Reimagining retail agility: Transforming customer experiences with messaging

Zendesk shares how it is helping businesses improve and thrive in the past year.

Customer experience has gravitated from over-the-phone calls to messaging app chats for the past few years. This shift was sped up by the pandemic where customers have moved to go mobile in attending to all their needs–from shopping, reading the latest news, and even reaching out to customer service agents.

On top of this change was Zendesk, a customer service software company with support and sales products designed to improve customer relationships. 

Zendesk’s ‘Customer in Residence’ Malcolm Koh said that over the past year, messaging’s popularity has soared faster than any other channel.

He said that the reason for this surge in popularity is simple: customers prefer messaging because it is convenient, fast, and more personalised.

“In fact, 64% of consumers in Singapore have tried a new way to get in touch with customer service in 2020, with messaging and bots leading the way,” Koh said.

“Social channels have also accelerated in usage with 31% of customers preferring to communicate with a business over social messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger,” he added.

This feature helps businesses be accessible totheir customers at any time of the day. As conversations can be asynchronous, messages do not have a distinct start and stop.

The customer can send their query, without having to worry about the session expiring - it can easily be picked back up anytime. This is especially helpful for both the agents and customers as there is a log of past conversations readily available to them, enabling efficiency and shorter resolution time.

Koh said that customer relationships have become a top priority for retailers in an increasingly competitive environment, especially with the impact caused by the pandemic.

“Over the past 18 months, the entire industry has had to transform their business model very quickly overnight. Retailers have had to shut down their brick-and-mortar stores, adjust to various social distancing measures, and face the risk of supply chain interruptions,” he said.

At the same time, customer expectations and buying behaviours have risen and evolved. Providing customized ways to facilitate the service is helping businesses adapt to this changing customer profile.

“Customers increasingly expect a seamless experience with the brands they interact with, whether in-store or online. This is where messaging steps in to provide a more personalized, conversational experience that will be beneficial to keeping happy and loyal customers,” he added.

Increasing agility in retail

To continually adapt to this change, there is a need to constantly adapt to change but in a more agile manner.

Zendesk’s “Agility in Action Report” suggests that it is easier said than done, with only 16% of managers in Singapore classifying their organizations as extremely agile.

“Agility has always been a key asset in business, and the pandemic further amplified that effect. Messaging allows retailers to stay connected with their customers, to analyze trends and preferences and be able to respond quickly to changes,” Koh said.

He said that a good example of a business that became a success over the pandemic is SHEIN, a global business-to-consumer e-commerce platform that sells fast-fashion goods.

“By using Messenger API for Instagram to integrate Zendesk’s messaging solutions with its Instagram account, SHEIN earned a 73% decrease in first-response reply time and a 50% increase in the number of Instagram messages customer service agents could respond to in one hour,” he said.

“With the integration, SHEIN is able to sort and respond to requests from customers on Instagram quickly and efficiently, as well as track customer satisfaction and operational productivity metrics,” he added.

Implementing messaging in retail is now more feasible than before. Koh shares three guardrails retailers should bear in mind to be successful with messaging.

First, ensure that agents have a centralised workspace that unifies all channels. With a unified workspace, support teams can manage all customer conversations in one place, with easy-to-use case management tools and a real-time conversational interface. This ensures agents have a single view of the customer, with the necessary context and information to manage the query effectively and quickly.

As a second point, Koh said that it is important to start small but to think of scale. He said that no matter where a company is in its growth journey, it is important to ensure that one’s systems, processes, and tech stack can scale with the business.

“It’s a common misconception that businesses have to choose between fast deployment and the ability to customize, but that’s not always the case. Find a solution that lets you get started right out of the box without a whole army of developer resources required, but with an open and flexible platform that allows for further customization,” he added.

Lastly, businesses must put customers at the centre of their messaging strategy. He said that customers remain to the “North Star” for businesses in decision-making. Analyzing customer data can bring a wealth of insight into what your customers want and expect, as well as uncover future trends that allow you to go from reactive service to proactive service.

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