Your floor plans and planograms are in place, and the supply chain is fine-tuned to meet the increased seasonal demand.
With consumers ready to turn their attention to holiday shopping, the National Retail Federation predicts spending will jump 3.6% in November and December to a record $655.8 billion.
Before the music begins, have you done all you can to deliver an exceptional customer experience this holiday season?
It’s not too late to tweak your holiday execution plan and boost sales. Just-released findings from our annual shopper survey, conducted with Forrester Research can ensure your seasonal plans will help increase brand loyalty during the all-important holiday shopping crush.
Don’t skimp on store associates and training.
The NRF expects employers will bulk up with 640,000 to 690,000 workers this holiday season. But temporary hires are often hastily trained, and full-time associates can get distracted trying to fill the knowledge gap. According to our survey, shoppers already have decidedly low opinions of store associates, with 51% saying associates aren’t knowledgeable about retailers’ products, and only 31% willing to depend on store staff to find the right product to purchase.
Ensure your seasonal hires are prepared to contribute to a positive customer experience. Beef up training for all hires, whether they’re answering phones, providing product details, or ringing up purchases. Staff the store floor with enough experienced workers to reinforce your service fundamentals for new hires.
Negative experiences transcend channels, so a miss in-store is also a miss online. Bottom line? Don’t let customers leave your store dissatisfied with your service levels.
Audit each key customer touch point.
Omni-channel is popular with shoppers who depend on its multiple avenues of service to meet their needs. Our survey found 67% have utilized an omni-channel fulfillment option, such as buying merchandise in store or online and having it shipped to their home, or choosing to ship online purchases to a store.
But shoppers also find plenty of glitches. Only 31% have consistently positive experiences when making purchases via multiple channels. Their top complaints? Lengthy shipping times, improperly listed inventory, and operational issues such as long pickup lines and high service fees.
Before the holiday season launches, define specific, measurable success goals for each touchpoint along the omni-channel shopper journey. For example, your organization might identify higher online conversion rates as an outcome of its targeted offers, or higher customer-satisfaction ratings through improved experiences.
Role-play your customer personas by virtually stepping into the characters in scenarios that simulate the holiday shopping environment. Examine how personas fare at each touchpoint amid the season’s increased traffic and fulfillment demand, and all those post-holiday returns and exchanges.
Finally, scrutinize your execution against last-minute sales and ensure your delivery partners are prepared as well. Identify opportunities to enhance customer experiences. For example, issuing confirmations that items have shipped can help minimize shopper anxiety over down-to-the-wire orders.
Tailor e-mail content and frequency.
Few retail practices rankle shoppers as much as the over-abundance of e-mails. Too-frequent e-mails tops their list of retailers’ mistakes. A barrage of generalized, sometimes daily promotions alienates many shoppers rather than engages them. Nearly three quarters (72%) of shoppers in our survey prefer weekly e-mails tailored with details on upcoming promotions and links to the website for more information.
This holiday season give shoppers the gift of targeted promotions. Don’t be afraid to stand out among your competitors by winnowing the number of communications and offers, and focusing instead on fewer, more relevant ones. Even if your organization is just beginning to collect the data that’s essential for personalization — such as purchase history, preferences, and online interactions — you can generate goodwill by keeping your e-mails personalized and to a minimum. Keep in mind that with this strategy, e-mail subject lines take on greater importance and will need to be carefully crafted to motivate consumers to read on and take an action.
Reduce your requests for information.
Number two on shoppers’ list of retailers’ mistakes is requesting personal information at times when shoppers don’t want to share it. If your organization’s checkout script includes asking customers “Can I have your e-mail/phone number?” and “What’s your zip code?”, consider deleting those lines during the holiday season when schedules are hectic and nerves are frayed — especially if your organization has already asked for the information. Consumers dislike repetitive questions. They expect retailers to store and use the information they provide to them. They will, however, proactively share personal details if your team communicates a specific benefit for the exchange, such as account lookup for personalized services, rewards or loyalty points.
Create A/B testing to optimize communications and offers.
The holiday season brings a whole different set of shopper expectations. Take the guesswork out of website and marketing optimization by testing engagement messaging and approaches to increase conversion, satisfaction and outcomes. Create nimble testing plans that allow speedy analysis and action based on results throughout campaign lifecycles. Don’t wait until the holiday season is over to evaluate the results. Be ready to optimize your strategies and tactics on the fly.
Make sure your in-store technology works properly.
Sounds simple, right? Yet a surprising 25% of shoppers reported in-store technology for value-added services wasn’t working properly. Out-of-order equipment and systems become purchase inhibitors and add a negative experience. Ensure all engagement technologies such as digital signage, self-checkout, and interactive kiosks are operating consistently.
When it comes to value-added services and omni-channel execution, shoppers say retailers are missing the mark, according to a new commissioned study of 4,500 consumers conducted by Forrester on our behalf. For more information on the survey, and on the disconnect between shoppers and services, read the exclusive report, Aligning Value With Key Capabilities To Drive Retail Success, or visit our retail practice.