Filling the shopping cart with good tidings | Inquirer Opinion
Commentary

Filling the shopping cart with good tidings

/ 05:01 AM December 24, 2022

The pandemic has accelerated the shift to online shopping, as consumers flocked online amid physical restrictions in the last couple of years. Despite loosened safety measures, COVID-19’s impact on online retail will last well beyond the recovery phase, especially with growing internet use in the country.

According to the We Are Social and Hootsuite “Digital 2022: October Global Statshot Report,” internet users in the Philippines logged an average of nine hours a day online, which includes shopping. Meanwhile, a survey by Rakuten Insight in June 2022 indicated that 36 percent of Filipino consumers did more online shopping quarter on quarter. As a testament to growing demand, Amazon recently started offering free shipping to the Philippines for eligible items that reach the promotion threshold.

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For retailers in the Philippines, sustaining the online sales momentum amid fierce competition requires them to pay greater attention to consumers’ shopping experience, while moving past a myopic focus on targeted ads. Traditionally, physical stores have been more inclined to improve the shopping experience, adding value through tangible elements like providing couches where companions of shoppers can wait, or offering refreshments, especially in luxury shops. Without the element of tangibility, online shopping requires more creativity, a gap that retailers need to plug as they look into building connections with customers.

Forming a lasting impression that turns one transaction into repeat purchases is all about effective communications throughout the purchase journey: identifying moments of truth and sending the right message to consumers at the right time and channel.

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One area that most online retailers typically overlook is after-purchase customer engagement, with the days after Christmas being especially crucial as these are the biggest return-and-exchange days of the year. Customers need to feel heard and supported even after purchasing items, or the relationship won’t progress beyond a single transaction. This is where technology—including WhatsApp messaging and chatbots—can provide a two-way communication avenue for live exchanges, enabling retailers and consumers to resolve after-purchase issues more efficiently. By putting the focus on building relationships with consumers online through quality conversations, retailers can move beyond one-sided transactional engagements and inch closer to winning customer loyalty.

Retail revival. Online shopping may be here to stay, but in-store shopping won’t be going anywhere either. Physical stores, after all, still offer more product visibility, allowing consumers to see, feel, and test products before purchase. With the easing of restrictions in the last months, consumers are inclined to engage in in-person experiences after a long hiatus.

For a lot of consumers, buy-online-pickup-in-store is fast becoming the preferred option as this addresses the long delivery times and high shipping costs of online sales. But that’s not to say that retailers can just take it easy this holiday season: Consumers are becoming more intentional about spending, and demand convenience and exceptional service from retailers more than ever. This means consumers can easily get frustrated with long waiting times in-store, or late updates on the status of their pickup orders.

Given rising customer expectations, retailers can benefit from having an omnichannel communication strategy that boosts their ability to deliver excellent in-store shopping experiences. With access to data and information from customer interactions across all channels, offline sales agents can continue conversations in-store, and effectively recommend additional services and items shoppers may potentially be interested in.

Hyperpersonalization. Brands that personalize email and alerts using behavioral, psychographic, and demographic data can better differentiate themselves from the pack. With Filipino consumers still craving the human touch in their interactions, retailers should focus on communicating with mindfulness, instead of sending automated messages that fail to factor in shoppers’ varied interests and preferences. Today, a growing number of consumers are purchasing directly through conversational messaging apps, delivery channels that matter in the new age of engagement. Targeted messaging can create positive impressions, which translate to repeat purchases, brand loyalty, and word-of-mouth promotion.

Fearless holiday shopping. Data privacy issues can easily turn holiday shopping into a nightmare. Implementing security precautions, including protecting and streamlining product registration, authentication, and recovery, can prevent hackers and data breaches from doing this. Trust-based shopping means that consumers today are prioritizing security as they interact with retailers through apps and communication channels. Retailers that don’t step up their security game with low-friction, strong customer authentication can potentially lose customers who have become more conscious about sharing personal data. Besides protecting consumers, a secure digital presence also protects retailers from online payment fraud.

Amid the flurry and excitement of holiday shopping is an opportunity for brands to refine their customer engagement and communications strategies, both online and in-store. Connecting better with shoppers give retailers a higher chance of improving their bottomline and finishing the year on a high.

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David Coghill is regional vice president of solutions engineering for Asia Pacific and Japan at Twilio.

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