Cyber Monday and customer service
We’re now well into the Christmas shopping season, with Cyber Monday behind us and both retailers and analysts releasing their first figures for sales. This seems to show a strong start for many retailers, helped by promotions around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. John Lewis said online sales for the week ending 30 November were 35.7% higher than last year, while ChannelAdvisor reported that Amazon’s 2013 Black Friday sales were 63% more than 2012, and that sales on eBay had increased by 84%.
But there is also a downside – allegedly a fight broke out in an Asda store as customers scuffled to get hold of discounted Black Friday televisions. And an estimated 750,000 RBS, NatWest and Ulster Bank customers were unable to use their credit and debit cards for three hours on Cyber Monday due to a computer failure.
So what are the early trends we can draw from Christmas 2013, particularly with respect to customer service?
1 Mobile continues to grow
More and more people are buying Christmas presents through tablets and smartphones. Often this fits in with their schedules – 89% of 2,000 Britons surveyed by Geometry Global admitted to buying or browsing on mobile devices on their way to and from work. For retailers this means not just having a mobile strategy, but ensuring that customers can get answers to their queries when they are online, outside normal 9-5 shopping hours.
2 Black Friday and Cyber Monday are here
While they began in the US, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been enthusiastically adopted by both retailers and shoppers, with major discounts kick-starting the Christmas shopping season for many. Responding to events like this, and competitor promotions, is critical for retailers if they are to succeed at Christmas, so they need a flexible online platform that enables them to act quickly. Customer service and store staff need to be kept up to date when things change so they can provide seamless service in a fast-changing market.
3 Spending is up, but customers are cautious
According to the Centre for Retail Research, total UK Christmas sales are expected to be up 2% this year, at £72.2 billion. While people are spending a little more, they are still looking for the right product at the right price. Staff need to be trained to upsell and cross-sell without being pushy, while websites need to be clear and make it simple and easy to find information, delivering an experience that encourages people to buy.
4 Omnichannel is moving centre stage
Click and Collect services are growing in popularity and are driving an increase in footfall in physical shops. Retail expert Springboard predicts that visits to the High Street will grow by 2.6% year on year as customers visit to pick up products bought online. This is a major opportunity to sell more, so retailers need to ensure that not only do they have their collection processes working properly, but they provide an inviting retail experience that encourages further sales.
5 Don’t neglect social media service
All retailers are now looking at using social media to spread information about their offers and encourage engagement and sales. As well as Twitter and Facebook, networks such as Pinterest are being used to share content and help sway customers. But it is vital that the customer service side of social media isn’t overlooked at Christmas. Ensure you have enough staff to handle the increasing volume of queries around product availability and deliveries and can quickly deal with any complaints before they escalate and go viral on social networks.
The Christmas season is longer than it has ever been – extending well into January, with consumers shopping online on Christmas Day itself. Consequently it makes up the lion’s share of many retailers’ annual revenues. Fail to deliver the right experience and it could endanger your entire business, so make sure that customer service is top of your priorities this Christmas.