by Matt Thompson
The COVID-19 pandemic has flipped retail on its head in 2020. Stores were forced to close and shoppers’ priorities and buying behaviour changed as the economy was put under strain. As the all-important November holiday shopping season with its Black Friday pinnacle moves closer, it’s expected to be even more critical this year for many retailers.
Preparing for the Unknown
During lockdown, many retailers had to reinvent themselves, focusing on ecommerce and how they could take their in-store shopping experience to the internet, so they did not lose touch with their customers. But now is not the time to resort back to the old ways, as retail experts at McKinsey say the digital transformation of retail is here to stay and now is a time for retailers to continue to boost their digital transformation ambitions.
Thanks to pandemic disruption, the retail sector is preparing for the unknown, when it comes to seasonal consumer shopping behaviours, which could result in the weirdest Black Friday ever. Retail has been hammered by the global pandemic, and research and advisory firm Forrester has predicted the sector will see a US$2.1 trillion loss around the globe in 2020, and that it will take four years for the sector to fully recover from this economic blow.
The Looming Email War
The one thing that can be guaranteed is there will be no shortage of consumer marketing, as retailers desperate to recover from COVID-19 losses ramp up their communications about holiday offers. We should brace for a holiday season ‘email war,’ that appears destined to be waged in our inboxes.
To fully maximise seasonal sales opportunities, now is the time for retailers to assess and fast track their digital adoption strategies. However, for retailers to succeed, they will need to cut through the marketing noise and think about how they can better engage with their customers by delivering personalized information about relevant products and sales discounts.
Make Your Brand Stand Out
Leading the charge when it comes to communication tools are one-to-one mobile channels, like the highly effective and engaging SMS channel, and up-and-coming interactive channels such as WhatsApp Business, which can enable a branded experience in a highly relevant and mobile environment. Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS) solutions remain essential for retailers seeking to cut through the email clutter to accelerate sales post-pandemic. Using an omnichannel mobile strategy differentiates from email and keeps customers more engaged by getting personalized information to the right people at the right time using mobile channels.
For example, SMS generates a better response when delivering time-sensitive communication to inform or drive action, and this year, email inboxes will be flooded more than ever with offers to consumers. At a time with so much at stake, a more effective alternative to email, or at least a complementary engagement strategy, has never been more important.
Global research firm McKinsey revealed consumers shopping habits are changing and since the pandemic, people are considering value for money and essential items before heading to the check out. However, former Amazon executive and retail expert James Thomson believes consumers will have extra money to spend this holiday season. He does not expect COVID-19 to slow this year’s holiday sales as shoppers track down bargains to generate “short-term joy” during the pandemic recovery period.
Utilizing The Right Technology
Big online retailers like Amazon have less to fear because they have already done the hard work to engage digitally with customers. For those retailers competing with Amazon, there is work to be done. To cut through the marketing noise, they will have to lift their game to stand out from the crowd to create an engaging digital holiday shopping experience built with mobile in mind.
At Soprano, we believe businesses need to be smart when adopting new technology to improve their connection with their customers. With uncertainty in the industry, this is not a time to experiment with unknown platforms, rather, it is a time to source proven programs and methods that deliver results retailers need to connect with customers. This is a time for retailers to upgrade their communication technology so they can leapfrog their competitors.
About 90 percent of text messages are read within the first three minutes after they are received, which makes SMS marketing a strong option for retailers to connect with their customers. It is a proven way to grow customer loyalty and engage better with your shoppers.
It is not too late for retailers who want to engage with their customers this shopping season to incorporate a smart marketing, SMS solution. But they need to explore their options sooner rather than later because it could take several weeks to get it up and running before the sales go live.
Despite COVID-19 creating a grim outlook on the retail sector in 2020, retailers are ready to move products this holiday season. Although we are set to see the weirdest Black Friday, stores can break through the advertising and marketing noise to connect to their loyal customers and make sure they hear about the products they need, all thanks to the humble text message.
Matt Thompson is the Vice President, Global Product and Marketing at Soprano Design. For more information about Matt, click here.