D2C merchants know that the Black Friday to Cyber Monday (BFCM) shopping window is the most crucial time of year for maximizing sales. But how do you successfully leverage your BFCM traffic increase to develop ongoing customer relationships that lead to recurring revenue?

This tech masterclass, Loyalty & Retention Post BFCM, shared tips and strategies for how D2C brands can keep BFCM shoppers engaged, long after the end of the holiday season. 

The roundtable featured:

  • Allie Maupin, Customer Success Manager, Trustpilot
  • Autumn Carter, Manager, Technology Partnerships NA, Aircall
  • Alex Gassman, Account Executive, Loop
  • Alison Murtagh, Senior Marketing Campaign Executive, LoyaltyLion
  • Chris Lavoi, Senior Tech Partner Manager, Gorgias (Host)

Here are a few key strategies we learned from the session.

Optimizing the customer experience during BFCM 

Chris Lavoi shares that during BFCM, Gorgias, a top help desk solution, saw 3x the usual order volume—which led to a 40% increase in customer support tickets.

It’s important for merchants to prioritize customer experience throughout the e-commerce experience, but it’s especially crucial to have all your ducks in a row before the next BFCM rolls around, so that you’re well-equipped to handle the crunch. 

If you don’t set up your customer support team for success, your buyers will be frustrated, and merchants are paying the price. 

The most common problems include:

  • Slow response times: Forrester Research found that 77% of customers said that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good customer service. Slow response times lead to a high service cost—both in terms of customer support labor, and in terms of lost customers or customer goodwill. 
  • Lack of personalization: If your customer support team isn’t able to provide personalized options for customers and route them to the appropriate channel or FAQ to solve their problem, you’re likely to lose sales opportunities.
  • Siloed data: If your customer support solution isn’t well-integrated with the rest of your ecommerce tech stack, you’ll introduce redundancies that will reduce efficiencies and lower your CSAT.

Customer engagement is a critical layer of the e-commerce growth stack, so it’s crucial to make the most of technology that helps you respond to your customers’ concerns with immediate and personalized responses so that you can scale to meet the demands of BFCM. PwC found that 73% of customers say that CX is an important factor in their purchasing decision. Ninety percent rate an “immediate” response (within 10 minutes) as important or very important (HubSpot Research), and 80% of consumers are more likely to buy when given a personalized CX (Epsilon).

Key tips for improving CX

So how can you improve your CX and deliver on your customers’ expectations—even during the holiday crunch time?

  • Automate common workflows: Start by reviewing your customer support logs to spot the most common issues, and putting automation workflows in place. Thirty-three percent of support questions are about order status, which can be easily automated with chatbots. You can also incorporate NLP to help customers easily find answers to their questions in your FAQ. By reserving your live support agents for customers with more specialized questions, you can focus their time more heavily on pre-sale opportunities that will help you generate additional revenue that would otherwise be lost. 
  • Put a premium on speed: Focus on the response time metric of how long it takes to address a customer’s inquiry after their first contact (NOT resolution time for a ticket), working to meet the Amazon gold standard of less than 10 minutes. This helps you provide a superior customer experience to ensure that customers will buy from you again. By setting up technology that includes options for both chatbots and live chat, depending on your customers’ needs, you can empower them to find the answers to their questions as quickly as possible. 
  • Treat social media engagement like “normal” support tickets: Like it or not, many customers reach out with support requests on brand’s social channels—so it’s important to have the infrastructure in place to support those requests quickly, too. Make sure the entire support experience is consistent across all channels and includes the conversation history from the very beginning. You should also be able to track your ticket volume from social media, and monitor social leads, negative comments, social questions, and other real-time data feeds.
  • Get your full stack working together: If your data is siloed, it may slow down your customer support and deprive your team of important context for helping their customers. For example, how long would it take you to gather all of the following information about your customers?
    • loyalty data
    • returns
    • exchanges
    • subscriptions
    Make sure that your customer support technology is integrated with the rest of your e-commerce tech stack to help you dramatically increase your use cases and service. With the right technology in place, you’ll be able to get a full 360-view of your customer to deliver fast, personalized answers.

But delivering efficient, personalized customer support during the holiday rush is just one part of the customer experience. What happens if a customer isn’t happy with an item they receive? 

Incentivize exchanges over returns to build long-term customer relationships

In the roundtable, Alex Gassman, an Account Executive at Loop Returns, the leading returns platform for Shopify and Shopify Plus apps, provided advice on how to improve revenue and customer retention during the “return rush” between December and January, when customers return up to 30% of their BFCM and other holiday purchases.

By using Loop’s proprietary technology, you can set up automated workflows that optimize for exchanges over returns, retaining more revenue and extending a customer relationship that would otherwise terminate with a return. The solution syncs with Shopify in a seamless integration that saves time for your team and increases customer satisfaction. 

Keep in mind that when customers decide to make a return, that doesn’t have to be a refund. You can offer store credit or exchanges as well, and can incentivize these types of returns for bonus credit, loyalty points, or free return shipping, among other options. Unlike refunds, exchanges aren’t negative or a loss—the customer receives another item, and you retain the value of the purchase as well as the customer relationship. 

It’s also important to note that return policies don’t have to be post-purchase: people look at brands’ return policies before ordering. Make customers feel supported in case they need to exchange, and they’ll be more likely to purchase from you in the first place. 

Key tips for reducing the volume of holiday refunds

  • Optimize exchanges to maximize revenue retention and LTV: Setting up a workflow screen that prioritizes and incentivizes exchanges can help you retain more value from the interaction—and even provide the opportunity for upsells to higher-value products.
  • Make gift exchanges easy: Fifty-two percent of returns on Shopify happen because customers have the wrong size. This number goes up significantly during the holiday season. Put the gift received in control and allow them to easily exchange a new style/size or product without needing to repurchase. Loop can even display real-time inventory levels, so customers know exactly what their options are.
  • Offer free shipping on exchanges: Even if customers need to pay for return shipping when getting a refund, make sure that they can exchange for free. This provides a natural impetus for customers to keep shopping with you, and shows appreciation for your customers. This provides a healthy friction if there’s a charge on shipping back a return — customers are slightly inconvenienced, and will stop to think, “Do I want my money back or should I exchange for something else since that shipping is free?”

Build a retention and loyalty-driven strategy to suit your brand

These are just a handful of the many tactics you’ll learn from the speakers in this valuable roundtable. 

In the session, our experts also shared strategies for using loyalty points and customer reviews to increase repeat purchases, provided data from a customer survey to set benchmarks for expectations around customer service, and shared other valuable insights about how to change seasonal shoppers into loyal customers who’ll drive high lifetime value. 

If you’re ready to drive more value from your customer relationships this holiday season, you won’t want to miss this invaluable session