The monthly consumer confidence ratings published by the British Retail Consortium have not made for pretty reading in recent months. Time after time, the announcement has seen retail sales slide. It’s presenting a gloomy picture for an industry still finding its feet after years of pandemic adjustments.  

Yet, as we approach peak season, companies need to take proactive steps to ensure they minimise the impacts of the cost-of-living squeeze. Maintaining the straight and narrow of steady investment in customer acquisition and cost cuts during retail holidays, provides a solid consensus strategy of how to approach the upcoming retail season. However, it is at times of consumer anxiety and increased economic uncertainty when new battlegrounds emerge. This is precisely the time where investment in customer experience matters most. 

A retention strategy led by high quality customer service

Firstly, through periods of high inflation, retail businesses spend relatively more to acquire each new customer. Each pound spent goes less far in getting customers through the door, and even when they are, shoppers are increasingly wary to make purchases beyond the essential. For many retailers, devoting resources to customer acquisition via online engagement channels is an unpreventable business cost. Yet, that does not take away from the fact that a higher quality customer experience can make this investment go further and prevent wasted resources attracting customers who will not come back.  

an image of a company tiring to retain its customers

The secret is retention. However, this is something that is only embedded by ensuring customers have the best possible experience when they order with a brand online. The last thing any retail brand should want is to devote resources and money to acquiring a customer, only to see them never return due to a poor delivery, return or order experience. The steps to mitigate against this risk are relatively simple, ranging from a personalised returns portal to consistent communication regarding an order and its status. 

Delivery delays and parcel damage are sometimes unavoidable features of ordering items online. Yet this is not the origin of consumer angst. Rather it is the fact that too many retailers, brands, and others responsible for the delivery of the items forget the basics when it comes to high quality communication and a commitment to order resolution. As a result, brands risk losing customers who are now fed up with the uncertainty and anxiety that comes with placing orders online. This is a serious misstep when trying to maximise retention and ensure investment in customer acquisition goes as far as possible.  

Simple steps make a big difference

Despite the current uncertainty amongst UK consumers and the widespread hesitation to commit to consistent purchases, recent parcelLab research indicates that simple steps can ease customer reservations in a profound way. 

The study looked at the measurable effect that an improved customer experience in the order and delivery process had on consumers’ willingness to order online. In other words, we examined how much more likely processes likely proactive communication, improved order flexibility and a commitment to order resolution made consumers to purchase goods online.  

We found that over half (52%) of British shoppers think real time updates and order tracking via an app or website would encourage them to order items for home delivery. What’s more, nearly a third (31%) said they’re more likely to shop online if there was a commitment to order resolution should the package not arrive on time.  

These steps are simple in the sense that they are low cost and high reward. They show customers that care is taken in the order process and there is an appreciation that each and every purchase matters to the people who make them. What unites them is attention to the continuing of value of good customer experience, even after consumer has hit the purchase button.  

For forward thinking brands and retailers there is an opportunity to implement measures that will drive a positive impact on consumer trust, and this will have long term benefits when it comes to retention. Demonstrating clear commitments to meeting delivery needs, as well as proactive personalised customer communication will help set retailers apart from the competition, ensuring their brand value is not tied to the performance of the delivery companies alone, and ultimately drive customer retention. In times of economic difficulty this can make all the difference.  

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