Black Friday in England will be online due to the second lockdown. Consumers looking for a deal have two choices: buy online or use click and collect services to pick up purchases outside stores. With the doors to non-essential shops locked once more, every retailer will be vying for their share of the surge in online spend over the course of the weekend (which is being dubbed Cyber Weekend to include Cyber Monday).
This is a difficult battle to win in normal years. Add in the complexities of different lockdown restrictions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the challenge to deliver a superior, differentiated customer experience gets even tougher. Those retailers with a cast-iron customer focus will be better prepared. They have been taking lessons from the past eight months and know that the experience customers had pre-Covid is no longer recognisable. These CX leaders have put on their customers’ digital shoes and walked key journeys to find and close any gaps in experience. Voice of the customer feedback is giving these retailers valuable insight on customer expectations, preferences and pain points.
These brands will have stress-tested customer care channels and more service reps will be available to help customers complete purchases, and swiftly answer queries in real-time –regardless of channel. Chatbots will be on hand to do some of light lifting on basic questions and interactions. A free and easy returns policy will give consumers the confidence that they can effortlessly return any products that are not suitable. Investment in augmented reality apps will further enrich CX by allowing people to try before they buy at home.
And consumers are willing to spend. More than half of UK shoppers (58%) plan to spend the same, or more, than they did last year, according to Emarys Research. And yet all of this will not be enough to kickstart growth on its own.
Retailer recoveries will be built on long term CX strategies
Full-bodied recoveries on the high street and online will be built on sustained investment in CX to inspire new and continued customer loyalty and advocacy. This has to be earned. It will take time. There is no quick-fix approach that will work here. CX leaders never take a short-term view of a single event.
Delivering a great customer experience during the event is crucial. But retailers who just turn on the taps over the weekend will probably only deliver short-term gains. Those brands that are taking a longer view of how their customer experience is the cornerstone of their recovery will be well placed to deliver sustained growth beyond the holiday season into the new year. There is no silver bullet. Retailers will need to roll up their sleeves to do this. The Coronavirus crisis means that products and processes will need to change to meet evolving customer needs and wants. This means retailers will need to re-organise around a fresh branded experience to differentiate online and when the shops re-open. Delivering a great experience over Black Friday is just the start of the long road to recovery.
Meanwhile, let’s end on a note of caution. Those retailers that haven’t even done their CX homework in time for Black Friday will not be able to use Covid as cover for poor experiences. This will not cut it with tired and anxious consumers. The road to recovery will be even longer if some brands can’t get the basics right over the biggest sales event of the year.