Retail has accelerated 10 years into the future in the span of nine months. At Heyday, we’ve witnessed our clients lean into the power of conversational AI to build stronger relationships with customers. We’ve also watched them totally reorder the structure of their customer support teams, while transitioning their in-store associates to be equal parts online sales ninjas and support gurus.
Online shopping has doubled during the pandemic in Canada. As early as May, consumers had already shifted their buying habits, and ecommerce sales doubled year over year with 110% increase compared to the previous year. In the United States, consumers spent $200B online, and sales jumped by 44% from Q2 to Q3.
In previous years, economists and retail experts concerned with the Black Friday/Cyber Monday debate all talked about one tension point: how much will ecommerce eclipse in-store sales this year? And does this statistic point to even further demise of the role of the store in the customer experience?
Like everything else, this changed in 2020.
Shopify asked the stark question: is Black Friday Dead? (And Heyday responded, right here.) Meanwhile, retailers are working tirelessly to bridge the gap between online and in-store sales, and make up for losses. They’ve got Plan A to Plan Z in their back pocket, ready to use based off of the state of the world come November 27th. The days of ironclad campaigns and proven playbooks are gone.
This has been a year of learning, collecting data, fostering deeper connections while being further apart, and finding new ways to deal with even newer problems. 2021 will be all about how we take this year’s learning and put them into action – and BFCM will be no exception. Here’s what I expect to see by this time next year.
The role of the in-store experience will be totally reimagined by November next year
This year, I’ll be doing 98% of my shopping for the holidays online. On my daughter’s list is LEGO and new headphones – both of which I’ll buy online after spending time reading reviews, chatting with associates, and comparing prices.
She also has her eyes on rollerblades. For those, the in-store, tactile experience can’t quite be replaced. As I think of where I’m going to mask up and go – I’ll be asking myself these three questions:
- Is it possible to have a video consultation or video chat in person with an expert first, so I can get a better idea of inventory?
- Can I make an appointment with an expert so I don’t have to wait in line?
- Is there somewhere in the store where my daughter can actually test the rollerblades?
It’s important to note that many retailers aren’t quite here yet on reimagining their in-store experience to get a resounding “yes!” on all three points (but if anyone is, you know where to reach me!). By next year, I’m certain they will be.
The questions I’m asking along my journey toward the store are pointing to one new reality: expectations of the in-store experience have, and will continue, to evolve. In-store shopping will increasingly become about product testing, product experience, and building long-term rapport with sales associates. All done in a safe, convenient way.
Gone are the days of seeing what store is close by and choosing accordingly. Retailers need to reinvent what their in-store offer provides. I’m willing to drive the extra few kilometres if it means no waiting, a better experience with an expert, and a guarantee that my daughter will walk (or glide) away with the blades she wants. And an in-store purchase might be followed by an online one the next time, and the time after that. But at least I know a solid in-store experience is waiting for me when I’m ready.
Amazon’s stronghold will be challenged by small and medium-sized retailers using innovative technology
Amazon has a stronghold in the ecommerce market in North America that’s tough to compete with today. Profits doubled during the pandemic. And yet, consumers want to support smaller brands – and they’re willing to spend more to support something they feel connected to. But Amazon’s unparalleled use of data and unwavering focus on the customer experience has made it tough to beat… so far.
By next year at this time, I predict that challenger brands will have experimented enough in the previous months to have a measured understanding of what tools help them connect with their target buyers in an effective, engaging way that leads to loyalty.
At Heyday, the starter version of our conversational AI platform launched on the Shopify App Store this year to help provide access to advanced automation to retailers of all shapes and sizes. While enterprise retailers with multiple doors is still Heyday’s core focus, this democratized version of our solution is a critical piece in changing the ecommerce landscape for the better – allowing everyone the chance to compete.
With over 1000 installs of our app across the globe so far, that’s a lot of retailers having conversations that they weren’t before. Those conversations are generating data, collecting feedback, and ultimately helping retailers understand how to provide the best-in-class experiences for their customers.
Retailers may not be beating Amazon in 2020, but as they improve their ability to implement and use technology that boosts the customer experience, and they can catch up with consumer desire to spend money with places they feel more connected to, things will start to look quite different.
(PS: Head to Shopify’s must-try BFCM apps on their App Store to see what brands are using to engage, sell and support this year. Yes, we’re there!)
So what action should brands take right now?
A Forbes council post from a couple of months ago told retailers to treat everyday like it was Black Friday. A year ago, I may not have agreed with that. This year, it might be impossible. Next year, it will be paramount.
Why? The landscape is more competitive than ever – and those who offer equal parts value and top-notch customer experiences will win. Retailers who have ironed out the kinks in their supply chains and can provide the immediacy that Amazon provides – with the personalization and buying experiences of a leading brand – will win above all.
After a gruelling 2020, you may want to sit back and take a breather. But those who keep the momentum going will be happy they did come next year at this time.
Want to see how Heyday can help you accelerate your online sales, lower support queues, and deliver a personalized shopping experience to each shopper?
Book your free demo today and our team of experts will be happy to show you how to unlock your store’s full potential with chat.