Study: Retailers get a failing grade with social customer care
SEATTLE — How do industry observers rate retail social customer care? #EpicFail.
The term social customer care refers to the quick and personalized customer service brands are expected to provide through social media once a customer engages with them to resolve an issue. To date, 92.5% of brands are failing to meet customers' social customer care expectations, according to the “Social Customer Care Report,” from Rational Interaction.
Consider Twitter, for example. With 310 million active users and more than 500 million tweets a day, Twitter is an increasingly critical platform that companies must actively monitor and leverage to interact with customers directly. However, of the 67% of Twitter users who have tweeted at a brand seeking customer service, more than half (58%) never received a response, the report said.
"With millions of customers utilizing Twitter to engage with companies, it's crucial for brands to treat the platform as an extension of its customer support," said Selina Petosa, founding principal and chief creative officer at Rational Interaction.
"When executed correctly, social customer care reinforces customer engagement and loyalty,” she said. “However, neglected or poorly managed social platforms can lead to dire consequences for a brand, including irreparable damage to its reputation and the loss of customers."
Retailers clearly have their work cut out for them as only 35% of retail brands provide customer care from a designated support handle, and 60% provide customer care from their single/main brand handle, data revealed.
"Distinct handles enable brands to better track and respond to customer inquiries and isolate negative interactions," said Joseph Debons, principal and executive managing director at Rational Interaction. "Brands using only a main account to field customer service issues represent a missed opportunity to provide rapid personalized responses and alleviate high volume requests."
Those that adopted a designated customer care handle were able to reverse some of the damage. For example, only 4% of customer inquiries went unanswered, and 62% of brands were more likely to close the loop on conversations — a move that ensures that customers are satisfied and the problem is resolved.
And efforts do not go unnoticed, as 28% of brands were more likely to receive customer kudos once the issue was resolved, the report said.
RetailNext: It’s beginning to look a lot like a digital Christmas
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Uncertainty among the upcoming presidential election is not dampening holiday sales outlooks.
Indeed, retailers need to be ready to present their holiday best as U.S.-based retail performance over the November through December holiday period is expected to see a 3.2% year-over-year (YoY) lift in sales. This jump is driven partly by a 14.9% increase in YoY sales through digital channels, according to new data from RetailNext.
Based on current retail trends and broader macro-economic data, the retail analytics provider predicted that overall, digital sales will climb to 16% of total retail sales, up from 14.4% last year. This will also impact an 11% decline in brick-and-mortar store traffic in November, and 5% in December, as compared to 2015, RetailNext reported.
Meanwhile, strong selling metrics will minimize the impact of lower store traffic, with conversion increasing 0.5% in December. These factors will also contribute to a 6.5% lift in sales-per-shopper (SpS), the firm predicted.
"There will be slight degrees of variability in early November due to the uncertainty of the upcoming presidential election, but any residual angst from Election 2016 will likely be well over by Thanksgiving,” added Shelley Kohan, VP of retail consulting at RetailNext.
The appeal of digital touch points among shoppers should also be a wake-up call for retailers to "seamlessly present branded experiences across all shopping touch-points, both online and in-store," she added. “While Black Friday, Super Saturday and Cyber-Monday will continue their starring roles, retailers that reimagine Thanksgiving as a month-long event culminating with the holiday weekend will start the season strong. And those retailers nimble and agile enough to act in December on lessons learned in November will win the season.”
Moody’s: Walmart leading charge against Amazon
NEW YORK — Such brick-and-mortar retailers as Walmart and Best Buy are not only surviving online, but are thriving due to their sizable physical assets and digital investments.
That’s one of the main findings of a new report by Moody's Investors Service, which says that while Amazon keeps raising the stakes online and has a decade-plus advantage over other retailers in e-commerce, it still faces intense competition from the likes of Walmart and Best Buy, who are raising the bar online for other physical merchants.
The report cites Walmart's recent acquisition of Jet.com, which, while not a threat to Amazon's position, provides Walmart a speed advantage in boosting online growth by leveraging Jet's ready-made platform. Best Buy is an example of a retailer that continues to successfully transition online, with penetration now approaching 20% of total sales.
But even as these same retailers have made notable progress in bridging the gap between physical stores and online, more work lies ahead to increase their online relevance as they strive to be in the conversation with Amazon.
"We believe this pitched battle is still in its early stages, and that online retail sales will eclipse 20% of total retail sales in seven years — more than double today's roughly 9%," said Moody's lead retail analyst Charlie O'Shea. "Online sales still remain a relatively small drop in the retail revenue bucket — although it is also proving to be by far the fastest-growing sector as brick-and-mortar focuses more resources on this channel."
The report, “Walmart, Best Buy are Leading Brick & Mortar Online Fight as Amazon Ups Stakes," finds that the buy online/pick-up in store for same-day availability model is a powerful tool for brick-and-mortar retailers in the competition for consumer dollars. The model, which is estimated to facilitate 40-50% of all online sales by brick-and-mortar merchants, empowers retailers to unlock working capital as it helps facilitate inventory optimization, according to Moody’s.
The report also sounds a note of warning as it cautions that there is still far too much retail square footage overall, calling the amount for non-food/non-auto-related retailers “excessive.”
“We are not in the camp that believes mass store closings are in order, but rather, think that the 'fleet' must be repurposed, with some store closings a likely by-product," said O'Shea. "When properly deployed, physical locations are a definite asset in the multichannel world, as they represent touch-points for the consumer, as well as distribution points for the retailer."
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