OpenMarket – November 5, 2020
The holiday season is rapidly approaching and with it, an annualised retail bonanza that only gets bigger every year.
While under normal circumstances we would be expecting the usual bumper sales figures for Australian retailers, COVID-19 is set to make a significant impact on holiday shopping.
This year, fighting through crowds may be consigned to the dustbin of history and brands that have made the shift online during lockdowns are likely to continue with a strong focus on e-commerce.
eCommerce in Australia has grown more than 73 per cent year on year since the start of the pandemic, according to the Inside Australian Online Shopping 2020 eCommerce Industry Report from Australia Post. And digital spending continued to increase even after bricks and mortar stores start to open their doors again.
SMS and MMS are important communication tools for reaching online customers with speed and at scale during the holiday sales period. The smartphone is ubiquitous, and mobile shopping is increasingly popular in Australia – with mobile use overtaking desktop throughout December and January in 2019-2020. Smart brands will be making the most of this channel to reach people at home with personalised, 1:1 interactions.
Demand drives deliveries
Travel bans and lockdowns have sadly separated friends and families, and many will turn online to get gifts to loved ones that they can’t see in person. The Inside Australian Online Shopping 2020 eCommerce Industry Report shows that in April 2020, 91 per cent of all deliveries went to homes, 9 per cent more than the whole of 2019.
To accommodate increased online shopping and deliveries, some stores have even turned into mini-fulfillment centres.
Helping customers keep track of their goods these holidays will be more important than ever. Text messages sent to customers with delivery updates, or MMS messages showing proof of delivery, will keep nervous shoppers informed about where their package is.
But sending an SMS is only half the job. Natural Language Processing (NLP) is a subset of Artificial Intelligence that helps businesses communicate with people more effectively and in a human way. NLP gives customers the chance to genuinely interact with business messages, such as rearranging delivery days or giving feedback on where something can be left safely.
Managing customer service
We can assume that there will be a significant increase in customer service issues as online purchases go up during the holiday season. SMS messaging as a customer service channel gives you immediate access to your customers, and a direct route to helping them with their issues. Customer problems such as website outages, payment confirmations, and so much more can be resolved with a mobile messaging strategy.
Two-way communication – either with real staff or via APIs using Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and NLP technologies – gives customers the feeling of speaking with a person. This improves their disposition towards the brand, and contributes to a constructive discussion of their issue. It also means you can address customer issues at scale in a cost-effective way, so that you’re not faced with people unable to reach your support team or waiting on website query responses. It’s a quick way to resolve common issues, make your customers feel heard and reduce the burden on customer support teams.
Christmas in 2020 won’t be the same for many consumers. Friends and family may be overseas or separated. Customers may be struggling financially. Or they simply might be feeling the weight and stress of living through the pandemic.
Brands organising their marketing programs for the holiday season need to be aware of this. It will be critical to implement communications that are empathetic of customer struggles and offer something that makes things easier for those doing it tough.
Consider offers like free shipping, VIP discounts, and early bird access to in-demand products to make life easier for your customers and help them navigate Christmas shopping. Making communication quick and painless will also go a long way. No one wants to sit on hold or wade through email chains to solve a problem or resolve a query.
Have a happy holiday
Holiday season sales have been getting bigger every year, and even the spectre of COVID-19 isn’t likely put a dent in overall spend, as evidenced by Amazon’s predicted $9.91bn Prime Day 2020 windfall.
While bricks and mortar retail won’t disappear completely this year, eCommerce will be a much bigger presence thanks to social distancing and other restrictions. Mobile messaging will get your brand and products in front of customers by reaching them with the information they want, when and where they are most receptive.
High open rates, high response rates, two-way communications, empathy, and personalisation. Everything you need when communicating with people, whether they’re shopping indoors or online.
To find out more about how mobile messaging can help retailers these holidays, click here.