An E-Commerce Christmas: How can retailers remain profitable and meet consumer demands in a changing retail landscape?

19th November 2020

by James Mingard

Head of Retail at Maintel

The holiday shopping season – aka the ‘golden quarter’ – is fast approaching, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause uncertainty and create new and unusual circumstances that retailers and shoppers alike must adapt to.  

When we first began to deal with the impact of COVID-19 in the earlier part of this year, no one could have imagined just how much it would change all aspects of life as we know it. Certainly no one back in Spring anticipated that we would still be making adaptations to the way we live our lives as the festive season approaches. And one significant area that will see massive change as a result of COVID this festive period is retail. 

This year Christmas shopping and taking advantage of black Friday or cyber-Monday deals will look very different; Gone are the days of browsing stores, wandering down Oxford Street, admiring shop displays, and marvelling at festive lights as we’ve known it. But just because physical shopping has become limited, that does not mean we will see a decline in retail. But instead, a move to online – a shopping behaviour anticipated to remain even after the pandemic. 

As we experience a second national lockdown across the UK, and with ongoing controlling measures in shopping centres (physical distancing, masks, closed changing rooms, etc.) we can expect to see more shoppers than ever turning to e-commerce to get their Christmas shopping done. From food, to trees, to gifts, there will be an acceleration in online shopping, and retailers must be prepared.  

In what is historically a very profitable period in which retailers see their highest volumes of sales, what can businesses do to offset losses, drive online sales, and meet changing customer requirements despite uncertainty and challenges?  

 

Focus on online channels and distribution. Ensuring you have the ability and capability to manage expected demand, provide an excellent customer experience, and ensure seamless processes and operations:  

 

  • Online customer experience – With more consumers than ever turning to the web to shop, the online customer experience needs to offer thea seamless journey and experience that reflects that they’d expect in-store, as well as meeting their communications preferences across multiple channels.  
  • Click and collect – Many businesses are investing in click and collect capabilities to meet customer expectations and demand despite retail restrictions. The ability to offer seamless navigation between online and instore experience not only generates upsell or crosssell opportunities, but also enables customers to order securely from home and retrieve from a convenient collection point.  
     
  • Book and shop – Offering consumers the ability to book fixed time slots in which to visit stores as and when they are open, retailers can provide the customers with confidence that a proper duty of care is being undertaken which in turn should increase footfall.  
     
  • Returns – By allowing the consumer the ability to return an item purchased online instore demonstrates flexibility and drives store visits which, in turn, creates new sales opportunitiesMany retail businesses must also consider extended returns periods in the wake of COVID-19. 
     
  • Stock  Businesses can take advantage of technological capabilities to keep track of available stick and ensure this is communicated effectively over online channels to improve customer communication and manage expectations. Staying on top of stock will also mean you can offer the ability for a customer to order an item online and collect the item the same day instore. 
  • Understand the customer  Now more than ever it is vitally important that retailers build longstanding trusted relationships with their customers. Customer loyalty will separate the winners and losers in an ever-increasingly challenging marketplace. As such, building quality customer relationships is essential.  

 

In today’s climate, an effective online presence is no longer a ‘nice to have’ for retailers, it is essential. Retailers must be able to respond quickly to changes in demand, scale up capacity, and adapt their digital offering to cope with unplanned peaks, especially as the festive season begins. 

If you’re keen to learn more about changing consumer habits and managing peak periods in retail, download our whitepaper Preparing for Unprecedented Peaks in a New World of Retail, or check out our infographic on the changing world of retail.  

To find out what Maintel can do to support your online and in-store capabilities, get in touch today 

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Maintel and Avaya bring a wealth of experience working within the retail sector and understand what it means for our customers to remain competitive in an ever-changing market where digital transformation is quickly separating the winners from losers.

Changing consumer behaviour, along with the impact of COVID-19, has resulted in new expectations and requirements for the retail sector – prioritising your customer experience and effectively equipping you staff are absolutely vital.

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