Retailers that gift consumers with seamless experiences will be the ones to sparkle in this most unpredictable of Christmases, says Capita’s Alan Linter

This time last year the retail industry looked very different. 

The majority of retail brands had embraced, or at least accepted, a degree of digitisation and were on a path to an end-to-end, multi-platform customer journey and experience.

Christmas and the end of year peak had been anticipated months in advance, with stock, pricing, promotions and operations – including seasonal staff – planned according to predictable trading patterns. 

But nobody could have planned for the pandemic, which turned predictions and forecasts for 2020 on their head. 

Even now, several months after non-essential stores have reopened, customers who have experienced the choice and convenience of shopping online are unlikely to return to the high street as if nothing has changed.  

This means retailers are facing the fast-approaching end of year peak with a mixture of hope and dread. 

“Christmas could mean recovery and redemption, or it could bring further disaster and disruption”

Christmas could mean recovery and redemption, or it could bring further disaster and disruption. When customers don’t know if their town will be in lockdown or even whether they can visit family and friends, it’s impossible for retailers to know what to expect or how to plan. 

Even retailers with a thriving digital business are faced with a customer community more demanding, volatile and vocal than ever before. 

Best of both

Customers want the best of both worlds: all the personal service and immersive experiences of the real world, with the speed and clockwork support of digital and telephone. Especially at Christmas, when emotions run high and patience is short.   

The answer for retailers that haven’t prepared for the peak is to embrace the uncertainty and build it into their business model and operations, turning instability into instant agility in any scenario. 

This way, retailers can react quickly to surges in demand, identify and address emerging threats and opportunities, ensure an optimum use of resources at all times and give customers the seamless experience they expect across every channel. 

“When the only certainty is uncertainty, retailers need to be ready for anything”

With customer experience so crucial as we move into peak trading this year, retailers must make sure they are at the top of their game whatever is to come. 

This means ensuring all aspects of the online journey are as seamless as possible, from nailing the homepage navigation to guaranteeing customers can have any question answered at any time of day.

When the only certainty is uncertainty, retailers need to be ready for anything – poised for opportunity, positioned for growth and resilient for the future. 

Alan Linter

Alan Linter is Capita’s innovation director. 

Capita offers a range of customer experience solutions. It’s virtual contact centre solutions allow retailers to quickly deploy a high-quality customer service and support operation that flexes with trading patterns, represents brand values and protects reputation. 

Using flexible and robust cloud-based systems, its contact centres can be implemented at speed to meet sudden peaks in trading demand. It also offers conversational AI solutions, such as smart chatbots, which can relieve the pressure on contact centres and reserve skilled staff for more complex queries.