Article

Retail in Europe: Reigniting growth after the ‘great reset’

Perhaps unsurprisingly consumers have developed new ways of behaving as they become accustomed to living during a pandemic. Here's how to reignite growth for 2021.

By Michael Schweidler, EMEA Content Marketing Manager

Published March 3, 2021
Last updated March 25, 2021

According to the European Journal of Social Psychology it takes between 18 and 260 days to form a new habit and 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic. Now that Europe and the rest of the world have been dealing with Covid-19 for almost nearly a year, it is unsurprising that consumers have developed new ways of behaving as they become accustomed to living during a pandemic.

Working from home, buying groceries online, using restaurant delivery platforms and zooming your friends and family have all become the norm over the last year. Even consumers who previously avoided online shopping have been forced to buy one or two items online during the seemingly never-ending periods of lockdown, while some shoppers have tightened their spending, concerned about the future of their finances.

Despite a growing trend for digital retail prior to the pandemic, this sudden rush to shop online over the last 12 months has hit some parts of the sector hard. Sure, the Amazon, Asos and Zalandos – whose pureplay business models were primed for this shopping behaviour – have flourished, but many retailers with store estates that were shuttered for much of the last year. They have suffered to provide a profitable like-for-like service online, and instead we are seeing the loss of big-name retail brands in Europe and the UK.

As we start to see some signs of hope in terms of coronavirus vaccines and the end of winter, the retail sector will be getting ready to fling open their doors once again. But don’t expect consumers to rush back to (what’s left of) the high street. Not everyone’s behaviours will return to “normal” at exactly the same time – some may still feel anxious about returning to crowded malls, while others have just found it easier to shop online and in their local vicinity. Shoppers have formed new shopping habits and have changed forever, and online will continue to be the retail battleground as we press the reset button in the coming weeks and months.

Intelligent communication is key for the battle for online spend

The glue that keeps retail alive has always been excellent customer experience (CX) – it’s the life blood of the industry. According to Zendesk’s CX Trends 2021 report, 69% of retailers said they care more about CX this year than last. They see investing in CX as an opportunity to grow. Across all industry sectors 57% of customers in Europe will spend more to buy from a company that offers good CX. In France, Italy, Spain and the Nordics this figure reaches 70% and more.

Slick websites, easy-to-understand delivery and returns policies, and clear communication are vita. As more retailers are investing in eCommerce and developing a range of omnichannel solutions to help you win customer spend.

As well as changing shopping habits, the way customers want to speak with brands and retailers has also changed – who wants to call up and wait to speak to an advisor when they can easily fire off a quick message from their smartphone like they’re checking in on a friend?According to our research, globally retailers with the best CX track records are 1.4 times more likely to be messaging their customers. Retailers saw a 24% increase in support requests come in over WhatsApp in the last year, and 37% who added a new channel turned to social messaging – you need to meet your customers where they are, and that is on the latest social platforms.

For those problems which are a bit more tricky to solve via a text message, innovative retailers have considered how video calling has become prevalent over the last year. In France, sportswear brand Decathlon introduced a remote video resolution solution, ViiBE – a Zendesk partner solution available from the Zendesk Marketplace. ViiBe brings video support and ticket tracking together and is aimed at the after-sales service, the help desk and the industrial technical support department. It offers the advantage of making better remote diagnoses and optimising resolutions on the first contact, resulting in happier customers.It’s not a coincidence that retailers with the happiest customers are 2.3 times as likely to have invested in omnichannel communication.

... and don't forget your Employee Experience (EX)

Additionally, improving internal communication and providing the right tools within your company also helps to create a leaner, more profitable business: UK food delivery platform Deliveroo introduced Zendesk Support across its customer, rider and restaurant support teams. While the tool helped the operations team become more efficient with their email load, it also provided essential insights to help Deliveroo allocate workloads more efficiently and forecast how many staff would be needed on any given day.

Unsurprisingly, our research found retailers with the fastest resolution times and the highest customer satisfaction are 1.5 times more likely to use developer tools and 65% are looking to improve agility in their business.

Despite the doom and gloom news coming from the high street, agile and adaptable retailers are the ones who will survive the next year. As the first countries carefully start exiting lockdowns around Europe and customers begin to spend again both in-store and online, you need to make sure you are following their ever-changing habits continuously so as to not miss out on potential custom in what will still be a very difficult time for retailers.