Another Black Friday has come and gone, but the mad rush has only just begun for retail customer service teams! Consumers are chatting with brands more than ever, across more channels than ever — many of them on third-party properties such as messaging apps owned by Apple, Google, and Meta. Consumers see messaging as a faster alternative to legacy channels and will chat with brands for both pre- and post-purchase support.

And since ’tis the season, let’s look at a few different ways retailers can use messaging to support customers through the holidays and beyond.

1. Bridging The Digital And In-Store Experience

Retailers need to be prepared to support hybrid experiences that bridge online and in-store shopping. Messaging can offer a low-friction way to launch communications for click-and-collect or curbside pickup journeys, reducing calls into the store and improving pickup logistics. Some platforms offer features that allow customers to arrange their pickup in advance and share their location so that in-store staff can prepare for their arrival and provide timely guidance on navigation to pickup locations.

Additionally, if the retailer has deployed Google Business Messages, customers can send a message right from Google or Google Maps, offering an attractive alternative to waiting on hold for a store associate as “Jingle Bell Rock” loops endlessly. But remember: If you deploy messaging on a location-based entry point like Google Maps, prepare your agents (or bots) to field location-based questions!

2. Keeping The Conversation Going

One of the primary benefits of asynchronous messaging is that it maintains a single conversational thread, allowing customers to step away from the conversation and come back to it when they’re ready (fresh hot chocolate waits for no one). This gives retailers a unique opportunity to stay engaged with customers at all stages of their purchase journey, from picking the perfect gift to returning the ones that didn’t quite land.

But be sure not to lean too hard into the casual flexibility of asynchronous messaging — that flexibility is for your customers, not for your agents. Customer service teams should aim to respond about as synchronously as the customer does or else risk those same customers doubling up on a different channel or taking their gift-buying elsewhere.

Asynchronous messaging does offer a unique way to engage with customers and is maybe the first truly customer-led channel in the contact center — really exciting, if you ask me! That said, there are some operational nuances that make it quite a lot different than running traditional synchronous or “live” chat. Any Forrester clients looking to learn more about how they can get started with async, please get in touch!

Merry Messaging!