James Johnson, Director – Retail Industry Strategy, Salesforce
Many retailers have already adapted to the transformed shopping experience brought on by COVID-19, but this holiday season is adding further challenges. Here are some tips on how to sleigh the silly season.
To gain insights into how businesses can prepare for holiday shopping in the new normal, we tapped into the expertise shared by our Trailblazers at Super Retail Group (SRG) at Salesforce Live for Retail and Consumer Goods.
Here are some of their insights for how retailers can exceed expectations for this holiday shopping season and beyond.
Squeeze as much juice from your platform as possible
Part of SRG’s organisational philosophy is to use AI-powered tools to their fullest potential. As Senior Manager, Omni Conversion and Insights at SRG Ari Friedman says, this means adding the kinds of extras that supercharge the customer’s digital experience. He shared five examples of what this looks like in practice:
- Surface more relevant products: During lockdowns, data showed a massive increase in search terms around home fitness, so SRG made sure relevant products were easy to find. AI can use any category like this as a lens through which to help shoppers find the right products, and help retailers provide a more streamlined and relevant experience.
- Increase personalisation: Make sure recommendations are presented based on the individual customer’s previous visits and shopper history.
- Improve product range discovery: Recommendations should make sense in terms of relevancy and price, and never leave your customers wanting. Show them similar products that also get the job done or guide them to add-ons that will enrich their experience – think a pair of tongs to go with the new barbecue they’ve just selected, or a barbecue cleaning kit or recipe book.
- Make every page count: Even traditionally non-transactional pages can be leveraged to improve the customer experience. “The store locator page is a high entry point for our website, so we want to be serving up a relevant product experience from the moment our customers see us,” Friedman says. Putting AI-powered product recommendations on this page has been beneficial for them.
- Make it easy: Reduce the friction and number of clicks a customer needs to complete their experience. For example, there’s no need for a customer to have to click into the product page of a $10 pair of barbecue tongs to add them to their cart. That’s a quick and easy purchase decision, so let them add to cart without trawling through more pages.
They key to getting it right, says Friedman, is relentless testing.
“Test like you’ve never tested before. And share the results – the successes and the failures – across all your teams.”
Click, collect, scale and compromise
“Yes, things have changed drastically over the past year,” says Brian Townshend, General Manager, Omni Retail at SRG.
“But our stores have been and always will be integral to the SRG experience. It’s just that now they are part of our digital omni strategy.”
Renowned for passionate and knowledgeable staff, SRG had to find other ways to keep customers happy and satisfied when they couldn’t have those rich in-store experiences. As highlighted earlier, AI was used to boost the digital experience. But, as Townshend notes, the stores would continue to play a critical and digitally connected role.
“We very rapidly introduced contact-free click-and-collect in just four days,” says Townshend.
Committed to doing the right thing by its customers and employees, SRG made this a single and unified priority.
“It was very much around bringing different components of the organisation together – no silos, no hierarchy,” Townshend says.
However, launching quickly also involved some compromise.
“We went live on day one without any reporting in place, but we were comfortable with that because it was the right thing to do for the safety of our customers and our team members. Compromise was key for speed,” explains Townshend.
SRG has seen massive growth in online sales over the period of the pandemic – 126% to be precise. When gyms closed, online traffic to Rebel increased 300% overnight.
Also key to SRG’s ability to handle these numbers was the scalability of its platforms. Teams were able to act fast to ensure all the retailer sites were meeting the increased demands placed on them. The lessons learned during the pandemic are ready to be applied over what’s expected to be an unprecedented holiday shopping period.
Safety first – and sometimes simple is best
Even as different cities, states and territories are released from varying restrictions and lockdowns, the focus on customer and team member safety remains paramount.
One of the challenges faced by SRG’s Chief Strategy and Customer Officer Katie McNamara and the rest of the Executive Team was to make stores safe and welcoming places for an increasing number of customers returning to bricks-and-mortar shopping experiences as the holiday shopping season approaches.
“How we manage the space hygienically, making sure team members know exactly how to handle each situation – from fitting shoes to running the change rooms – and maintaining that all-important personal connection even when there’s a big pane of perspex at the check out, is crucial to maintaining a safe environment,” McNamara says.
“We want our customers and team members to feel safe and confident – that’s how we can best respect and value the voice of the customer.”
Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best ones. For example, when SRG launched its contactless click-and-collect, McNamara says she agonised over how to make sure they were handing the right products to the right customers.
“It turns out the easiest one from the customer perspective was the best – have people show their drivers licence through the window,” she says
It seems so obvious, but, as McNamara points out, sometimes you can get carried away with complex solutions. It pays to pause and take a moment to think about it from the customer’s point of view. Straightforward, practical solutions might be just what’s needed to help retailers get through the upcoming holiday shopping season safely and efficiently.
These are just a few of the insights offered by Trailblazers at Salesforce LIVE for Retail and Consumer Goods. For a deeper dive into how you can apply some of the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic to the coming shopping season and beyond, read our 2020 Holiday Retail Strategy and Planning Guide.