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The 2020 holiday shopping season had very little in common with previous holiday shopping seasons. COVID-19 has turned our lives upside down, and the shopping experience has been no exception. While online holiday shopping has been steadily on the rise for years, it reached new heights last year. This holiday season, retailers are going to get a bit of both worlds — while many consumers will go back to brick-and-mortar stores, 13% of consumers will do all of their shopping online.
What do we know about the 2021 holiday season?
During the 2020 holiday season, retail sales grew an unexpectedly high 8.3% over the same period in 2019 to $789.4 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. When we take a closer look at online sales alone, we see a 23.9% year-over-year growth in 2020. Despite economic uncertainty, online and other non-store sales reached $209 billion compared to $167.8 billion in 2019.
Sure, the situation is different this year, and we can expect people to shift some of their spendings from online to offline. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see yet another increase in total retail sales, especially when you realize that 41% of consumers said they plan to spend more online than last year.
Deloitte predicted that overall holiday retail sales in 2020 would increase between 1% and 1.5% year over year. They must’ve been shocked when they learned about the 8.3% growth I mentioned earlier. If Deloitte were meteorologists, it’s almost as if they forecasted a flurry only to get caught in a blizzard. To give you some more context, “... [it] was more than double the 3.5 percent average holiday increase over the previous five years, including 2019’s 4 percent gain.”
The difference between last year’s forecasts and reality as well as the specificity of this year — people shifting parts of their budgets from online to offline — make the 2021 holiday season spendings even more unpredictable. This time, Deloitte indicates that “holiday sales could rise between 7% and 9%, reaching a total of up to $1.3 trillion.” When it comes to ecommerce sales, Deloitte predicts an 11%-15% year-over-year growth leading up to a $218 billion increase.
While we can expect a 5% increase in in-store traffic, the share of online spending is going to stay almost the same as last year, with 62% of respondents planning to buy gifts on the internet. This means pretty much the same amount of work for customer service agents as last year, when 64% of shoppers declared they were going to shop online. This brings us to what’s going to be crucial to the success of your ecommerce in the following months — managing customer service during the holidays and providing live chat support.
Why live chat?
Live chat is a customer service tool that is an alternative to relatively ineffective emails and expensive phone calls. It makes it possible for a single agent to chat with several customers simultaneously and provides features that help agents in their daily battle for productivity and excellent service.
Why is live chat so important for sales? It’s because your customers:
- Often need help when making a purchase, and they need it NOW.
- Sometimes have payment problems that someone should help them solve.
- Occasionally need a bit of encouragement like promo codes or general advice.
To make this information even more interesting, here’s some real data from our customers. With LiveChat:
- TouchSupport and Luxury Estates International increased their revenue by 30%.
- PatLive grew its customer base by 48%.
- Movember Foundation and Aceable reached 97% customer satisfaction.
Now that you know what live chat is and how you can benefit from using it, let’s look at the five tips on how to live chat during the holiday season.
1. Check out last year’s trends, and prepare your schedule
Every sane manager does their homework before they plan the schedule for the holiday season. Live chat support is no different. If you used live chat last year, the first thing you can do is check your historical data.
Reports will tell you how many chats you had last year and how high customer satisfaction was. By checking that information, you’ll be able to tell how many agents you’ll need this year to deliver fantastic customer support and keep customer happiness high. Keep in mind that this year we’re going to have a similar number of people shopping online, so you should be able to nail down your staffing predictions. You can never go wrong with a few more hands on deck to make sure you’ll be able to handle the increased number of chats.
If you didn’t use live chat last year, don’t despair. There are a lot of online benchmarks that will give you a good sense of what you can expect. Every year, we publish a Customer Service Report with last year’s insights. The 2020 edition gathered data from nearly half a billion chats and over 18 million tickets to find upcoming trends and key customer service findings. Use it to gauge how high your holiday traffic might be, how many chats your agents will have to deal with daily, and what the top results in your industry are.
2. Set up personalized greetings on your website
The holiday season is a season with a lot of competition. Thousands of users browse thousands of websites, and sometimes even a quick chat can turn a user into a customer. For that reason, you want your website visitors to chat with you and not your competitors.
To engage your website customers in chatting, you can use a feature called greetings. Greetings are automated messages that you can display to website visitors and invite them to talk. Choose between standard text greetings or rich greetings to hook your customers instantly.
Use rich greetings to offer a discount to a selected group of customers like, for example, those who’ve just made a purchase. Say you would like to give them a discount on their next purchase. Set the “Current page URL” condition for your “thank you” page.
At times, people will ask questions about product recommendations. That’s where product cards come into play. They’re a way to send engaging and visually appealing product invitations. All you need to do is create a collection of cards. Each card consists of an image, description, and a link to your product. Stop switching between software to copy and paste links. Instead, save time, and use product cards for recommendations.
3. Hire a chatbot
Chatbots are AI assistants you can integrate with your live chat app so they can chat with your website visitors. These artificial live chat agents are useful in three main scenarios:
- When you have no money, or desire, to hire support agents.
- When you have no time to chat.
- When you receive a lot of the same questions over chats.
If any of the above scenarios are only too familiar, you should think about implementing a chatbot. Although it might sound complicated, setting up a chatbot is easy. All you have to do is create an account on a chatbot platform of your choice, and then integrate it with your live chat app. Import one of the chatbot scenario templates, and work on it to fit all your customer cases.
If you need more convincing, think about the fact that you’ll have to deal with a higher number of chats during the holiday season. In many cases, you’ll have to respond to the same questions over and over again.
A chatbot can speak with hundreds of customers at the same time and loves tasks that are repeated. By having a chatbot, human agents will have more time to focus on more demanding problems. Just make sure you create chatbot scenarios and test them before the holiday season is on fire.
4. Help your agents to meet their goals
During the holiday season, an average retail business has about 10% more chats than during the rest of the year. With what we know about the previous year, we can expect even more significant growth. As I said initially, 41% of consumers said they plan to spend more online than last year. More people buying online leads to more chats. More chats lead to more work for your agents.
If your agent handles a hundred chats daily, they will have to deal with at least ten additional conversations per day. Yet, your agents still have to meet your KPIs. It puts them under pressure.
For that reason, you need to make sure that you’re making good use of all of the LiveChat features that make their job easier and more effective. Message sneak-peeks and handling multiple chats will help your agents out a lot. The former allows agents to see the message before a visitor sends it, and the latter allows every agent to chat with multiple customers at once.
Speaking of more advanced features, here are a few that will come in handy.
Divide your team into groups of agents handling different cases, e.g., sales, billing, or support. Create a custom pre-chat survey and ask your customers what their issue is. By doing so, they’ll be transferred to the right agent right away.
If you often reply to the same customer questions, consider saving those replies as canned responses. You can recall them with a couple of keystrokes and save time. There is no limit on how many canned responses you can save, so prepare as many as you need.
Messy chats are a nightmare for team supervisors and managers. If you don’t want to drown in your chat archive, you better start tagging your chats so you can easily find them later. You can call it “billing,” “shipping,” “support,” “spam.” It’s up to you. The goal is to be able to filter your chats easily.
Speaking of spam, sometimes you’ll get chats from internet trolls who live to make your life more difficult. Instead of losing your cool by fighting with them, ban their IP, and enjoy the serenity.
5. Turn employee engagement into customer happiness
All support agents have a hard time during the holiday season. They work under pressure, deal with dozens of chats, meet KPIs, and they still have to keep their communication professional. I think that the key to high customer satisfaction is a happy, motivated team. To do that, you need to engage them and reward their efforts.
The best way to do that is to introduce gamification. Having all customer service statistics on hand, you can create a simple game for agents to keep their reports tight and their holiday spirits high. Agents can compete in different categories like agent of the day, most cases solved, highest chat ratings, etc. For example, every week the agent with the highest number of good ratings would win a restaurant voucher.
Playing in the workplace? Yes, especially if you want your agents to love their work. Add some fun to their job by asking them to take holiday-themed pictures and upload them to the live chat app. Ask them to be creative and create cheerful greeting messages. Create holiday canned responses. Your customers will love it, too.
Brace yourself for the upcoming online rush
Once again, this holiday season is going to be unlike any other we’ve seen so far. Different from what we experienced last year but also far from what we were used to before the pandemic. Based on last year’s consumer behaviors, we know that even with the economic uncertainty and higher unemployment caused by the pandemic, people still spent their money on holiday shopping, and they spent it in amounts never seen before. They’ll probably spend even more this year. If you don’t want to miss out on their money, you’ll have to bring your “A” game to stay on top of the increased customer service demand.