerts). Don’t forget post-sale CX to increase advocacy and reduce ‘last mile’/customer care expense (shipping confirmation, delivery notification and amendments, customer care FAQs, and CX surveys). Customer care will be worth focusing on, with COVID impacting the ability to respond during significant peaks in engagement.
Many of the digital use cases also apply to bricks and mortar retail. However, it’s important to also focus on COVID-specific issues. Communicate about local lockdown rules changing, notify customers about new store opening hours, in or out of stock alerts (if the systems are in place to do this in real time – customers will complain over wasted trips), reminders of your store’s COVID policies or the need to wear masks.
What tools are available to retailers to help boost engagement with their customer base during the holiday season?
We can build engaging customer flows and cross-sell/up-sell campaigns using Mobile Engagement Platform. There’s also SMS based on the customer’s last purchase date, what they have purchased, and clicks on unique links. SMS as a tool can be used to share safe shopping measures and contactless shopping. We can even link to a video showing the safety measures.
Organisations need to make sure that they speak to experts who can deliver a technical solution and work alongside them to understand where and how mobile interactions can add value to their business.
What recommendations do you have for retailers wanting to better engage their customers during the Christmas and holiday shopping period, and convert this engagement into greater revenue?
- Minimum contact shopping experience using digital initiatives – a customer of ours got a good response by tying up with an NGO and asking customers to donate their old clothes, bringing out the social responsibility of the brand. In return for donations, customers received coupons over SMS.
- Retail safety in COVID times – SMS can manage footfall through appointment booking and reminders.
- Promotion – getting customers instore. Specific offers for days and/or times to incentivise shoppers, whilst also distributing traffic more evenly throughout the day.
- Online receipts – remove the need to physically exchange goods. Input phone number to receive receipts (also a great way to collect a database, with permission).
- Returning goods – now that customers can’t physically try on clothes or touch products, a high-quality customer centric returns procedure is vital.
How can retailers harness the power of SMS messaging to reach and engage with large audiences?
- App download campaigns and retargeting audiences, depending on if they click or don’t click download URL’s. Generate digital coupons sent over SMS to be redeemed at store or an in-app purchase for every successful download. As above, developing engaging campaigns based on customer past purchases.
- Advertising a Long Code/Short Code (LC/SC) for shoppers to send a Mobile Originated message and receive updates, offers, deals and coupons when they text in.
- Broadcasting to opted in customer lists using what you know about your customer. It can’t just be personalised (name, location), it has to be personal (mean something to the individual).
- Be clear and explicit about why you want a customer to opt-in to be contacted and crucially, what the benefit is for them. For example, ask customers for their phone number so you can text them when the item they are interested in is a Black Friday sale or back in stock. Or post sale, so you can notify them about delivery times so they have the opportunity to change them if they’re not going to be able to take the delivery. If you don’t have many customers opted in for mobile communications, make sure acquisition is included in your marketing strategy. All channels will be useful, but the mass reach and immediacy of engagement you’ll get on SMS will be far greater than email.
Any final thoughts?
Customer feedback is vital – retail brands should seek real time feedback via SMS, getting store specific insights, which they can use to build on great experiences and improve those that aren’t so great.