With flexible working and social media consumption now integrated into everyday life, many businesses are looking to enhance the customer experience and improve sales as pandemic recovery continues. Capitalising on the Black Friday market can help to boost sales while creating convenient and seamless shopping experiences for customers both online and in-store.
Retail Voices spoke with industry experts from within the retail, IT and marketing space to better understand the importance of convenience for customers this Black Friday.
Creating an Omnichannel Approach
In today’s retail landscape, sales aren’t as black and white as exclusively online and offline. In fact, many have found huge success through a blend of the two – implementing offerings such as buy online pick up in-store (BOPIS) to create flexibility for consumers and help them secure savings ahead of time.
“This year, due to the ever-growing pressure on delivery services, consumers are securing their bargains even earlier so they don’t end up empty-handed in the weeks before the big day.” Explains Ailen Li, Head of Sales for North America at Nedap Retail. “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.”
Lysa Campbell, CEO at Retail Marketing Group, also weighs in on the omnichannel conversation, claiming that the festive season provides a strong platform to try new solutions.
“The upcoming holiday period for many will be a trial run of new technologies that can service the hybrid consumer,” Campbell says. “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.”
Learning from Last Year
The past 18 months have been a whirlwind for the retail industry, and a number of lessons have been learned along the way. Where 2020’s Black Friday event was a predominantly online affair, this year presents fresh obstacles as in-store sales are expected to once again surge. Those who succeed in 2021 can achieve the best of both worlds, explains Campbell.
“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. 2020’s Black Friday was adapted to work entirely online, yet this year, the annual event must adopt a more hybrid environment framework, with some consumers eager to browse stores themselves while also finding it easier to buy the best deals online.”
With the festive season fast approaching, Marc Shields, social ecommerce expert and Senior Account manager at Loud Mouth Media, echoes Campbell’s sentiment of providing sales channels that best fit the customer, noting the importance of leveraging social media.
“All major social media platforms now have ecommerce capabilities, with Pinterest catalogues, Facebook and Instagram shops and TikTok’s partnership with Shopify in place to enable online sales. Ensuring that purchasing items is as convenient as possible during the busiest and most stressful time of the year can also be achieved by using on-platform storefronts (collection ads) to showcase more of the product range.”
Adapting to the Environment
An omnichannel approach to retail creates a seamless customer experience. However, with workforce shortages and lower staffing numbers, delivering exceptional customer service becomes a difficult task, explains Dean Frew, CTO & Senior VP of RFID Solutions at SML Group.
“The time and labor required to locate items for in-store and online sales is dramatically reduced with RFID item search capabilities and store associates are freed up to provide improved customer service instead of endlessly searching for items during peak selling season.
“Inventory accuracy is the key to success. SML found that 43% of retail decision-makers say that having real-time visibility of stock levels would be one of the most critical factors in delivering a better customer experience. With its ability to increase overall efficiency at each stage of the supply chain, RFID technology is an effective solution that enables retailers to track and manage inventory in seconds accurately. The technology will allow retailers to keep operations running smoothly, provide quality customer service, and fulfill orders consistently during one of the busiest events of the year, even with a depleted workforce.”
The future of retail
Retail as we know it is continually changing, and the spending habits of the holidays is evidence of this. The pandemic changed how consumers purchase their goods. They now demand convenient experiences that cater to their varying needs and those retailers that adapt the quickest will find the most success.