If you’re a retailer, then you know it only takes one bad experience for a consumer to switch to a competitor brand—so taking the time to ensure you can deliver a seamless customer experience is paramount.

According to Roy Morgan, it’s estimated that Christmas-related consumer spending will be $58.8 billion (AUD) this year as the heart of Australia’s economy beats back to life.

But while consumer spending is set to be a boon for retailers this holiday season, they’ll need to wrangle with inflated customer expectations to ensure they capture the lion’s share of this opportunity.

Implementing well-timed and meaningful mobile communications through the right channels will be critical to locking in customer purchases and mitigating against the risks of losing them to competitors. Neglecting to do so can have a significant impact on a retailer’s bottom line.

The challenges for retailers go beyond customer expectations

Keeping up with evolving customer expectations is the standout pain point for retailers:

  • 86 per cent of buyers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience.
  • 74 per cent of Australian shoppers say good customer experience influences their purchasing decisions.
  • 88 per cent of consumers will abandon their carefully procured carts whilst shopping online

From these findings, it’s clear that brands who do not create meaningful experiences at every step of the customer journey risk losing them. At the same time, retailers are burdened by a lack of customer commitment to making a purchase, with cart abandonment at an all-time high among consumers.

To combat this, retailers need to implement follow-up communications to re-engage customers and convert their browsing habits into sales. This is a tried and tested technique, with recent data showing that one in five cart abandonment emails sent within the first hour result in a purchase.

Beyond this, consumers are experiencing a pandemic-induced rise in scams—a trend we will likely see continue post-lockdown. Brands cannot simply sit idly by as their customers are taken advantage of, and they now have an obligation to keep them alerted to malicious impersonators who are out to trick them for financial gain. Because of this, retailers need to employ trusted communications to ensure their mobile messages are easily identifiable and distinct from cybercriminals.

To keep up with rising customer expectations and deliver trusted brand communications, some retailers have begun adopting the Rich Communication Services (RCS) standard. RCS is helping retailers to enhance and secure each step of the customer journey through engaging, verified messages, enabling an overall richer brand experience than its SMS predecessor.

However, while RCS is evolving the text message experience for customers, implementing and maintaining the complex backend infrastructure has become a pain point in of itself for retailers. The reality is that on top of trying to solve a myriad of customer challenges, retailers are also faced with managing many different communication tools in a way that is automated and secure.

Managing an array of customer experience problems requires a communications platform

It goes without saying that every retailer requires an omni-channel communications strategy to remain competitive and keep customers engaged. But how can retailers integrate new channels such as RCS messaging, as well as chatbots, automated follow-up messages, and scam alerts into one unified platform?

Retailers need to begin with an experience design mindset. Communication with consumers is the point when all their efforts converge into a single moment of truth. The retailers who imagine a more meaningful communication experience will gain the advantage with their customers.

This is where Communications Platform-as-a-Service (CPaaS) comes in. CPaaS provides a complete solution for designing personalised, engaging customer communication experiences in a mobile context—think of it as the underlying cloud-based infrastructure that powers a brand’s every engagement with a customer securely and automatically.

Not only has CPaaS become instrumental in enabling retail brands to seamlessly tailor and orchestrate messages at scale—it has also made it easier for them to send secure communications and issue scam alerts automatically, helping to combat rising threats to customers.

The good news is that some retailers are already leveraging CPaaS to design and control the mobile customer experience. For example, Soprano recently worked with a premium fashion brand to help create a communications vision. The brand was having difficulty reaching, engaging, and communicating with their customers in a secure and efficient way. After implementing the solution, the brand saw greater reach, engagement, and higher conversions than previous campaigns, and was able to track and measure results through a single platform.

There is indeed an opportunity this Christmas for retailers, but without the right tools in place to manage customer expectations and provide seamless digital experiences, they will lose market share to competitors. Customers are dictating how they want brands to communicate with them and the onus is on retailers to match and exceed these expectations—whether that’s personalised offers sent directly to their mobile or well-timed follow up communication to help them lock in a decision.

With an oversaturation of brand messages and competing customer communications from competitors, retailers need to innovate or be left behind. For many retailers, customer communication is an afterthought. But in a digital-first retail world, it is crucial in building trust and converting carts.

Matt Thompson is vice president of global marketing at Soprano.