For the last few years, the UK has caught the Black Friday bug in a big way. Last year between Black Friday and Cyber Monday (it’s the ‘long’ weekend that immediately follows after Thanksgiving in the US, which is always the fourth Thursday In November), UK shoppers racked up a massive £3.3bn at the tills, and increasingly online.
The trend is increasingly now for retailers to offer discounts though over a longer stretch of time, in part to avoid the high-street carnage and websites going into meltdown as they struggle to cope with the above average (putting it mildly) demand retailers face. Argos for example, which is not without history when it comes to Black Friday, will spread its sales over 13 days to ensure infrastructure can handle the demands being placed on it.
In amongst all the hype around early pre-Black Friday deals, there was a particularly interesting quote from Argos’s CEO John Roberts, who said, “We have been busy preparing for the Black Friday period for many months now, making sure our website, stores and distribution operations are all geared up in anticipation of high levels of demand for our great range of products.”
To any supplier of software, IT and infrastructure to the retail sector, this will sound familiar. Because it will probably be the basis of Black Friday themed comment submitted to the press in response to the latest breaking news reporting on Boots’ or Game’s website falling over because of unprecedented traffic volumes, or delays and cancellations to deliveries because of increased order numbers, as experiences by Argos in the wake of what was reportedly the biggest and most successful shopping day ever for Argos.
For me though, this approach to preparing for Black Friday sort of misses the point of what’s actually required to keep customer’s happy around the clock. And that’s to dynamically scale services to meet demand, regardless of whether it coincides with an event that is in the calendar months in advance, or, the totally unexpected. As the transaction moves from front-end to back-end systems and delivery volumes surge, being able to deliver goods first time becomes all the more important.
For every failed delivery, you’re effectively adding another delivery onto the pile. This becomes even more complicated when there are already multi-tiered processes in place to run warehouses and delivery fleets, exacerbated by poor quality data, or at best, outdated data, for delivery requirements. Ultimately, a retailer or logistics firm’s best chance of getting goods delivered on time is if a customer is able to interact with them directly, through a preferred communication channel, to change the parameters for collection or delivery scheduling/rescheduling.
Furthermore, transactional status messages at key points in the process serve as a reminder for customers to receive or collect orders (making sure they’re in, or know where to go by when) will dramatically reduce failed deliveries and inbound call volumes to customer service centres, when they’re likely to be at their busiest, and improve the customer experience through better communication.
The key to success however, when it comes to customer engagement, is to not only communicate with them through their preferred communication method – be that SMS, email, Facebook Messenger, push notification, or voice – via a cross-channel messaging solution, but do so through something we like to call the waterfall effect. Cross-channel communication’s platforms are able to escalate communications as required, if there are challenges establishing contact through the preferred channel. For example, a customer may prefer to receive an email, but when they need to be contacted at short notice, an SMS message, a communication method that has a 98% read rate, may be more appropriate.
The ability to do this is reliant on having a solution in place that seamlessly integrates all sorts of different databases and remote systems, collecting real-time data, such as transactions, shipment notifications, inventory levels, customer preferences and more, to enable contextually relevant conversations that keep customers informed and parcels delivered on time. And that’s where Engage Hub comes in; specialising in real-time interactions, we take care of messaging requirements as a manged service so that logistics companies and retailers can focus on their core activities.
But shouldn’t your logistics processes be like this all the time, and not just when the country’s gone into a deal frenzy? Putting measurable customer experience metrics in place to improve the services all year round with varying demand levels will keep costs low, and customers happier, when loyalty is at an all-time low.