Alan Linter, Capita’s Innovation Director, explains why retailers that give consumers the gift of seamless experiences will be the ones to sparkle this unpredictable Christmas.

This time last year the retail industry looked very different.

Most retail brands had embraced, or at least accepted, a degree of digitisation and were on a path to an end-to-end, multi-platform customer journey and experience.

They had anticipated Christmas and the end-of-year peak months in advance, planning stock, pricing, promotions and operations – including seasonal staff – according to predictable trading patterns. But nobody could have planned for the pandemic, which has turned predictions and forecasts for 2020 on their head.

Even now, several months after non-essential stores have reopened, customers who have experienced the choice and convenience of shopping online are unlikely to return to the high street as if nothing has changed. This means that retailers are facing the fast-approaching end-of-year peak with a mixture of hope and dread.

Christmas could mean recovery and redemption, or it could bring further disaster and disruption. When customers don’t know if their town will be in lockdown or even whether they can visit family and friends, it’s impossible for retailers to know what to expect or how to plan.

Even retailers with a thriving digital business are faced with customers who are more demanding, volatile and vocal than ever before.

Best of both

Customers want the best of both worlds: all the personal service and immersive experiences of the real world, with the speed and clockwork support of digital and telephone. Especially at Christmas, when emotions run high and patience is short.

The answer for retailers that haven’t prepared for the peak is to embrace the uncertainty and build it into their business model and operations, turning instability into instant agility in any situation.

This way, they can react quickly to surges in demand, identify and address emerging threats and opportunities, optimise their use of resources at all times and give customers the seamless experience they expect across every channel.

With customer experience so crucial as we move into peak trading this year, retailers must make sure that they’re at the top of their game whatever is to come. This means making all aspects of the online journey as seamless as possible, from nailing the homepage navigation to guaranteeing that customers can have any question answered at any time of day.

When the only certainty is uncertainty, retailers need to be ready for anything – poised for opportunity, positioned for growth and resilient for the future.

Thinking about your organisation?