Last year’s Q4 was unlike anything the ecommerce industry had ever experienced. Propelled by COVID-19, the digital transformation came in full force - changing consumer behavior and the way brands do business. Between an unprecedented seasonal surge, pandemic-induced supply-chain disruptions, and shipping issues, the 2020 holiday season was nothing short of chaotic.
Here we are, a year later. If you think this upcoming holiday season will be any less monumental than last year, think again. With ecommerce sales anticipated to rise 11.3% to $206.88 billion, we’re approaching the biggest digital Q4 in ecommerce history. Is your business ready?
As you’re gearing your business up for the most digital holiday season to date, consider doing the following:
1. Get Onboard With Omnichannel
Providing an omnichannel experience is a non-negotiable for businesses that want to thrive in this digital age. If you haven’t already started expanding your omnichannel features and options, now is the time. Consumers are always looking for convenient experiences, especially during the busy holiday season. So make it easy for them to browse your website, place orders, find information, and contact your support team across all devices and channels.
Businesses that invest in creating consistent omnichannel experiences are not only opening doors for new customers but are also building loyalty with their existing customers. In fact, brands with omnichannel strategies see 91% higher YoY retention rates compared to brands that do not.
2. Prepare For Supply-Chain and Shipping Challenges
With the Delta variant underway, shutdowns and labor shortages are already contributing to substantial supply-chain issues and shipping delays. It goes without saying that these challenges are anticipated to ramp up even more in Q4 alongside the holiday hustle.
Be aware of these constraints and how they may affect your business and customer experience. It is crucial to have contingency plans in place, especially this close to the holidays. Being prepared to implement alternative solutions and service strategies can help mitigate the negative impact of problems like product shortages and shipping delays. To be proactive in these efforts, consider utilizing business tools that monitor trending issues. Keeping tabs on when a popular product is on backorder or a shipping carrier experiencing delays will help your team to prepare themselves and take action.
3. Scale Your Service
Last year ecommerce businesses saw firsthand how the digital shift contributed to peak season customer service chaos. 81% of consumers did over half their holiday shopping online, so it’s no surprise that there was a greater need for service - especially when you factor in supply-chain issues and shipping delays. This year consumers plan on doing even more of their holiday shopping online. Brands should be prepared for an even higher volume of customer service tickets this upcoming Q4.
In order to take on the surge in service queries, businesses will need additional support. Unfortunately, the Delta variant and tight labor market exacerbate the challenges of hiring temporary agents. Leveraging a scalable customer service technology such as AI automation minimizes the need for seasonal support. Taking on large quantities of service tickets, AI automation will allow your business to scale without sacrificing the quality of your service. Ensuring customers’ problems are solved quickly and efficiently, AI automation helps to reduce wait times and prevent backlog buildup. It will alleviate pressure on your support staff and keep your customers satisfied.
4. Prioritize Communication
By now we are familiar (too familiar) with unpredictability. Even with diligent planning and refined protocols, there is so much that cannot be controlled. One thing that businesses do have control over is how they communicate with their customers. Clear, quick, consistent, personalized, and empathetic communication can make all the difference in a customer’s relationship with a brand. This rings particularly true during the holiday season when people are feeling considerably busy and stressed.
While the digital shift has created a greater need for brand-customer communication, it also provides brands with more ways to connect with their customers on a personal level. With seamless 24/7 service across all channels, you can ensure your customers are always able to get ahold of you - even on the holidays. And with proactive support, you can be a step ahead; saving customers time and effort while building brand loyalty.
Granted, nobody wants to hear that the gift they ordered for their mom won’t be arriving on time. But a customer that receives a fast and personalized email from an empathetic agent is likely to be less frustrated than the customer who spent 45 minutes waiting to speak with a live chat representative who isn’t transparent about the delivery date. Keeping communication top of mind is critical if you want to keep your customers after the holidays.
The Most Digital Time of Year
Given that the biggest digital push in Q4 history is upon us, it is imperative for businesses to meet customers where they are. Brands that do not adapt and lean into digital advancements will ultimately fall behind. Taking the steps outlined above can help you prepare your business for what’s to come this holiday season (and beyond!).