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How Inflation Could Shape Canada’s Holiday Season

How Inflation Could Shape Canada's Holiday Season

Inflation may play an influential role this holiday shopping season in Canada, but it doesn’t have to spell doom and gloom for retailers.

Acting as a customer-centric retailer involves more than simply stocking all the products you know people want. It requires putting yourself in their shoes and thinking through their current challenges as well as their aspirations and desires. In fact, given the current economic situation, a successful customer experience demands that retailers demonstrate empathy and support this holiday season.

Even seasoned economists are finding it hard to predict exactly when Canada’s inflation rate will fall back into the one to three per cent zone, though most agree it will take some time. Ever since it peaked at more than eight per cent this past June, however, brands have had to consider what it will mean for cost-conscious consumers and how they will shop during one of the busiest periods of the year.

Recent surveys have already shown 61 per cent of Canadians cited inflation as a factor that will affect their holiday spending this year. Other research forecast purchases could drop by 17 per cent compared with the same holiday period in 2021.

Canadian retailers can rise up to these challenges by becoming laser-focused on aligning with customers’ expectations across the entire journey of discovering their preferred brands, buying items and reaching out for the occasional help or troubleshooting. To do that, retailers also need to drive greater productivity and efficiency while reducing costs. Automation is the answer to all of this, and more.

For proof, just look to recent Salesforce research across more than 3,500 customers around the world. It found firms are seeing an estimated 25 per cent savings on IT and a 26 per cent increase in employee productivity, on average, by automating key business processes.

There are some practical ways to capitalize on the business benefits automation offers to retailers as the holiday shopping season gets closer. Here are just a few:

Supporting customers in their quest to get ahead of the season

When consumers have potentially less to spend, many of them will no doubt try to be strategic about purchasing gifts before stock runs low and pricing becomes more competitive. They therefore need retailers who can help them start their holiday shopping earlier, and save them time spent searching for the perfect gift.

Marketing automation is just one example of how the right technology can help achieve this end. Rather than be lost amid the blitz of holiday shopping ads that bombard customers this time of year, smart brands will offer inspiration long beforehand.

This could include a personalized e-mail that recognizes their previous purchase histories and highlights an item that tends to fly off the shelves during the holidays. You could also use data to let customers design their own customized gift guides on their site, streamlining the shopping experience and making it more relevant at the same time.

Treating every customer like a VIP to accelerate the discovery of special promotions and discounts

Everybody loves a bargain, but not everyone has the wherewithal to be a top-notch bargain hunter across physical and digital retail channels. What most people would prefer – even if they don’t come out and ask for it – is a sort of personal concierge who could let them know when a must-shop sale emerges.

Automation is the only way for retailers to offer this kind of experience effectively at scale. As you develop more trusted relationships with consumers, for instance, you can use the communication channels they tap into most often, such as SMS, to send alerts about special pricing events that would interest them.

Another option is to make use of a chatbot. While these tools are often deployed on retail web sites to answer frequently asked questions and provide support, they can also be trained to greet visitors with insider tips about the best sales on offer.

Expanding the choice and flexibility that eases holiday shopping

The old holiday shopping experience would be familiar to any Canadian consumer: Show up to an in-person location, make your way through the crowds to find what you want, then join the long lineup to check out. It was similar for online shopping. Even if you could shop from the comfort of your home, getting to the final screen to make a purchase could involve a lot of different steps.

Retailers should use this holiday season as the moment to introduce a newer, better kind of shopping experience. They could use automation to manage customer data to make e-commerce as close to a one-click checkout as possible. They can offer mobile apps to simplify POS systems in physical store.

By leveraging automation through one trusted platform with a single view of customer data, retailers can also manage other shopping enhancements. It becomes easier for customers to acquire and manage gift cards, for example. They can let customers shop as easily with mobile wallets as physical ones, and take advantage of buy now, pay later (BNPL), as well as click-and-collect options too.

Building festive experiences that avoid disappointments

Shopping during the holidays isn’t just about what happens between a brand and consumers. It also reflects their relationship with business-to-business (B2B) partners, including manufacturers and other firms across the supply chain.

Automating the way data is collected, analyzed and shared across this ecosystem could help mitigate the risk of promoting products during the holiday season that aren’t currently available. Retailers should also make sure they can easily tap into the expertise of their partners to quickly resolve customer service issues, from replacement parts for a product to tips on making the most of their purchases.

Inflation may play an influential role this holiday shopping season in Canada, but it doesn’t have to spell doom and gloom for retailers. By giving automation an equally influential role, they can make every opportunity to sell count, and continue to grow by building trusted customer relationships in the process.

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