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Historically, companies could base Black Friday and Cyber Monday staffing needs on numbers from previous years. However, brands with an online retail presence must react accordingly to all the challenges we’ve faced in 2020. Because of COVID-19, the public has largely avoided retail stores for the better part of the year. Instead, online shopping has been favored for everything from groceries to furniture.
Now, with two major holiday-shopping days right around the corner, consumers are still doing the bulk of their shopping online. With the popularity of eCommerce, retailers are starting to realize the importance of the customer experience. Organizations are realizing it extends beyond an in-person retail presence. Because of the uncertainty surrounding this holiday season in particular, eCommerce call center teams should be preparing now to deliver the best possible customer experience on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the remainder of the holiday shopping season.
Factors that Will Affect Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sales
It’s difficult to make exact predictions this year, but forecasts are indicating a rise in holiday sales. Deloitte predicts that retail sales could rise by between 1% and 1.5%. In financial terms, that would amount to an increase of $1.142 trillion and $1.152 trillion between November and January. That’s a trivial increase when you consider that retailers saw 4.1% sales growth in 2019, which translated to nearly $1.14 trillion dollars.
10 Factors to Impact the 2020 Holiday Season
While the rate of holiday sales for 2020 is difficult to predict, a PayPal study highlights some of the factors that are most likely to affect shopping habits. The following 10 factors will have a great impact on consumer shopping habits in the coming months.
1. High-income earners may spend more this year.
2. Low-income earners have been tightening their belts and may keep more reserves than normal.
3. High rates of unemployment may curb spending.
4. An additional stimulus payment may be forthcoming.
5. Increased optimism about a COVID-19 vaccine.
6. People will start their holiday shopping earlier.
7. Consumers will shop continuously throughout the holiday season.
8. Unemployment benefits may be running out.
9. Consumers are likely to buy personal items and home goods that make them feel cozy at home.
10. A great customer experience will encourage customers to be repeat shoppers.
Macy’s and Target agree that the holiday season is already off to an early start. Your call center needs to be ready.
The Importance of the Customer Experience
Forbes highlights the strong role that the customer experience will play on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Almost 70% of consumers said they’d continue buying from a retailer that offered a good customer experience. Nearly 60% of consumers also said they’d recommend a brand to others if they had a good customer experience.
CNBC points out two major influences on holiday sales—how much splurging high earners do and how tight low-income earners tighten their belts. That all makes sense when you consider that people with higher incomes may have a larger surplus of spending-money than normal, since they haven’t been able to take vacations, eat at restaurants, or take in live shows. It’s quite possible that they’ll use holiday gift-giving to treat their families and themselves by splurging on higher ticket items. Low-income earners may be more inclined to spend their holiday cash on necessities over luxuries.
The key to increasing sales may very well center around ensuring a great customer experience. Consumers will be less inclined to shop around when they know they can count on a particular retailer that has a reputation for routinely delivering a great experience.
You can deliver on the promise of a great customer experience when your call center is fully prepared to handle the influx of calls on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Preparing Your Call Center for Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Consumers are aware that many manufacturers have slowed production because of COVID-19 and they’re worried about not being able to get the products they want to buy for gift-giving. That’s part of what’s driving an early holiday rush. Now is the time to reinforce your call center and start preparing to manage the influx of calls that are sure to come in on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The orders won’t stop until the last-minute shoppers have made their final purchases.
Setting Up Your Call Center for the Rush
Initially, you’ll need to staff your call center with sales associates to assist shoppers in making purchases, but even before the majority of buying is over, returns, exchanges, and product help will need to take priority.
Your call center will also run more smoothly if you have some call agents dedicated to handling complex issues and solving problems. Aircall’s 2019 eCommerce Customer Service Experience Study showed that 80% of shoppers will not wait longer than a minute or two for assistance, so it’s vital to have a sufficient number of call agents to meet that timeframe.
The study also showed that about 20% of consumers like self-service options, like having access to an automated knowledge base of information for answers to common questions. (Tip: Having a well structured IVR system so callers can help themselves find the right resources will keep phone lines free for more complex issues.)
Aircall’s study also showed that consumers prefer contacting retailers via phone, but they liked having the option of multi-channel communications — like text, chat, and email — as alternatives. Software integrations that work with your phone system allow you to keep all customer interactions in a centralized tool.
The flexibility and versatility that cloud communications offer prepare top brands to deliver on customers’ expectations even during rushes like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Be aware that Cyber Monday sales could surpass Black Friday sales with so many consumers preferring to keep themselves safe from the risks of large crowds this year.
A Well-Planned Call Center Is Necessary to Manage Increase in Ecommerce Sales
If McKinsey is correct, eCommerce retailers could be the real winners this holiday season. The public has largely avoided crowded stores and are staying home, which means they have plenty of time to shop online. This prediction is validated by the fact that major retailers like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy will remain closed on Thanksgiving Day.
Deloitte forecasts a 25%-35% potential increase in online sales which could yield net profits in a range that spans from $182 billion to $196 billion. A well-planned call center that uses software integrations to manage workflows should be on every business’s holiday wish list.