As businesses reopen their doors for the first time in a long time, most consumers who adopted new shopping behaviors during the pandemic — like subscribing to mailing lists or engaging in hybrid fulfillment experiences like curbside pickup and click-to-collect — will expect the same heightened level of customer service they became accustomed to while stuck at home.

In fact, a recent study found that 74% percent of consumers expect a hybrid experience in the post-pandemic retail landscape. 

So, what does that mean for marketers who have digital customer experience (CX) strategies as their number one priority in Q4 2021 and beyond? For starters, adopting a personalized omnichannel approach goes a long way — whether you’re looking to grow online engagement or in-store traffic.

Here are three digital CX lessons our customers — retail’s top performers and personalizers — learned during the pandemic that every marketer needs to take with them into the holiday season. 

Take digital CX inspiration from other industries

Even as the pandemic draws to an end, day-to-day operations for most businesses are still changing drastically from one day to the next. To maintain customer experiences with the flexibility and agility required to keep up with this pace, nearly every industry is adopting contactless order fulfillment solutions to make online transactions as quick and convenient as possible.

According to McKinsey, during the early months of the pandemic the U.S. experienced a 20% increase in preference for contactless operations. And that demand hasn’t dropped since.

In fact, according to our own 2021 Retail Personalization Index Consumer Survey research found that nearly one-in-three (31%) consumers bought something online via curbside pickup, and more than half (53%) of consumers say they plan to continue shopping that way often in the future and post-COVID. Plus, another 43% admit that they’d consider shopping that way again for a specific item.

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And while retailers have been rushing to implement click-to-collect, curbside pickup, and a ton of other improved options for online ordering and delivery, other industries like media and publishing are transforming traditional communications using engagement-focused elements like virtual events, embedded video emails, and mobile app/SMS messaging services to deliver personalized reader experiences and highly curated content — no matter when, where, or how someone chooses to interact.

As consumers become more and more comfortable with the world of digital-first CX, all businesses should realize that today’s tech-savvy audiences are seeking one thing: simplicity. Online shoppers want to access your products and services with a single click — and they want every detail on the screen to make an informed purchase decision from the same place they buy. So, don’t shy away from ‘borrowing’ another tactic that works for somebody else — even if you have to think (or go) outside the box to find it.

Drive engagement through better data collection

As we mentioned earlier, customer buying preferences and behaviors are evolving. So, as you continue to make changes and find new ways to engage your audience, it’s important to understand exactly which parts of your digital CX people find satisfying, useful, and valuable — as well as which processes are causing unnecessary friction and buyer frustration that lead to lost sales.

Using first and zero-party data (or any other insights that your users share freely with your brand) to improve the digital CX is an important first step towards building interactions based on personalization.

For example, when users opt-in to services like the click-and-collect fulfillment option outlined in the previous section, start that new relationship off right with a detailed onboarding series or embedded email survey asking users for their preferences to deliver relevant, engaging email promotions right away.

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For retailers looking to take full advantage of this hybrid shopping trend, segment anyone making a curbside pickup purchase into their own list and pay attention to how they interact with your brand — track everything to understand which offers earn you the most clicks, conversions, and revenue — and then do more of that across the rest of your campaigns.

Prioritize automation

Today’s consumers are much more likely to subscribe to your email lists, engage with your newsletters, download your mobile apps, or otherwise adopt digital means of staying in contact with your brand than their pre-pandemic counterparts. And that’s an exciting amount of untapped business potential.

Unfortunately for some, that influx of multichannel subscribers comes with the task of keeping a  larger, more varied audience than ever in the loop of everything going on. And for understaffed or overworked marketing teams with a lot going on right now, personalizing messages to every medium can be a ton of extra work. Which is precisely why automation comes into play.

For marketers trying to improve their digital CX, automation makes it much easier to add a unique, relevant feel to every user’s brand engagement across every channel — and to replicate that success across other similar conversations, too.

digital CX

For example, fashion industry leader JustFab used to send every customer the same set of emails every day. However, JustFab recently added automation to its email marketing flows and has found incredible success ever since. By messaging each individual customer based on their subscription tenure and engagement level, the brand has significantly decreased customer attrition and churn.