3 Reasons Ecommerce Brands May Be Underprepared for the 2021 Holiday Season


Why the 2021 season won’t be a “return to normal” as challenges around recruitment, shipping, and customer demand still linger a year after lockdown.

‘Tis the season for CX leaders to start planning for the 2021 holiday shopping season! 

That’s right. Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be months away, but NOW is the time for online brands to prepare their customer experience strategy for “the most wonderful time of the year.” 

Experts project that this year’s holiday shopping season is going to be, well, extra wonderful. 

According to eMarketer, U.S. holiday retail sales in 2021 will rise 2.7% to $1.093 trillion, while the season’s ecommerce sales will rise 11.3% to $206.88 billion. Furthermore, ecommerce will account for a record high of 18.9% of total holiday season retail sales.

If these stats don’t catch your attention and underscore the fervor of post-lockdown consumer spending, we don’t what will! 

With trillions of dollars at play, in addition to a drastic uptick in ecommerce trends, brands hoping to capitalize on this post-pandemic holiday spending surge need to begin planning now. It’s more important than ever for brands to stay ahead of the curve, especially when it comes to customer service. 

Brands that haven’t yet figured out how to engage their always-online NOW Customers in the moment with premium customer experience had better brainstorm CX solutions fast, or they risk missing out on consumers’ spirited spending.

While there are many unknowns in the post-pandemic economy, it’s important to be aware and prepare for the challenges that we do know are on the horizon.

Are you ready to reap the financial rewards of the 2021 holiday season? Read on to learn about the top 3 challenges that ecommerce companies need to consider today in order to capture a larger piece of the spending pie. 

Challenge #1: Recruiting Top Talent 

It’s no secret that companies are struggling to recruit top talent. A recent Forbes article highlighted that low wages, fear of layoffs, and a desire for continued remote employment are among the top factors for employees feeling hesitant to reenter the workforce. As a result, large and enterprise brands are already struggling to staff up for the holidays. 

Think Differently About Staffing

Forgo the hassle of holiday hiring and explore alternative staffing options! Here are 3 gig-based customer service options that are currently available: 

  • BPO Gig Customer Service Model 

The BPO customer service model primarily relies on outsourced customer service agents to provide around-the-clock customer service coverage. The model enables companies to provide broader coverage and shorter response times. 

However, it’s important to note that BPOs rely on scheduling labor just like internal contact centers, which prohibits scalability and requires long-term contracts that make it challenging for companies to quickly and cost-effectively scale up or down based on fluctuations in customer demand. 

  • Traditional Crowd-Sourced Superfan Model

Take fandom to new heights by using superfans as an extension of your customer service team. Superfans can leverage their social media accounts to amplify and advocate for their favorite products and services.

The downfall of this particular model? While fans can convey brand appreciation and the voice of product experience, there are some inherent limitations. Reliance on tribal power user knowledge is limited by personal preferences and opinions that can become static, leaving superfans unprepared to adapt when brands rapidly change their products or brand messaging.

  • Human Cloud Model

This model is a dispersed, fully remote and flexible workforce that operates entirely through a digital platform. The digital platform is the secret sauce to the Human Cloud Model, as it allows gig workers to take on digital customer service tickets with machine learning-enabled guidance that’s provided in the moment. The AI-powered platform does the heavy lifting with decision logic, guidance, and information specific to your brand and products, resulting in smarter, faster, and more consistent support from human agents. 

And because the Human Cloud Network scales automatically up or down to meet service demands in real-time, forecasting staffing needs is a thing of the past. You can engage customers rapidly to create more revenue opportunities without any risk of shutdowns or downtime. Best of all, a pay-per-ticket resolution makes this model hyper scalable.

Is a Human Cloud Network solution right for your business? Contact us today to find out!

Challenge #2: Shipping Delays and Supply Chain Uncertainties

Not all is merry and bright when it comes to post-lockdown shipping and supply chain logistics. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, a fresh wave of COVID-19 clusters in Asia is creating new bottlenecks in the global supply chain. Low vaccination rates across Asia could keep social distancing rules and travel bans in place, which would disrupt manufacturing, sustain high shipping costs to the U.S., and cause shipping delays…. Which in turn, could lead to unhappy customers and an avalanche of inquiries about shipping statuses and raised prices. 

Don’t get buried beneath a snowballing backlog! Seasonal surges always bring an increase in customer service tickets, but add global supply chain jams and shipping delays to the mix, and things start to pile up rapidly. If left unchecked, your small, manageable backlog could quickly spiral out of control. 

Case in point: Here at Simplr, we’ve had companies come to us with email backlogs that had grown SEVEN TIMES their original size within two weeks. In some cases, the amount of emails in a backlog outnumbers a company’s entire customer base. 

While backlogs may seem like an inevitable part of ecommerce, losing control of them doesn’t have to be. The financial risks of an out-of-control backlog are too big to ignore: customer neglect, employee burnout, damaged brand reputation, and, of course, missed revenue that’s idly sitting in a queue. 

With the right plan and solutions to support a NOW CX approach, backlogs won’t bury your business this holiday season. 

If you’re interested in preventing backlogs altogether (or need help digging out of one you’re currently in!), get in touch with Simplr.

Challenge #3: Satisfying Sky-High Customer Demands

There’s no doubt that customers have raised the stakes, and are increasingly more demanding of brands when it comes to service. To put it simply, the NOW Customer wants assistance, well…Now. 

No matter the season, customers expect rapid-fire responses to their questions and concerns on the channel of their choice. And when the holiday season rolls around, this sense of urgency is only magnified. 

Data shows that CX leaders recognize that customers’ demands are higher, but aren’t prepared to satisfy these demands. According to a Forrester Market Opportunity report

  • 81% of brands say customers expect and demand faster resolutions than just 2 years ago. 
  • 77% of brands say that customers are contacting them across more diverse channels than 2 years ago 

Nevertheless, only 30% of brands say their customer service strategies are very effective at responding to customers in a timely fashion. 

Yikes – something clearly isn’t adding up! 

CX leaders must understand the cold hard truth: Not meeting customer needs in the moment means leaving money on table. 

How much money are we talking about? Collectively, the brands that took longer than 24 hours to respond to customer service emails were potentially missing out on up to $2 million per day in potential revenue over the Black Friday – Cyber Monday period.

When it comes to the 2021 holiday season’s unprecedented spending surge, coupled with ever-increasing customer demands, CX leaders can’t afford to succumb to customer neglect and ignore their subpar CX solutions any longer. 

As the holidays inch closer, brands need to follow in the footsteps of one of our clients, a prominent footwear brand. .

Known for its high-quality products and stellar customer service, this brand decided to up its commitment to customer engagement on digital channels in 2020 by partnering with Simplr’s human-first, machine-enabled CX solution. 

During Cyber 5 (November 24-November 29), the busiest time of year, our footwear client was able to respond to 2,590 customer chats and 7,491 emails with Simplr’s help. Despite the momentous surge in digital customer service, our client  achieved the following: 

  • Email first response time (FRT) remained under 3 hours
  • 90% of chats were responded to in under 30 seconds
  • An impressive 4.7 (out of 5) CSAT was earned
  • Conversion rates for the month of November increased 5%

Clearly, this client  understood the importance of catering to NOW Customers during the holidays – the most critical time of the year for retailers to build customer engagement and trust – with fast resolutions across more digital channels. 

The result? Sky-high customer satisfaction scores and more revenue through increased conversion rates. Make this holiday season your best one yet with Simplr’s tailored holiday staffing solution.  

Give The Gift of Great CX This Holiday Season

While there are sure to be many twists and turns this 2021 holiday season, brands can gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace by being aware and preparing for the three challenges we know about NOW. 

Don’t give your customers a lump of customer neglect in their stockings this holiday season! It can only contribute to millions in lost revenue. In fact, we found that companies lost out on $20 million in potential revenue last year due to customer neglect via chat. 

‘Tis the season of giving! Talk to Simplr today to see how we can help you give your customers what they actually want this holiday season: the gift of great CX.