How to Connect with Holiday Shoppers Staying Home

Is it cold where you are yet? Do you feel the chill in the air? Do you smell the hint of pine and gingerbread hiding amidst all the PSLs?

Well, get excited because Christmas and the holiday shopping season is right around the corner.

While there’s a lot to be thankful for this year, the e-commerce world is also holding its breath. Habits from the COVID-19 pandemic have shifted shopping permanently online, but economic uncertainty hangs over the season.

Pandemic concerns and general convenience means many consumers are staying home this year, meaning you need new ways to reach your customers and capture their attention.

Let’s explore how you can prepare for the 2022 holiday season and take a look at how to connect with customers shopping from home.

The 2022 holiday shopping landscape.

Given the general uncertainty in the air, there are mixed predictions for the holiday season. Adobe’s annual forecast predicts online shopping to top $209.7 billion in the US—a 2.5% increase over last year.

While that’s still a jump, it doesn’t come close to the 8.7% year-over-year growth between the 2020 and 2021 holiday shopping seasons. Or, for that matter, the 33% jump in online revenue we saw in 2020 as a direct result of the pandemic.

Despite Adobe’s neutral outlook, other surveyors aren’t anticipating an economic boost at all this year. ShipStation predicts a 14.4% reduction in overall holiday spending in the US, which represents a $30.6 billion loss.

At the same time, merchants are staying optimistic. A whopping 50% expect online sales to increase. Unfortunately, 58% of consumers said they plan to cut back on non-food spending.

Here are the top three things weighing on consumers’ minds.

Inflation

Inflation is a topic on everyone’s mind right now, and it will influence consumers’ holiday shopping habits. According to ShipStation, 28.8% of consumers are most concerned about rising inflation and its impact on their holiday spending. Although wages have gone up, they haven’t kept up with cost of living increases and general price hikes. Knowing that prices are higher overall—and not knowing when inflation will subside—means customers will be price-conscious this year. They plan to spend more time hunting for deals and holding back from impulse purchases.

A looming recession

Beyond the immediate impact of inflation, people can feel a recession in the air. Whether it has a long-term effect on our economy is yet to be seen, but that won’t stop it from impacting the shopping season. ShipStation reports that 18.3% of consumers say they’re most concerned about rising economic uncertainty. Expect more strategic shopping, with less focus on brand loyalty and more focus on the overall cost of goods.

COVID-19

COVID-19 levels are down and most of our lives have returned to a semi-normal state. Yet, while 59% of consumers say they’re less concerned about COVID-19 this holiday season according to IBM, many consumer habits implemented during the pandemic are here to stay. This includes online shopping, curbside pickup, and avoiding holiday crowds. Customers prefer the convenience and on-demand nature of online shopping. Since they’re avoiding the crowds of Black Fridays past, there will be less emphasis on individual shopping days (Black Friday and Cyber Monday).

7 tips for connecting with customers staying home this holiday season.

Convenience and safety are two big factors that sway your customers to shop online, but it takes more than that to get and keep their attention.

Take a look at these seven tips for connecting with customers online.

1. Optimize omnichannel service.

Part of creating a digital customer experience is ensuring consistent service across channels. A whopping 54% of customers say it feels like sales, services, and marketing don’t talk to each other, according to Salesforce.

Customers want to be able to start a conversation in one channel and pick it up in another without having to repeat themselves. This is especially true during busy times when the last thing they want to think about is, “Where did I talk to that nice rep?”

Instead, ensure a seamless online experience with a conversational AI platform that works across channels and carries your customers’ conversations with them. Having a conversation on a social platform, like Instagram or WhatsApp, and carrying it to your website’s live chat (also known as web chat) will create a frictionless experience for your customers that they remember.

2. Personalize your customer service.

No matter the state of the holiday season, the question is still the same: How do you stand out in a crowded online marketplace? Even amid everything else going on, personalization still reigns supreme.

According to Zendesk’s CX Trends report, 68% of customers expect all interactions to be personalized. To meet these customer expectations, customer service agents and chatbots need one major thing: information.

Ensure your conversational AI platform integrates with your existing CRM and e-commerce software, like Salesforce, Shopify, Oracle, and more. Armed with information, your agents can give customers a personalized and unique online shopping experience.

3. Send rich messages.

Rich messaging is the next level of text messaging. (You probably already do it in your own personal text messages.) Instead of sending simple text-based messages, you can send photos, emojis, GIFs, and more.

With Quiq’s advanced rich messaging capabilities, you can send personalized messages to your customers, and even:

  • Process secure transactions.
  • Schedule appointments with a tap of a button.
  • Send reminders, confirmations, and notices.
  • Increase engagement with compelling content.

Rich messages are a great way to notify customers of special sales and upcoming discounts during the holiday season. For example, if they’re waiting on a hot item with the potential to sell out, you can let them know when it’s restocked and even complete the transaction right within their messaging app. This ensures your customer won’t miss out on the deal while helping you capture more revenue.

4. Make holiday information easy to find.

Sometimes, the best way to stay connected with your customers is to make sure they can find what they need without talking to your service team. Younger customers especially prefer to find answers on your site independently. In fact, it’s often a sales driver since they might be more likely to leave your site than talk to a service rep.

Make sure you update your knowledge base to include holiday information, like the return/exchange policy, shipping costs, the last day to buy to receive items by Christmas, etc. But don’t just hide it on your site somewhere. Include this information on your social media, in newsletters, and in other marketing materials. Not only will this spark engagement and purchases, but it’ll also lessen the amount of customer service inquiries during an already busy season.

5. Up your live chat game.

If you haven’t implemented live chat on your website, you absolutely should. The holidays are a great time to flex your live chat muscles. In case you don’t know, live chat (also known as web chat) is a way to instantly message your customers from your website. It typically lives on the bottom right-hand corner of your site, where customers can easily interact with your service agents.

During the holidays, you may have an influx of new customers that live chat can help you capture. Proactively reach out during key points in the customer journey to head off questions and even prevent abandoned carts. Check in with web visitors when they first hit your site, when they stumble on your returns page, or when they first view their shopping cart. It’s a great way to give customers a similar experience to being in a brick-and-mortar store and will help prevent bounce rates.

6. Have more conversations on social media.

Social media is dominated by marketing teams, but it can also be a great place for customer service. Many consumers won’t differentiate your brand’s customer service team from your social media team, and they’ll expect the same service, ready-to-go answers, and personalization they’d get from using your website’s live chat.

So, that’s what you should give them. Make social media an extension of your customer service by using your conversational platform in social media channels. From Facebook Messenger for Business to Instagram for Business and even Twitter Direct Messages, you can give customers a stellar experience no matter where they reach out.

7. Turn Google searches into experiences.

Never miss out on an opportunity to have a conversation with your customers. When customers find your business on Google, Google’s Business Messages gives them the option to text you directly with a click of a button.

That way, customers can go directly to your customer service team with questions and get a personalized experience from the get-go. Since you’ll be using their native messaging app, you can use the same rich messaging to delight customers with GIFs, image carousels, and more.

More ways to have a successful 2022 holiday shopping season.

With the balance of the holiday shopping season hanging in the air, you can’t continue business as usual. Consider these bonus tips to help finish out the year strong.

Start now.

Retailers are used to the holiday rush—that crunch time between Thanksgiving and Christmas day when the majority of people get the majority of their shopping done. That’s always been a challenge for retailers in general (how to make the most money in such a short period of time), but even more so for e-commerce.

This year, holiday shoppers are planning ahead. Big retailers are offering sales ahead of the busy season. Amazon, for example, hosted a fall Prime Day event in early October to kick off the holiday season. And a Bankrate survey shows 50% of shoppers plan to start before November. Only 12% plan to wait until December to start.

What does this mean for your business? Don’t save your sales and holiday marketing for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Repurpose what messaging and promotions you can to get shoppers to your site as soon as possible, or you could be missing out on a lot of the early revenue.

Cut shipping costs.

Or at least don’t raise them. As prices increase, customers will look for ways to save money while online businesses will look for ways to cut their own costs. Typically, online retailers will pass shipping costs on to customers as a way to cut their own costs.

But when money is tight, savvy shoppers are more likely to switch retailers or even skip online shopping altogether. In fact, 30.3% of customers say the cost of delivery is one of the most important factors when choosing a merchant according to ShipStation. Be cautious when considering increasing your shipping rates and look for other ways to combat rising expenses.

Offer new ways to shop.

Now that holiday shoppers have spent a couple of years in the COVID trenches, alternative shopping methods like curbside pickup have increased in popularity. In an Adobe survey of 1,000 consumers, 35% said they would use curbside pickup this season. This will be a big increase from the 25% of shoppers who used this service last year.

Curbside pickup is a way to help your last-minute shoppers, too. While a lot of holiday shopping is happening earlier in the season, there are always last-minute shoppers. Offering this option could help your customer service team, too. They won’t be as bogged down with angry customers asking why their package won’t arrive until after December 25.

Make customer connection your differentiator.

Despite uncertainty this holiday shopping season, connecting with customers is the best way to stand out and ensure success. You can give your customers the same outstanding experience they’d receive in-store (or even better) when you double down on conversations.

How Retailers Can Effectively Use Outbound Messaging This Holiday Season

Retailers are facing heavy demands this season as they prepare for the holidays. The customer experience is more critical than ever before, and engaging with consumers during this busy time of year is the key to making more sales and increasing branding interest. Holiday season outbound messaging is the ideal way to reach potential shoppers in this digital world.

Retailer outbound messaging is a mobile-friendly option that can help keep buyers up to date and increase consumer loyalty. The use of a Quiq outbound messaging platform will give you access to the latest technology, which is essential for success in competitive markets.

Tips to Effectively Use Outbound Messaging This Holiday Season

Well-timed outbound messages can encourage purchases and improve relationships with buyers. In most cases, the best practice is to give consumers full control over which messages they receive and ensure that each one has value to them. This practice helps retailers and shoppers stay in touch, especially during the holiday season when people are on the lookout for great deals. Stores can use holiday season retail outbound messaging to:

  • Promote holiday sales: The possibilities are nearly endless for retailers looking to promote holiday sales. Outbound messaging offers a creative way to incorporate branding and media into concise, digestible information. The right message at the right time could be the key to encouraging a new customer to buy a competitively priced product. 
  • Encourage return customers: While outbound messaging is an excellent method of drawing in new consumers, it can also help maintain the interest of returning shoppers. For example, retailers can use messaging to encourage returning consumers to make more purchases or learn about different offerings. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to use information about past purchases to suggest other relevant products.
  • Keep them up to date on purchases: If a shopper places an order online, SMS updates can help them stay up to date on order information, shipping details, and delivery alerts. Most buyers like having the freedom to check the status of their purchase or delivery, so this helps foster open communication and build trust.
  • Facilitate returns: Product returns are common during and after the holiday season. SMS messaging helps retailers communicate important return information with buyers so they can get their money back as quickly as possible. Efficiency and simplicity are essential when it comes to facilitating returns, especially during the busiest times of the year. Messaging helps streamline the process so each shopper has access to the service they need.

Learn About Holiday Season Outbound Messaging From Quiq

Retailers can promote sales and keep consumers informed this year with holiday season outbound messaging. Engaging with shoppers and increasing loyalty is a great way to foster growth over time. In addition, using outbound messages helps those in retail and entertainment widen their reach to a brand-new audience.

From multichannel integration to chatbot automation, Quiq offers a variety of benefits within a highly advanced platform. Learn more today by requesting a demo online.

How This Holiday Season Will Be Different for Retailers

This holiday season, retailers are interacting with consumers a little bit differently. The COVID-19 crisis has had a huge impact on industries in 2020, forcing retail business leaders to rethink their marketing and sales strategies. 

Consumers are spreading out their holiday shopping and doing their business online. Stores are limiting their customer capacity, which means it’s shaping up to be a nontraditional holiday season for both the retailer and the consumer.

Understand How Consumer Behavior Has Changed

As the holidays draw closer, holiday season retailers are finding ways to adapt to changes in consumer behavior. It’s crucial to understand how these behaviors have changed the industry so you can develop a plan of action. Some of the ways shoppers are responding to social distancing measures include:

  • Buying online: eCommerce is growing rapidly thanks to COVID-19, and more consumers are turning to online shopping than ever before. Quiq messaging software makes it easier for shoppers to get the remote support they need.
  • Using contactless ways to purchase and return: The current situation has prompted consumers to look for safer methods of purchase and return, such as curbside pickup and delivery.
  • Increased value-driven buying: Thanks to the uncertainty of consumer finances, many shoppers feel more value-driven this holiday season. They want to make sure they receive the best value for their dollar.

How This Holiday Season Will Be Different

Retailers and consumers are finding ways to adapt as social distancing becomes the new norm. This holiday season will be different from what we’ve seen in the past due to the number of people buying online and managing reduced income. Some of the points to keep in mind include:

  • Less consumer spending: This year’s consumers are looking for the exact product they need at the right price, and it’s the retailer’s job to provide that value. Quiq’s software helps retailers enhance customer service with live chat, instant messaging, and chatbots. Better communication technology allows agents to serve buyers more efficiently.

Customer_Messaging_Service_2_Way_Efficiency

  • Less in-store traffic: Many buyers are now choosing delivery, mailing, and curbside pickup, which serve as convenient and contactless options. Retailers are using Quiq solutions to optimize the online shopping experience so more people can enjoy the benefits of low-risk buying. If a shopper has a question, text and chat can take the place of phone calls and emails. Messaging is a convenient and cost-effective substitute for both retailers and consumers in an era where more people carry around mobile phones than ever before.
  • Less impulse buying: Because fewer people are buying in stores, they’re unable to see products in person before they make a purchase. Quiq offers Rich Messaging, which allows consumers to make purchases easily over the phone and engage with representatives as needed. Augmented reality also allows shoppers to see products in great detail before they make a purchase. This capability offers a fluid and exciting way to engage with potential buyers on a platform they can feel comfortable with.

Adapt to This Year’s Challenges With Quiq Software

Holiday season retailers can use Quiq software solutions to accommodate value-driven online buyers this year. While these may be atypical times, you can navigate the current situation by taking advantage of the latest website and messaging technology. Contact us today for a demo to learn more about Quiq options.

How to Use a Messaging Platform to Assist With Holiday Returns

As customers buy up clothes, collectibles, décor, toys, and appliances this holiday, some of these products will inevitably be returned after the season ends. In fact, a survey from 2019 showed that the majority of consumers were likely to return at least some of their holiday gifts. This trend leaves retailers with a massive number of returns, which is why refining the customer return process in preparation for the holidays is essential.

Using messaging platforms for returns is a convenient and economical way to manage more customers and provide fast service. Quiq provides messaging software with seamless integration and chatbot capabilities for retailers looking to streamline communication.

The Benefits of Using a Text Messaging Platform for Returns

Text messaging creates a more personalized customer experience. It also offers a way for agents to keep consumers informed by using a common communication channel. With a texting platform, retailers can:

  • Quickly provide support: Mobile technology allows people to access messages from anywhere at any time. Texting is personal, and it gives retailer representatives the ability to operate at a faster pace. It’s a better option for shoppers who are looking for immediate service.
  • Organize the returns process: With texting platforms, retailers can prioritize messages, create inboxes for separate topics, and monitor incoming inquiries. These capabilities make it easier to organize the returns process according to retail business specifications.
  • Reference order and customer information easily: While talking on the phone or speaking in person can be a hassle for both the consumer and the agent, SMS messaging allows you to access essential information in minutes.

How to Use Bots to Help Automate Holiday Returns

Advanced text messaging platforms allow retailers to improve their return processes with chatbots. Automated systems can now guide customers through the beginning steps of a return, and they can often operate much faster than human agents. Chatbots:

  • Address frequently asked questions: Chatbots generate fast responses to simple questions that a buyer might ask. For example, if someone asks how to make a return, a bot can get them started on the right track.
  • Automate obtaining order information: Automated messaging systems also collect order information, such as names and order numbers, from consumers. This process speeds up data gathering so that agents can focus on the more complex parts of the process.
  • Preview messages: With message previewing capabilities, bots can answer questions more quickly — much faster than a person can. The faster a buyer receives a reliable answer, the more satisfied they will be.
  • Have a past history log of interactions: Bots keep a record of past interactions with consumers, which helps retailers provide a more individualized approach to service. The history log gives retailers quick access to customer information, which simplifies the return process.

Facilitate Holiday Returns With Quiq

Modern technology improves returns processing for retailers in all sectors of the industry. If you’re looking for a way to expedite holiday returns this year, Quiq can provide a comprehensive messaging platform solution. For more information, contact Quiq for a demo.