A communication plan of action

The ongoing crisis has undoubtedly presented considerable challenges for the retail sector, yet for those organisations that are able to be agile and adapt in these challenging times there is an opportunity to prosper.

Mike Cox, Business Development Director at Paragon Customer Communications outlines the importance of delivering customer experience (CX) in the new climate, and the critical role of communications in providing it.

With the UK on lockdown, and shoppers largely isolated in their households for the foreseeable future, the current climate has predictably placed a strain on many bricks and mortar retailers. Despite this, ecommerce continues to face burgeoning demand, with new data from IMRG suggesting that UK online retail sales rose by 22% in the first week of April compared to the same time last year[1]

Dwindling high street sales and shifting buyer behaviours towards ecommerce transactions has left traders facing a surge in demand, be that as it may, it has also created a new wave of amplified online competition. For those organisations pitted against each other during this unprecedented situation, therefore, ensuring they can provide the optimum CX in the midst of the crisis can help nurture brand advocacy with their customer base, re-assure anxious consumers and ultimately drive sales during the lockdown.

The value of delivering memorable CX cannot be underestimated. Indeed, research conducted by global commerce services company PFS, has revealed a quarter (25%) of shoppers said they had tried new online retailers due to the lockdown and intend to continue to shop with them thanks to the good experience they have had during the crisis[2].

Moreover, brands with the most appropriate communications strategy in place to drive a positive CX stand to emerge strongest following the imposed lockdown when the nation returns to a sense of normality.

Technology-driven marketing 

In these restrictive times, technology’s ability to seamlessly help organisations achieve more with less effort is arguably the biggest asset to any retail organisation.Effectively deploying innovative tools such as artificial intelligence (AI), when supported with marketing knowledge and expertise, can help drive integrated, omnichannel communication strategies that deliver a truly ‘frictionless’ CX through customer-relevant messages, incisive targeting, customer journey mapping and, by using the most appropriate communication channels, cost-efficiencies.

Given the undeniable value of customer data for such strategies – and the fact that one of the greatest challenges for modern retailers is understanding how to effectively use amassed data from different systems in diverse formats and of varying quality – technologies ability to centralise data, gather the necessary insights and derive wider value is boundless.

Undeniably, technology has not only transformed the way many companies collect and manage data and allowed them to access previously untapped potential, but it has also played a key supporting role in targeting, channel selection and the creative messaging deployed.

The capabilities of leading-edge technologies to provide a comprehensive insight into the customer mindset, from their preferred communications channels to their unique online behaviour, and even their stage in the customer journey can provide a significant competitive edge for any retailer. 

Only when retailers have garnered such an in-depth understanding of customer engagement across a multitude of channels, as well as the benefits and limitations of each one, can they hope to get the most from their marketing campaigns. AI technology can seamlessly guide customers towards the required outcome such as a sale, or behavioural change – seamlessly switching channels automatically based on what it’s learnt.

Omnichannel payments 

As online shopping continues to grow in popularity amidst the ongoing crisis, winning customers with effective multi-channel marketing may have assumed increasing importance. Nonetheless, if retailers are unable to transform that interest into sales it becomes largely redundant. 

The payment experience, therefore, should not stand in the way of delivering a positive CX. With consumers using more digital channels, and shopping on an array of devices, having omnichannel payment strategies in place can help to facilitate frictionless transactions in a variety of ways without any disruption to convenience, service or even branding is extremely important.

To better compete, today’s retailers are utilising the latest technology to make a broader spectrum of payment methods available to their customers – whether that is invisible payments[3], mobile wallets or similar innovative systems.

By doing so, organisations can assure consumers of an enhanced, seamless, and secure transactional experience across any preferred payment method. This, in turn, can have lasting benefits for businesses from encouraging customer loyalty to eliminating operational inefficiencies, plus much more.

Adapt to thrive 

In the current retail climate the ability to deploy solutions quickly, efficiently and perhaps most crucially cost effectively, can provide a significant competitive edge for retailers and help them stay ahead of the competition – allowing them to proactively adapt communications strategies to ever-changing shifts in market dynamics.  

This can include anything from changes in consumer online purchasing behaviour – with more than three quarters (77%) of consumers expecting to continue to purchase online more once the lockdown is over[4] – to shifts in traditional customer demographics and subsequent communication channel preferences.

With the help of a knowledgeable and experienced customer communications partner like Paragon Customer Communications, each step can be taken with the assurance that the end destination will be worth it. Every aspect from channel selection, to customer profiling, campaign and personalisation can be efficiently planned and implemented, with the ability to learn in real time enabling positive results to be seen quickly.

[1] https://econsultancy.com/how-is-coronavirus-impacting-the-retail-industry/
[2]  https://uk.pfscommerce.com/blog/pfs-uk-covid-19-consumer-research/
[3] https://www.home.barclaycard/insights/payments/Invisible-payments-explained.html
[4] https://uk.pfscommerce.com/blog/pfs-uk-covid-19-consumer-research/

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