Physical retail stores are in decline in Australia. Research last year from ANZ revealed that more than 2,100 retail businesses collapsed over the previous two financial years.
The rise of online powerhouses such as Amazon and Netflix is cause for concern for Aussie retailers as they try to compete not only with each other, but also with global tech companies who have a great deal more money in the bank.
The increasingly competitive retail landscape in Australia means businesses must adapt if they are to stay afloat. Companies need to move away from legacy systems and adopt more competitive and nimble technologies, particularly when it comes to communicating with their customers.
Use cloud communications to engage more effectively
The on-demand economy has made customers accustomed to instant, around-the-clock, personalised services. Innovators like Uber, Airtasker and Airbnb have changed the way businesses engage with customers, using contextual data to communicate with greater ease and efficiency than ever before. As a result, consumer expectations have also shifted, whether they’re buying movies, food, clothes, shoes or transport.
What was once a physical, sensory experience is now largely taking place online. Today’s shoppers want to interact with businesses and make purchases via the channels that fit how they live, work and communicate with each other—whether that means messaging, voice or even video. Retailers must adopt these channels as a part of their customer engagement strategy in order to stay relevant.
Look beyond the traditional means of engagement
As the retail customer experience evolves, it’s becoming easier for shoppers to find deals using the channels that are most convenient for them. Because of this shift, companies must look beyond traditional engagement channels like email.
For example, one of our customers in the US uses text to convey daily deals on their artisan goods to customers. After entering payment information on the website, users receive one text per week offering a different product. They can simply text back ‘yes’ if they want to purchase.
Or consider MessageYes, a conversational commerce startup that was recently purchased by US department store chain Nordstrom. The MessageYes platform uses machine learning to send personalised product recommendations to a user’s mobile phone, which they can easily purchase, again by replying ‘yes’ to the message.
Other established retailers are deploying new rules of engagement to enhance their customer experience. For example, Macy’s uses MMS and SMS for two-way conversations between sales representatives and customers, creating a personalised shopping experience.
Embed communications into the heart of your customer experience
Embedding communications directly into the shopping experience has the ability to bridge the offline/online gap in a way legacy technology simply can’t keep up with. The companies that find success in digital commerce are those who build technology from the ground up, iterate according to customer demand, and deliver a personalised, contextual experience to shoppers on their preferred channels. To achieve this, companies must empower their developers to easily build upon existing processes and applications within the business.
For example, I saw an instance where a retailer installed a customer service button on its website that triggered a call back from the company’s contact centre. This subtle move made a huge impact and led to the business achieving record profits that year.
As customer demand continues to evolve at an accelerated pace, companies must accept the importance of building innovative new solutions to the challenges they face in communicating with the customer.
Angie Bell is director of APAC at Twilio.
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