As of November 26, holiday shopping had topped $59 billion, with more sure to come today on Cyber Monday. The National Retail Federation reports that 51.8% of U.S. consumers will be doing their holiday shopping online this year, up 5% from 2011 and the first time the annual survey has shown online shoppers as the majority. The NRF based its findings on an early-October poll of approximately 9,000 consumers who plan to spend an average of $750 each on holiday goods and services.
Mobile devices will play a strong supporting role in the online shopping surge. According to the survey, 52.9% of smartphone owners and 64.1% of tablet owners will use their devices to do research and make purchases. Shop.org forecasts that online holiday spending alone this year will amount to a whopping $92 to $96 billion.
So how can retailers maintain a merry and bright customer service reputation during the holiday rush? Take stock in these four customer service best practices:
1. Knowledge is power. Businesses can serve more customers faster simply by making answers to common questions readily available to their CSRs and customers. The use of an online knowledgebase which distributes information across numerous consumer touchpoints provides consistent and correct answers to both CSRs and customers, making service more efficient and reducing phone calls, emails and in-store lines through this self-service tool.
From store hours, promotions and at-a-glance shipping information to updates on the availability of featured or hot-ticket items, sharing consistent and current content online and through social media will keep even the just-hired, seasonal customer service staff on the same page, and save customers the frustration of long hold times or being disappointed by the unavailability of a product the store knew sold out days ago.
2. Delight with discounts. Price is the number one reason shoppers will abandon their favorite brand for a competitor, especially during the holiday. Close behind are delivery options. According to Comscore’s Online Shopping Customer Experience Study, at least 42 percent of online shoppers reported abandoning their shopping carts because of delivery timing estimates.
Put shipping specials, product promotions and discount offer information in a prominent place online. Make sure the content is also SEO friendly, and don’t forget to share on social media.
3. Re-engage the undecided and the frustrated. The average shopping cart abandonment rate is 66%, and MIT big data estimates that $1.4 trillion in merchandise was abandoned in online shopping carts last year. According to Shop.org, which is the National Retail Federation’s digital division, shopping cart “abandoners tend to be more sophisticated online, better educated, and higher earners, so leaving a cart full while they go and look for a better deal is a simple and familiar process.”
Additional research shows that more than half of shopping cart abandoners make their purchase, either with the original brand or with a competitor, within the 24 hours that follow. Re-engaging these consumers with a reminder email once they leave your site, or a proactive live chat before they leave offering a today-only discount or shipping upgrade has been shown to significantly increase customer retention, as well as the amount of the purchase, as these shoppers are more likely to purchase other items at the same time in order to maximize postage efficiency.
In addition to undecided consumers, proactively engaging or re-engaging with customers who have paused for a long time during a shopping experience, or who have left due to frustration with an online experience, can do wonders for retention.
4. Create a seamless customer service experience. Even though holiday shoppers are frantically hunting for bargains, it’s an exceptional customer service experience that will keep them coming back after the holidays are over and have them recommending your brand to friends, family and social media connections. Make sure the technology is in place to allow customers to connect with your brand via their channel of choice – whether that’s phone, email, online, live chat, help desk, mobile or social media.
In addition, make sure your customer service technology allows CSRs to see a customer’s complete and real-time service history, so that they don’t have to repeat themselves, spend time recounting their previous experiences with your brand, and so that they receive a more personalized service experience and purchase recommendations.
Here’s to creating a happy holiday shopping experience for your customers that will leave them with a year-round positive perception of your brand.