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Home Opinion Can Retail Customer Experience (CX) Keep Up With the Demands of Earlier Christmas Shopping?

Can Retail Customer Experience (CX) Keep Up With the Demands of Earlier Christmas Shopping?

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By Annie Weckesser, Chief Marketing Officer, Uniphore 

Shoppers are expected to buy early this year, fearing higher prices as we get closer to Christmas

In fact, Shimona Mehta of commerce platform Shopify, who provides the technology for millions of retail businesses worldwide, likened it to “the last cheat meal before you go on a really big diet.” 

Their survey of 24,000 shoppers and 9,000 businesses globally, including 2,000 shoppers and 1,000 businesses across the UK, found that three quarters of retailers are expecting a bumper start to the sales season.

How are retailers responding to this shift in shopper behaviour?

Retailers Are Running Sales and Promotions Earlier This Year

Last year’s supply chain shortages forced consumers to shop early or risk missing the boat — both figuratively and literally — on having their gifts delivered in time for Christmas. This year, retailers are taking the lessons they learned to woo inflation-fatigued consumers looking to responsibly maximise their spending power, rather than overspend at the last minute.

Shoppers Aren’t the Only Ones Under Pressure

With more transactions than ever happening online, retail customer service operations have experienced a surge in the number and complexity of customer service queries. The spike in activity has taken a toll on customer service agents, particularly those in contact centres. 

In fact, a recent study from Toister Performance Solutions found that 74 percent of call centre agents are at risk of burnout and, consequently, turnover. Those that don’t resign outright are quickly joining the growing ranks of “quiet quitters” — performing no more than the bare minimum work required.

Businesses Are Solving Customer and Employee Pain Points With Technology

To keep customers and agents engaged and loyal, retailers are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence (AI) and automation technology.

Today’s leading customer experience tools use AI to extract rich customer data, allowing companies to create a very personalised experience that drives both sales and satisfaction.

Using the example of live agent support, AI-enabled “agent assist” software guides agents through complex customer interactions, making use of machine learning and automation to cut call times and improve resolution rates dramatically — two factors linked closely to customer satisfaction and loyalty.

At the same time, it makes for a better job for those agents. By automating time-consuming, manual tasks (like data entry and after-call follow-up actions), technology like this can reduce the pressure of balancing back-end work with customer engagement. They also eliminate many of the friction points that can spark customer frustration, which would normally get directed at agents.

Differentiated Retail CX Will Determine This Year’s Winners

As retailers prepare for an earlier sales season, ensuring the health and effectiveness of their customer experience will prove as vital to business operations as marketing, merchandising and fulfillment. Those armed with the best AI and automation tools will be better positioned to handle the prolonged influx of shopper interactions. By promising simplicity in an era of growing complexity, these CX leaders will rise above their peers — even after today’s challenges have disappeared.


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