Retailers are all too familiar with the post-holiday sales slump that can linger throughout the first few months of the new year and beyond. Traditionally, sales bounce back after a pause in spending due to holiday shopping overload, but outside factors — like weather (good and bad), vacations and online shopping giants (Amazon, anyone?) — can often push this post-holiday sales slump into the spring, and even summer months.
It might feel impossible to combat the unpredictability of returning sales, but that doesn’t have to be the reality. Readily available, low-cost and accessible technology that’s easy enough for non-coders to use can help retailers drive sales through the slump, while minimizing the impact on the bottom line. And by bridging online and offline experiences, retailers can make it easy for customers to buy both online and in-store.
Here are several strategies omnichannel retailers can use to successfully drive sales during a slump:
Every customer has unique preferences, and even though trends and interests change, what they purchase now influences what they purchase later. That’s why the relationship with a customer shouldn’t end once the initial transaction has been completed; instead, the sale should be a springboard to build customer loyalty. The trick is to keep up communications with the customer, while ensuring that what you communicate is relevant to their preferences, both in terms of what they’re most likely to buy and the communications channels they like the most.
That’s where APIs come in. Not only are they the building blocks of two-way communication, they help retailers leverage an omnichannel approach to build rich customer profiles and create customized campaigns. That way, instead of sending out an impersonal, blanket message about a sale, retailers can leverage technology to listen to their customers. First, by pinpointing the communications channels they prefer to be contacted on — whether it’s via email, SMS or messaging app — and second, by targeting their promotions to their customers’ tastes to let them know when specific items are available, at a discount, in their size, and where to find them.
Become A Customer Service Rockstar
Adding automation to the customer experience doesn’t have to feel impersonal. In fact, it can actually help make the process feel more personalized. By pulling from rich customer profiles populated by data from purchase histories, automation can help tailor communications and recommendations to suit the customer — for example, flagging a sale on an item they expressed interest in or a discount code for free shipping.
SMS or messaging apps are also helpful for seamless and consistent transactions, and they can enhance the customer journey by providing notifications about the status of an order and answering customers’ questions before they can think to ask them. With 50% of consumers likely to switch brands if a company doesn’t anticipate their needs1, retailers can’t afford to neglect their customers after a sale is complete. Messaging is an easy way to implement a solution.
Tracking shipments isn’t the only thing messaging is helpful for. Real-time alerts can help prospective buyers to better engage with your brand. Letting a customer know when supply is running low on one of their favorite products, or whether they’re about to be outbid on a one-of-a-kind item, lets consumers know when it’s urgent for them to get into the game and make a move.
Connect On The Cloud
Instead of limiting customer interactions to just web site visits and phone calls, expanding the number of channels supported can enhance your customer’s experience. In today’s on-demand world, customers want to reach out with questions or requests on whatever channel they prefer, whether it’s messaging apps, SMS or social channels; therefore, it’s crucial for brands to support a wide range of channels, so they can meet customers wherever they are.
Keeping up with numerous channels might seem overwhelming, but imagine a world where all messages are funneled into one place and integrated with other systems for easy access and on-the-go support. Thanks to advancements in cloud communications platforms, this capability exists. Better still, it’s also easy and affordable for non-technical teams to create their own communication workflows in many cases. For example, the very popular low-code, no-code movement provides tools that enable even non-developers to create targeted workflows for things like support and marketing with just a few drag-and-drop clicks.
Businesses of all sizes are finding these strategies are effective in satisfying customers, building brand loyalty and ultimately driving sales, whatever the season. With the low cost and easy-to-implement technologies available today, surviving sales slumps and adapting to the retail rules of the 21st century is now easier than ever.
Robert Vis is the Founder and CEO of MessageBird, the Amsterdam and San Francisco-based cloud communications platform offering a suite of APIs that enable developers and enterprises to communicate with customers in virtually every corner of the planet. Bootstrapped since its founding, MessageBird closed the largest-ever early stage investment into a European software company in late 2017 ($60M led by U.S.-based Accel and UK-based Atomico). Prior to MessageBird, Vis was the co-founder and CEO of Zaypay.com, a mobile payments platform.