‘Christmas creep’, a familiar term in the USA since the 1980s, or the ‘Golden Quarter’ as it’s known in the UK and Ireland was turned up to eleven this year. The merchandising phenomenon in which retailers introduce Christmas-themed goods and/or decorations before the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, turned the fourth floor of Selfridges in Oxford Street into a winter wonderland, 147 days before Christmas. Quartz calculations, based on current trends show that insensitive commercialism will overcome seasonal sense, and around 2120 the Christmas shopping season will be normal in July. Joy to the world!
Amazon eating everyone’s lunch?
But not all retailers are smiling, with the numbers looking bleak for high street vendors this holiday season. According to the British Retail Consortium, online sales have been booming in Britain for years, with ecommerce accounting for nearly a quarter of all purchases in December. Many might think this predicts the end of the high street. Which begs the question: Are online retailers really going to eat everyone’s Christmas dinner, or can businesses respond by having a clear omni-channel strategy? Amazon clearly feels that high street brick-and-mortar is not nearing extinction with its arrival in this segment less than a year ago. As this giant refines their bricks-and-clicks strategy, competitors will have to adapt as the relentless pressure to remain profitable increases.
Granted not every business has the marketing budget of Amazon, but technology (although don’t believe everything you read), when integrated with knowledge, could be THE powerful engine that drives sales, marketing and customer experience.
Santa’s little helpers - bots, a tool for omni-channel
Bots, AI, Virtual Agents - whatever you want to call them – the world is finally catching up to automation, although it must be said that not all bots are created equal. Already revolutionising industries such as customer service and human resources, the hybrid approach of bots and humans are upping productivity and improving user experiences.
With most of us expecting instant answers and although 57% of consumers are interested in chatbots for their instantaneity ~ HubSpot, 2017 – it’s difficult to understand why only a few businesses have jumped at the opportunity to increase sales, qualify leads, or market other services using bots.
As with each new channel in the omni-channel stratosphere, hype creates unnecessary FUD. Bot technology is not meant to eliminate jobs or the human element, but rather enhance, refine and deliver a more targeted approach such as pre-qualified sales leads for a sales person to follow up. Lisa, the bot employed by a global player within property development successfully differentiates between customers and developers looking to buy a property through a serious of questions, collecting specific details and adding them to a CRM system.
Experience, not a sales pitch.
The opportunities / jobs for bots are endless. Find Me A Gift reports that us Brits spend £700 M on unwanted gifts. Wouldn’t it make sense to have a bot assisting customers to find the perfect gift, saving both a business and customer the effort of having to return, refund or exchange an unwanted gift? A bot could answer questions such as, “What’s a good gift for my mother of 65?” and then suggest gifts within certain price ranges.
It’s no surprise that companies that excel at customer experience grow revenues 4-8% above the market. Consumers want effortless experiences. Bots could be the answer, helping to eliminate some of the friction points of online ordering or enquiring through meaningful natural conversation.
Bot technology is not going away, however, understandably, with so many software providers proclaiming to be bot experts with jingle bells and all the whistles, it’s hard to know where to start. So, Synthetix (one of the pioneers of bot technology over 16 years ago) teamed up with Wiley’s trusted ‘For Dummies’ brand to provide you with a free stocking filler. Virtual Agents for Dummies cuts through the noise about bots in a concise and palatable manner.
Who knows, like the boy who saved Christmas, a bot might just help restore your Christmas customer experience to its rightful place.