Consumer attitudes changing how we consume offers?
Black Friday, once a long-standing tradition of our North Atlantic neighbours, has quickly established itself as somewhat of a staple in the British retail calendar. However, in a year rife with uncertainty, how will the pandemic change how customers consume offers? And how will this impact the major shopping event in 2020? Paragon Customer Communications explores.
While the ongoing transition towards digital, and the continued growth of online sales is not a new phenomenon – with the majority of Black Friday transactions in the UK now carried out online (77%) – retailers are continuing to refine and fine-tune their communication strategies for the new market landscape.
And although the pandemic has certainly accelerated the growing trend towards eCommerce, those brands with strong digital strategies that were able to offer a viable online shopping experience stood to gain the most, even before the Covid-19 crisis and the associated economic implications.
It is no secret that many brands had already began the transition to be digital-first retailers well before the novel virus impacted the world. The outset of the crisis – and the subsequent forced closure of many non-essential physical stores – however, has forced even the most staunch and dedicated advocates of operating bricks-and-motor high street outlets into the world of online.
Changing retailer strategies
As a result of prolonged periods of lockdown – and subsequent reduction in footfall – it would seem the in-store experience is losing some of the power it has held for many decades. Almost half of UK shoppers (44%) believe the coronavirus pandemic will have a permanent impact on their purchasing habits, with 47% of consumers stating the number of times they shop online will definitely increase.
Faced with such figures, one could certainly be forgiven for believing that the focus of many retailers will be on eCommerce focused activities in 2020. And undoubtedly a strong online presence will be highly beneficial for retailers seeking to accommodate such a dramatic shift towards digital purchasing.
This is particularly crucial during both the pivotal Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales periods, during which sales in Britain jumped 16.5% compared with the previous year, according to data from Barclaycard. While the volume of transactions on Cyber Monday 2019 was up 6.9% year-on-year.
A Wells Fargo survey recently showed that 70% of consumers aren’t planning on returning to physical stores in the foreseeable future, meaning eCommerce retailers remain primed to reap the rewards of an influx of new online shoppers.
It is an opportunity very much reflected in the strategies of digitally native retail behemoths such as Amazon, who are increasingly maximising online channels to drive sales. Amazon Prime Day in particular has quickly asserted itself as a highly successful day for driving cyber transactions, with 65% of Black Friday spend expected to be via Amazon in 2020 – up from 62% last year.
For retailers vying for a share of consumer spending, therefore, it would appear eCommerce businesses are best placed to capitalise on this extended shopping period. Those brands with an established online retail structure have not only been able to provide a reliable, fast, and efficient service during lockdown, but are also best placed to profit from on an anticipated increase in online spend during Black Friday, Cyber Monday and, subsequently, the busy Christmas period.
A physical presence
With non-essential stores closed across the UK and around the world, retail brands have used periods of lockdown to reassess their marketing strategies and communicate with their customers via new channels and in new ways. This has enabled them to strengthen connections and build meaningful relationships by maintaining a physical presence of customer service ‘digitally and remotely’.
The market has seen some memorable examples of tech innovations that are being used to improve the in-store shopping experience. From the introduction of virtual fitting rooms to the resurgence of QR codes and even virtual queueing, the sector has been extremely inventive in the way it has transformed physical outlets.
Fit:Match kiosks, for example – a 3D body scanning and virtual fitting tool – were introduced, allowing shoppers to be 3D-measured before shopping online for clothing with more than 50 partner brands, including Under Armour, Ted Baker and Nili Lotan.
Whereas the likes of John Lewis and Waitrose maintained footfall in their bricks-and-motor shops, while remaining compliant with social distancing guidance, by trialling virtual queuing technology. Using the Qudini app, shoppers scan a QR code or send a text to a given phone number, enabling them to join a virtual queue or book a fixed timeslot to enter the shop.
The new communication landscape
The pace of technological change, and specifically digital channels, presents a unique opportunity for retailers and marketeers to adapt their communications strategies and deploy solutions quickly, efficiently, and perhaps most crucially cost effectively, to respond to changing consumer behaviour. This can not only enable them stay connected with customers and remain relevant in the post COVID-19 climate, but also maximise revenue opportunities during the pandemic.
Such technologies can lead to a better understanding of customers’ unique behaviours and seamlessly guiding them towards the required outcome such as a sale, or behavioural change, effortlessly switching channels automatically based on what it’s learnt.