Retail industry is sprinting to adapt to the new normal

Indian entrepreneurs have been doing the spadework to capture the attention of digital customers much more after the Covid pandemic. The very first e-commerce company was founded in the late 1990s when the ecosystem was much different with only three million internet users in the country. A cursory search online would tell you there is a teeming crowd of over 200 million online shoppers today and by 2030, 500 million are going to join the bandwagon much to their convenience, satisfaction, and habit.

The pandemic did accelerate the pace of digital dependency but even in its absence, reimagining the retail landscape would have become a priority for business enablers, sooner or later. There are two prominent reasons – one, the vast swathe of the population that uses the internet today. Second, the ease of online shopping, burgeoning on the back of digital payments and communication channels that narrow the bridge between brands and customers, seamlessly. The retail industry in the aftermath of COVID-19 is sprinting to adapt to the new normal and establish it as perfectly normal, much to the customer’s delight.

At Sinch, we spoke to our global consumers and interviewed enterprise CX thought leaders to examine how the pandemic shaped customer behavior. Our research threw up some interesting observations and I would put it in these conclusive pointers:

Pave way for a frictionless CX: About 49% of consumers said they would shop online more often, 46% said they will spend less time in stores and 58% said they will avoid crowds. Easy to decipher than that your customers are increasingly resorting to digital.  Business enablers must consider omnichannel customer experience and a strategy that appeals to mobile-first customers.

Huge uptake of mobile messaging: Gone are the days when businesses used only traditional routes to reach out to customers to educate or advertise. There is a volley of communication channels today, sprucing up brands and a growing number of Indians are ready to connect with brands over these channels. SMS rules the roost but we see a growing preference for other channels such as WhatsApp, Instagram, etc. and a slow but visible shift from basic texts to rich texts and conversations. Be it customer support chats, order tracking, cart abandonment reminders, or product catalogue displays – customer requirements are evolving.

Lend an ear to social shopping: The customer journey today often commences from their smartphone and may end in an online or store purchase. A whopping majority agree they use their phones for initial research about a product even if they intend to purchase from the store. So, customers are increasingly resorting to digital means to buy products and services, this means strengthening brand presence is a necessity. Young customers are looking to purchase on social channels such as WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger, Facebook, Signal, and a lot more. This is a trend that is picking up and will continue to gain momentum. Therefore, mobile experiences cannot be mere approximations of desktop experiences if your customers are hoping for a mature conversational commerce in the near future. Strengthen the connection between brand and customers, across social sites, with appealing content and tap into the opportunity.

Leverage AI-fueled conversations: Most brands agree that AI can transform their business but struggle to deliver to this effect. However, if you go by our research, three in four chatbot users confirmed a positive experience. Speed of response, interactions privacy and quick resolution impressed these users most. Today, AI integration is not just nice-to-have, it is pivotal and worth every penny.

Customers are a demanding lot, yearning for instant gratification. One in four customers expects a quick reply within a minute or less. What this shows is that some brands are getting their CX piece right and when the same pool of customers interact with your brand, they perhaps, cannot comprehend delays.

Prepare to offer real-time utility: With conversational AI, brands can look at moving beyond support scenarios to offer much more. For example, shoppers are interested in checking in-store inventory via messaging before visiting in person. Some others would prefer to receive personalized videos via messaging from brands they use.

It is fascinating to see that despite customers’ enthusiasm for new features and utilities, adoption of these has been stubbornly low. Such opportunity gaps cry out to be mended.

The pandemic may have sparked a short-term crisis for retailers still exploring digital transformation, but customers are ready for new ways to search, shop, and pay using their phones. These are not next-generation solutions, but tech options that are available today. Leverage the opportunity.


Authored by

Nitin Singhal is Managing Director for Sinch in India.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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