Maintaining customer loyalty amidst the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for retailers, but it is more important now than ever before with store re-openings and the upcoming holiday season peak. Based on consumer data and trends Optoro has seen in the industry, we’ve identified 5 key touchpoints for customer loyalty during COVID-19.
- Safety and Cleanliness
- Customers need to see that retail stores are clean and adhering to the CDC’s reopening guidance during COVID-19, otherwise they may not return. In May, we surveyed more than 2,000 U.S consumers about how their behaviors have changed as a result of COVID. Although almost half of the younger consumers surveyed (44% of 18-29 year olds) said they still don’t feel comfortable going back into stores, 60% of all respondents feel safe going into stores that are re-opening. As stores continue to reopen, it is important for retailers to consider safer alternatives such as contactless pick-up and returns. Check out our additional recommendations for successfully (and safely) managing in-store returns.
- Retailers should be working closely with their shipping carriers to ensure fast and contactless delivery for eager consumers, especially ahead of the holiday peak season. We have heard from retailers that they have experienced a lower return rate if a delivery occurred within 3 days of the 3-5 day promise window. Therefore, a longer delivery will likely result in a higher return rate. Now is the time to strategize and partner with carriers to ensure that shipments are timely.
- Inventory Planning
- Retailers need to closely monitor consumer buying habits, then adjust their inventory planning, marketing and store promotion efforts accordingly. At the start of quarantine, the bulk of consumer spending went towards essentials, but according to my research, recently we’ve seen shifts to less practical spending. An example is clothing, more specifically athleisure, shorts, and leggings, given that most people are still working from home. Retailers who stay on top of consumer trends like this will be able to capture the attention of new shoppers and keep customers coming back.
- Automation and Data
- Many retailers are looking at automation to cut costs, but leveraging automation and data-driven software can also help process incoming returns faster. This allows consumers to get their refund quickly and put items back online or on the shelf faster for the next consumer to purchase. Larisa Summers, our SVP of Marketing, states, “The most sophisticated retailers use algorithmic, data-driven software… When returns come back in, they can scan the return, [assess] what condition it’s in, and their software system can automatically tell them what to do with that particular good at that particular moment based on a variety of different data points.”
- Seamless Returns Experiences
- Online purchases often have triple the return rate of physical retail, and providing a good returns experience for ecommerce is crucial for customer loyalty: 89% of consumers are less likely to shop at a retailer following a bad returns experience, but 97% of shoppers would continue to shop at a retailer/brand if they had a positive returns experience. As retailers prepare for an influx of returns post-COVID-19 quarantine, they need to have the right solutions in place to address customer needs. For example, our personalized, self-serve online returns experience for consumers means that customers can get the right item even before returning the wrong one.
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