For the holiday season 2022, consumers look set to continue their love affair with ecommerce solutions and online shopping. But if they cannot buy the items they want, they’re liable to abandon the sales order. Unless, that is, savvy retailers can get one step ahead with a retail strategy that offers alternative purchases in a personalised customer experience.

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This holiday season, experts expect to see online purchases continue to increase. Despite stores being fully open, the convenience of ecommerce solutions has convinced many shoppers to stay at their screens rather than venturing out into a brick and mortar retail store.

Adobe, which analyses over 1 trillion visits to US websites to produce an annual online shopping forecast, predicts a 2.5%* increase in online shopping – that may not sound very big, but is significant in the context of reduced overall holiday spending due to the economic crisis.

In Australia, 32% of the population+ will buy their Christmas gifts online, and in the UK, the figure is comparable, at 30%++.

The risk of the switch

Whilst there are many upsides for retailers in having customers buy though their ecommerce solution, they are also acutely aware that it can pose challenges. One of the biggest of these is the fact that being online makes it a lot easier for the consumer to switch stores or brands. When competitors are literally just a click or two away, rather than a walk or drive to another store, you have to keep shoppers on your site, rather than risking losing their loyalty and the sales order. A retail strategy that drives a positive customer experience online is a must.

Online, availability is a big driver of loyalty. Not being able to find or buy the goods they want is a major turn-off for customers, and likely to send them straight into the arms of your competitors. Statistics from McKinsey’s US Consumer Pulse Survey§§ show the reality of customers not being able to find the exact item they want to buy:

  • 39% switch brand
  • 32% switch retailer
  • 16% don’t buy

That leaves just 13% who wait for the item to be back in stock, and a whole heap of lost revenue and profit for the retailer. We’re not just talking a handful of cases either – in McKinsey’s survey, a massive 62% said that when shopping, at least one of the items they planned to buy was unavailable.

Key Retail Strategy : Meeting customer demands

What customers want, according to Forbes is ‘personalised, convenient solutions**’. For retailers of course, the key goal is to avoid lost sales orders.

A key retail strategy to help meet the objectives of customer and store is out-of-stock alerts and suggestions for alternative items.

  • Out of stock alerts – Real-time tracking of stock levels allows a notification to be sent before an item actually goes out-of-stock, based on a trigger stock level. This allows the retailer to reorder in time in time to avoid the out-of-stock happening and is particularly useful for fast-moving items in the holiday season
  • Suggestions for alternative items – If, however, the item does go out-of-stock, a smart retail technology platform can suggest alternative items that are in stock. This works not only for online customers, but in the store too, if the staff are armed with mobile POS with customer loyalty data, and can interact with the customer in the aisle. For the most personalised customer experience, the process would use existing customer loyalty program data, such as previous purchases and preferences. By harnessing that information, the retailer can make specific, tailored suggestions with a high chance the customer will buy.

There are multiple benefits to this approach:

  • Revenue protection – the sales order can be saved, with no loss of revenue or profit for the retailer.

  • Revenue increase – an alternative purchase may offer an opportunity for an upsell, increasing the size of the sales order.

  • Strengthened loyalty – if the suggested alternative is a good match, the customer feels understood and valued, and loyalty increases

  • Positive sharing – around 50%¶¶ of shoppers post on social media after shopping. If they’ve had a positive customer experience, they’re more likely to promote your store.

The need for innovative retail technology

To minimise lost online transactions through alerts and customer profiling, stores need the right retail strategy, supported by innovative retail technology:

  • A smart e-commerce solution, with AI functionality and integration to inventory visibility
  • Powerful inventory management software and omnichannel inventory management, giving a real-time single view of stock, across online and offline channels

  • A loyalty management system, with detailed customer data about transaction history and preferences
  • Mobile POS for in-store staff to make alternative suggestions to customers

These elements need to be integrated seamlessly into a single platform which alerts the retailer before an out-of-stock; makes alternative suggestions, giving a personalised customer experience; and keeps the customer in the store, protecting revenue loyalty.

Imagine being able to do all that – it would be a pretty good Christmas gift!


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