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How to bridge the sales gap with experiences that matter

30-second summary:

  • Record-breaking online sales were seen this holiday shopping season as consumers switched to e-commerce
  • Retailers need to ensure a consistent experience across all platforms
  • Retailers can create real value with tailored discounts and marketing messages
  • 2020 was undoubtedly a challenging year for retail, but 2021 doesn’t have to be.

This Christmas season has been a story of two experiences for many. Online retailers saw record sales as shoppers tried to take advantage of vacation discounts and avoid shipping delays.

However, the store had virtually no traditional lines and crowded stores from Black Fridays’ past, and in-store purchases fell more than 52%. That picture of the holiday season has unfortunately been the norm since the pandemic began as shoppers avoid crowded spaces.

Physical experiences in the digital world

To make up for the lost sales from lower in-store purchases, retailers had to find ways to translate this experience. Brands like Gap and Ralph Lauren have taken responsibility for this and launched virtual versions of their stores.

However, the innovation we see in customer experience cannot stop with virtual popups. Retailers also need to innovate in how they connect with their customers through more traditional marketing channels.

Forrester Research recently reported that consumers are projected to receive 40% more texts and emails from their preferred retailers in 2021! That percentage is staggering and could hurt brand affinity.

Sending more email, text messages, or even direct mail seems like the easiest and most efficient way to accomplish goals. However, there are much better ways to build relationships with your customers and add value to them.

Ensure consistent experiences across platforms

Consistent, seamless experiences are critical to customer satisfaction. Have you ever started browsing a retail website on a laptop only to find a completely different and more difficult experience using it on your cell phone? It’s frustrating and can lead to leaving the car. In today’s digital world, customers expect better results.

That expectation extends beyond the user experience to marketing and discounts. I received emails with suggestions for buying just to click the website and find out that the product was sold out.

Consider implementing an interactive email technology like AMP Email so that product proposals sent in email can be updated in real time to reflect your inventory.

Make discounts important

Discounts are a popular way to get customers to buy or expand their shopping cart. However, the discounts you offer should not be uniform. New and loyal customers should get different discounts.

Take Sephora for example: they have an annual sale that offers a 10% discount on the lowest tier of their loyalty program that you can join for free. The discount then doubles for Loyalty Club members who spend the most with them. This approach entices customers to make additional purchases in the future in order to achieve higher levels of loyalty and save more.

In addition to customizing discounts based on new or loyal customers, you should customize the discounts for each customer. Perhaps you have a customer who makes regular in-store purchases who has never shopped online before.

Send them a push notification via email or mobile app with a 10% discount when they buy online and collect in store. This can trick the customer into trying a new form of shopping and hopefully encourage more repeat purchases.

The right message when it counts

Customizing marketing messages can go beyond segmentation or past buying behavior. With artificial intelligence and data, retailers can really add value to their customers’ lives by sending relevant messages at the right time.

For example, a shoe store owner knows that a customer is on their way to the store to pick up a recent roadside purchase. The loyal customer was interested in a pair of out-of-stock winter boots.

The store owner sees that the customer is driving into the store parking lot thanks to geolocation technology and texts the customer to inform them that the shoes they viewed are now available.

The customer receives the text when parking and replies that she is interested in receiving it. The shopkeeper can add the shoes to the existing order, debit the stored card and bring the purchases to her car. In this way, delight the customer and simplify the buying process. That very personal touch can make all the difference in terms of customer loyalty.

2020 was undoubtedly a challenging year for retailers, but 2021 doesn’t have to be. The customer experience was vital to the success of retail before the pandemic and will become even more important as the retail industry rebounds.

Bridgette Darling is the product marketing manager for Adobe Campaign. In this role, she focuses on marketing and strategy for Campaign’s email marketing functions. Darling is passionate about helping email marketers achieve their goals by learning about best practices, technological advances, and overall strategies.

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