Retailers: Holiday sales will hinge on multichannel support

By Bridget Trask,

Is it ever too early to start planning for the holiday rush? Not in the retail sector, where revenue expectations rely on that all-important spike in fourth quarter sales. Every day counts, especially this year, when retailers will feel the full impact of a major change in the marketplace -- growth in customer demand for a shopping experience via multiple interaction channels.

With rising competition, a proliferation of choices and increased adoption of social media channels by 18 -- 40 year olds, today’s customers are more selective than ever about where and how they spend their money. In increasing numbers, customers are favoring retailers that offer a shopping and service experience with multiple avenues of interaction -- such as web, email, chat, phone, and social media -- and the ability to switch between or use multiple channels simultaneously. In fact, reports 34% of customers now use at least three channels while shopping.

To serve, win, keep and sell more to customers in this environment, retailers need to meet market demand for the multichannel experience while maintaining a consistent and seamless buying experience whether online, by phone, or in-person. Retail multichannel support solutions can readily handle every customer need -- from retail order entry, to product inquiries and customer support. These solutions use a single operational platform to deliver a superior buying and service experience for customers, and higher revenue for the retailer. Low-cost and high-performance, these solutions are “the answer” for any retailer looking to drive sales from existing and new customers despite the double-whammy of an uncertain economic climate and tough competition.

Consider the case of a leading performance clothing and equipment marketer that raked in an additional $6 million in sales by using retail multichannel support solutions to flex the agent population six-fold for the holiday season. They were able to maintain excellent service levels, even though retail customer service inquiries were 300% higher and web chat traffic was five times greater than expected.

Taking the longer view, a women’s apparel retailer boosted agents’ sale conversion rate to 55% over a five year period -- a 300% gain -- and saved more than $2 million by routing 91% more retail customer service calls to automated service.

With the right retail multichannel support solution, a retailer can quickly create an outstanding shopping and service experience for the customer across all channels. Retailers know their solution is on the mark when it delivers:

  • An ongoing, multichannel conversation that drives a superior customer experience and increased satisfaction.
  • Improved selling in every channel, driving up-sell and cross-sell initiatives with more knowledgeable agents and intelligent automated interactions.
  • Reduced operational costs via use of innovative and intelligent advances in automation.
  • Empowered customers who realize even greater satisfaction through streamlined access to store and product data.
  • An environment of continuous improvement, using analytics to boost agent performance, make any needed systems modifications, and as a result improve the shopping and service experience, day-in, day-out.

Prepared retailers will have their best chance to ring in the New Year with a bounty of holiday cheer -- and greater sales.

Bridget Trask is VP retail program management at Convergys Corp. (, a global leader in the delivery of customer management solutions through agent-assisted services, automated self-service, and intelligent customer-interaction technologies. She can be reached at

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