It goes without saying that the past 18 months have served as a transformational tunnel of consumer behavior. Within the past year, the shift towards online has only continued to accelerate for the retail industry, with a 75% increase in people shopping online over the course of the pandemic. This not only resulted in changed shopping behaviours but also had a huge impact on consumer perception, with 80% of people believing that a consumer-friendly website is imperative. This implies that brands trying to increase their favorability need to make sure that consumers receive a seamless experience even when they are engaging with them digitally.
The number of consumers shopping online is expected to rise again ahead of the upcoming festive season. Ahead of Black Friday, we spoke to a number of industry experts to explore how technology can enhance consumer experience over the Christmas period.
Active engagement is necessary everywhere
Whether it is through a website or a highstreet showroom, brands need to drive active engagement everywhere. By the virtue of an active engagement brands can build a positive relationship with their customers.
Following last year’s festive season – which was undertaken completely online in the UK, – retailers are wondering where to establish their primary focus. However, discussing the upcoming festive season Lysa Campbell, CEO at Retail Marketing Group asserts: “The last Black Friday adapted to become entirely online, yet this year, the annual event must adopt a more hybrid environment framework, with some consumers eager to browse in stores but also finding it easier to buy the best deals online”.
“How retailers handle this Black Friday will pave the way for Christmas. The upcoming holiday period for many will be a trial run of new technologies that can service the hybrid consumer. Technologies like live streaming or new omnichannel strategies will allow consumers to benefit from face-to-face interactions whilst staying in the comfort of their own homes.”
Emphasising on the importance of the omnichannel strategies Ailen Li, Head of Sales for North America at Nedap Retail said: “In addition to planning ahead, an increasing number of consumers are choosing to pick up items themselves using omnichannel services, which includes the options of curbside pick-up and BOPIS (Click & Collect), using retailers as accessible omnichannel hubs.”
eCommerce is the key
Retail Marketing Group’s Campbell believes that: “The last year has meant that retail as a whole has had to evolve drastically, not only to cater to economic challenges generated from the pandemic, but also to a new more digital savvy consumer.”
In 2020, online sales climbed a 13-year high record with a 36% of YOY increase. Ahead of Black Friday, consumers already know what they will be looking out for, and they will search for products via online channels ahead of time, claims Nedap Retail’s Li.
She explains: “One of the most important aspects for retailers when preparing for Black Friday and Christmas respectively is securing sales across all channels without overstocking or canceling orders. Despite many consumers still believing the best deals are made in-store, Black Friday mobile spending went up to 40% last year.”
Continuing on the topic of evolution of eCommerce Marc Shields, Senior Account Manager – Social Media at Loud Mouth Media opines: “With the past 18 months only accelerating shopping online, the evolution of Ecommerce is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, Ecommerce businesses are now outperforming smaller companies by 6% in revenue.”
He adds: “Commerce is now so much more than just a transaction, it is an interaction between a business and its customer and a process that provides an easy and attractive customer experience. 2020 was the year for short-term solutions, but as we head towards 2022, the shopping experience has evolved further and its success and convenience means it is here to stay and even bigger advances are still to come.”
Use technology to gain consumer trust
Loud Mouth Media’s Shields continues: “With consumers on the lookout for bargains and a seamless shopping experience, having this in place is a more personal approach than regular ad content and can be used in conjunction with buy-now-pay-later services like Klarna to help encourage the sale. The use of technology like contactless payments, in-store shopping appointments and delivery or pick-up options has also replaced 94% of the Point of Sale (POS) revenue lost in the first six weeks of the pandemic”.
Additionally, brands trying to win their consumers’ trust need to keep their security in mind. Especially when dealing with the sensitive information of their consumers such as payment details, date of birth the retailers must have sufficient capabilities to maintain the security of the data.
Describing the cybersecurity risks in the festive season Dominik Birgelen, CEO Oneclick said: “Cyber attacks around the November-December shopping extravaganza are mostly aimed at consumers, but there are two sides to every transaction. Retailers have a duty to protect their customers from scams and malicious hackers.
“Retailers should be mindful of insider threats. Whether it’s a corrupt employee or an under trained staff force, remote systems not built for self-protection will suffer during Black Friday. In addition, many retail players have had to outsource parts of their business processes to third parties to survive the turbulence of COVID-19,” suggests Birgelen.
He concludes: ”Cloud-based technologies allow retail institutions to implement critical cybersecurity measures that prove extremely difficult to penetrate including Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA). Through a ZTA approach, no actor who wants access to the retailer’s resources or services in the network is trusted from the outset. This means every access, whether from outside or inside, is individually authenticated. Black Friday offers hackers an opportunity and cloud solutions provide retailers with a blockade. It’s important for customers and employees to be protected during a time of vulnerability.”