How retailers can emerge stronger following the lockdown

With the popularity of online shopping growing considerably due to the lockdown, for those retailers that are able to deliver a positive experience during the crisis, there is clearly a significant opportunity to bounce back from the current unprecedented situation. Nick Barbeary, Client Development Director at Paragon Customer Communications, outlines the critical role that customer communications can play in driving this positive outcome. 

While these times of continued uncertainty have understandably negatively impacted the sector, for those retailers that can adapt their communications strategies and deploy solutions quickly, efficiently, and perhaps most crucially cost effectively, to respond to changing consumer behaviour can not only stay connected with customers and remain relevant in the post COVID-19 climate, but also counter any drop in revenue experienced during the pandemic.

Indeed, by adjusting strategies to cater not only for growing ecommerce customer-bases, but also altering perceptions and expectations of brands during and post-crisis, retailers can nurture brand advocacy with their customers, re-assure anxious consumers and ultimately drive the optimal customer experience.

Nonetheless, planning and implementing an integrated, omnichannel communication strategy that engages customers with speed, efficiency and relevancy across a multitude of channels to delivers a ‘frictionless’ customer experience comes with its own set of distinct challenges.

Overcoming hurdles 

In today’s data-rich environment, for instance, retailers often fail to understand how to effectively use aggregated data from different systems. As such data often presents itself in diverse formats and of varying quality, gathering the necessary insights and deriving wider value remains a challenge. A poor understanding of such data can prevent retailers from gaining crucial insights into the customer mindset, including an understanding of their preferred channels, their behaviour and what stage they are at in the customer journey.

The cascading effect of lacking such fundamental comprehensions of customers can be even more damaging when it comes to channel selection. With a myriad of channels through which they can reach customers, organisations can become overawed by the options available to them and often fail to effectively select the most appropriate channels for their customer demographics and, more crucially, their communication preferences.

What’s more, by failing to deploy an effective control system across all channels retailers are at risk of driving consumers to unsubscribe, or even take their business to a competitor, by bombarding them with a tirade of messages on different subjects or even having periods during which they are not contacted at all.

A trusted partner 

While there certainly is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to delivering the best customer experience through effective multi-channel communications, by seeking the support of a knowledgeable and experienced customer communications partner retailers can gain a significant competitive edge.

Each stage of a multi-channel communication strategy, from data-driven audience understanding and customer profiling, through to campaign strategy and planning, personalisation and even channel selection can be efficiently, rapidly and cost-effectively planned and deployed.

Marketing expertise can also ensure the most valuable technologies are implemented to best support the delivery of multi-channel communications strategies that benefit from customer-relevant messages, incisive targeting, customer journey mapping and, by using the most appropriate communication channels, cost-efficiencies.

For example, platforms such as artificial intelligence (AI) – often somewhat of an unknown entity to retailers – when supported by knowledgeable experts, can effortlessly bring all customer data together in a single view, leading to a better understanding of customers’ unique behaviours and seamlessly guiding them towards the required outcome such as a sale, or behavioural change – effortlessly switching channels automatically based on what it’s learnt.

The result is a marketing strategy that will not only re-assure customers that the business is still operational during the lockdown with regular and open communication, but also be adaptable to the inevitable new market dynamics post-crisis. Be that a growing penchant for ecommerce, or even more mature digital customers in not traditionally digitally savvy demographics such as baby boomers.

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