With the holiday season fast approaching, people are already making their lists, checking them twice, and doing the comparison shopping to find out which retailers are naughty or nice. Meanwhile, most businesses are decking the halls, stocking the shelves, and rolling out sales. The savviest brands, however, are also using cutting-edge technology to automate retail business operations and deliver a convenient, engaging omnichannel experience that shoppers will remember long after the holidays have passed.
Deloitte's annual survey predicts that shoppers plan to be especially generous this year — holiday retail sales are expected to increase by over five percent and could top $1.1 trillion. That's good news for retailers, but that doesn't necessarily mean that everyone's a winner. Competition is fiercer than ever, consumer expectations are higher than ever, and during the holidays, shoppers are inundated with more marketing messages than ever.
Here's how retailers can stand out, get their messages heard, and win customer loyalty that will last well into the New Year.
CPaaS Is Your Holiday Miracle
"The customer is always right" is a long-standing business mantra, but it has evolved. Today's smartphone-wielding customers are always in a hurry, always bouncing around on different channels, and always capable of finding a better deal somewhere else if they don't get exactly what they want when they want it.
Wowing these shoppers takes more than a good sale, especially during the holiday season when retailers typically have to lower prices just to stay competitive. To win customers over (and potentially retain them for good), businesses need to provide a seamless shopping experience and omnichannel customer service — and that requires innovative communication tools that automate customer service and retail business operations.
Communications platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) is a cloud-based framework that lets businesses synchronize real-time voice, video, and text communication. Using developer-friendly APIs, retailers can add these features to their websites, mobile apps, and social channels.
This way, customers can reach out with questions or service requests directly from the channel they prefer. Meanwhile, employees don't have to manage all those channels at once. Customer communications — and the data from those interactions — all live in one place and can be integrated with other key business systems.
By enabling automated customer operations and communications, CPaaS frees up employees to focus on the customers right in front of them.
5 Ways CPaaS Brings the Holiday Cheer
With its ability to connect channels of communication, CPaaS can automate customer and retail business operations and boost profitability by helping businesses:
1. Be social
Deloitte reports that 57 percent of holiday shoppers plan to spend their money online this year, compared to only 36 percent who plan to shop in stores. With each household spending an average of $1,536, it's more important than ever before for businesses to reach customers through the social channels they prefer.
Using CPaaS, retailers can do just that. Say a mother is looking for gift ideas for her toddler, for example. While viewing a retailer's holiday toy guide on Instagram, she finds a couple of potential gifts but isn't certain they're age-appropriate. Rather than going to the retailer's website to find out, she can initiate a chat directly from the Instagram page, get fast answers, and even complete her purchase. CPaaS makes this seamless connection possible.
2. Personalize recommendations and offers
CPaaS can be integrated with customer relationship management software, marketing automation solutions, and other customer databases. It can then leverage that data, apply algorithms, and tailor communications and recommendations that can be presented by human representatives or chatbots.
With personalized recommendations, businesses are able to connect directly with customers' preferences and build brand loyalty along the way. When delivered by an AI-powered social chatbot, personalization comes hand-in-hand with streamlined communication.
3. Guide self-checkout
By integrating CPaaS with e-commerce tools, retailers empower chatbots to do more than answer questions. They can also take orders, suggest more items, and even complete purchases.
That same mother looking for a holiday gift for her toddler, for instance, can talk with a chatbot to receive real-time information about her potential purchases. After the chatbot answers her questions and places those items in her online shopping cart, it asks if she needs gift ideas for anyone else on her list.
By accessing data from previous purchases, it knows she purchased toys for older children in the past, and that those children are fans of Marvel products, so it recommends the latest Avengers movie and Captain America pajamas. Or perhaps she bought a men's watch last December, so it recommends accessories to go along with that previous purchase. When she's ready to check out, it can send her to her shopping cart or complete the purchase without ever leaving the chat.
4. Keep in touch
CPaaS for retail doesn't just respond to inbound communication. Using SMS APIs, retailers can also automate and personalize outbound messages as well. For example, offers and promotions can be tailored to select groups of customers or, using geofencing, retailers can send coupons to patrons that are near a store, adding an extra incentive for them to check a few names off their holiday shopping lists.
SMS is also a great way to keep customers in the loop after they complete a purchase, letting them know when an order is ready for pickup or giving them a timeframe for home deliveries.
5. Make employees more productive
Whether it's the holiday rush or you're just short-staffed, retail employees don't always have time to keep checking social media accounts or answering inventory questions. By enabling automated customer operations and communications, CPaaS frees up employees to focus on the customers right in front of them.
By streamlining communications and meeting customers through the channels they most prefer, CPaaS allows business the opportunity to provide excellent customer service this holiday season. CPaaS just might be the holiday miracle you've been waiting for.