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November 18, 2020

Using Text Messaging to Ring in the New Era of Retail This Holiday Season & Beyond

Text Messaging for Retail Businesses

Several months ago, curbside pickup was a new, if not novel, idea for most brands and consumers. Today, 75% of the U.S.’s top 50 store-based retailers, including Best Buy, Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods offer this service to their customers. This example of innovative adaptation has had an extremely positive impact. For instance, Target’s online and in-store sales jumped 24.3% in Q2 (an all time high for the retailer) as their curbside pickup service climbed 700%.

And while there are countless other examples of progress to point to, with the holiday season here — a season that accounts for roughly a fifth of annual sales — retailers must make sure they continue to  find ways to reimagine their operations and leverage technology to optimize the opportunity ahead.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a few examples of how retailers can use text messaging to drive sales while transforming up to 80% of high-risk interactions into high-quality contactless experiences. 

Build Confidence from the Start 

Consumers today have more questions than ever before. And with so much change and uncertainty abound, there’s a lot more on their minds than what products are in stock or what special offers are currently running. In fact, 79% of consumers say that going forward they will seek out information on the type of health and safety standards and processes businesses have in place before doing business with them. 

In order to build the type of confidence that will get customers through your doors or to your curbside this holiday season and beyond, retailers must have a quick and easy way to deliver the information that they expect. Traditionally, retailers do this by providing basic information on their website or offering a phone number for customers who might have more specific questions. But that’s not enough today. Even amidst Covid-19 shut-downs and social distancing, life is still moving at a blistering pace in the digital world. Retailers who aren’t providing a clear path to purchase are risking loss of business as consumers rapidly move on to the easiest option.

Contactless Retail Journey with Text Messaging

To put it simply, consumers have more complex questions and needs than ever before, and they expect you to respond to them quickly. Our research has found that 55% of consumers expect a response from a business within 30 minutes or less. With patience currently at an all-time low and consumer anxiety high, brands must ensure that they have the proper communication strategies in place to start building confidence early on in the buyer journey. One creative way retailers can do this is by providing a number on their website or online listing that customers can text and engage with the business in real-time. With an intelligent text messaging platform in place, customers can receive automatic replies to common questions in real time, and message routing can make sure a staff member is alerted the second a human touch is necessary. 

The buyer’s journey is more complex than ever, and if you miss out on these early interactions with consumers, it’ll end right away.

Provide a Seamless Shopping Text’perience

Let’s say a potential customer is looking to purchase a shirt as a gift this holiday season, in a particular color and size. While calling the store is an option, it’s not the easiest or most efficient option for floor staff, and can often end in a frustrating customer experience. Not surprisingly, Zingle’s 2019 Customer Service Report found that 45% of respondents said they would prefer to text a business more  than call them over the phone.

With text, retail staff and customers can easily communicate with each other in real-time to confirm that they have a particular item in stock, and even send and receive pictures to ensure that the right item is being processed and importantly, that it’s what the customer is looking for. The customer can then finalize their purchase using a contactless payment method, and liaise with the staff associate to arrange safe pickup.

Download the Visual Guide - The Future of Retail

This process is not only a safer option that reduces unnecessary interactions, but utilizing this two-way messaging platform eliminates scenarios that typically frustrate shoppers, such as waiting on hold. This is particularly important when you consider the strain retailers are currently under as COVID-19 shrinks their workforce and magnifies pressure on resources and bandwidth. 

For instance, automated text messaging in particular can empower businesses to scale their customer interactions in a way that reduces friction for both staff and customers. And with the holidays right around the corner, retailers can adapt to large surges in demand for products whilst also maintaining their health and safety precautions.

Keeping a Pulse on CX

Another major opportunity that the utilization of text messaging gives businesses is the ability to encourage customers to provide feedback. As reported by Mailchimp, the average email open rate for retail marketers is just below 20%, while more than 90% of text messages are opened by recipients within minutes. This represents a substantial opportunity for retailers to gauge the pulse of their customer post-purchase, something that research has shown time and time again to be massively beneficial for brands. 

For example, Zingle has closely examined the positive impact of service recovery on consumers’ emotional connections with brands, something businesses wouldn’t be able to capitalize on without customer feedback. Additionally, another recent study found that aggregate ratings, individual reviews, and the consumption experience significantly influence electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM). 

With text now the preferred method of communication for most individuals, retailers can leverage automated text messaging to send their customers a post-purchase feedback text, whether it’s just an informal inquiry or an NPS or CSAT format. As it turns out, customers are more likely to provide candid feedback through text, anyway, putting brands in a strong position to gather the signals they need to analyze and improve their operations, drive impactful online reviews, and ultimately create long-term brand advocates that generate growth and revenue.

Empowering the New Contactless Retail Era

The events of the past year have caused society to reevaluate their actions not only today, but in the future as well. As a result, it’s clear that businesses across the country will need to adapt to these changes in order to serve their customers in the ways they prefer long after the crisis ends.

Key to achieving this is having the right technologies in place to enable staff and stakeholders to deploy real-time communication strategies and powerful workflow automations that facilitate the contactless, personalized experiences that help customers feel safe and comfortable throughout their shopping experience. 

Download our ‘before & after’ visual guide for a look at how retailers can transform up to 80% of face-to-face interactions to contactless.

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