This article was contributed by our friends at Retail Customer Experience.
There are countless unpredictable variables at play for what this year’s holiday shopping season will offer for retailers. Retailers focusing on both the profitability of their programs and great customer experiences will be best poised to handle curve balls from a challenging economy.
Solid preparation ahead of the holiday season is the key to success. The following is a list of actionable steps retailers can take now to prepare for dynamic market conditions and improve their customers’ shopping experiences this year.
• Are there ways you can personalize digital experiences to help customers shop how they want to?
• How do you plan to manage customer expectations through your pre- and post-purchase engagements?
• Does your social media plan include segmented customer lists and dynamic, personalized content to increase engagement?
Customers all have different shopping behaviors based on need and convenience. Offering a variety of digital purchase options, including ship to home, same-day home delivery, and in-store pickup, along with payment options such as buy now, pay later, will drive return purchases and improve customer loyalty. Advanced customer experiences related to product fits and sizing can also positively impact sales and customer loyalty.
The holidays are often a stressful time for people. Transparency and over communication around return policies and online orders can only help you. Customers want to know what is happening with their order and when it will arrive. Communicating any possible order issues via email, text message, or Facebook messenger as soon as possible will maintain future customer loyalty and keep the number of customer service inquiries from ballooning. Additionally, you can add exclusive products or promotions to these transactional communications to help increase repeat orders within the holiday season.
Different customer segments may use different social media platforms. Plan your social media content and any exclusive promotions for specific, segmented customer lists. This will help to increase engagement and provide a more personalized shopping experience.
• Is your website prepared to handle the increase in traffic and orders that you are planning to have this holiday season?
• Is your website optimized for great customer experiences on mobile devices?
A positive customer experience on your website is a key component for your brand’s success. Set traffic and order goals for the holiday season and work with your development team to stress test your website during promotion periods ahead of the Q4 retail shopping season. The testing process should be able to address questions such as:
• How many visitors can be on the site before page load speed slows?
• How does your website perform on tablets and mobile devices?
• Where do shoppers typically fall out of the shopping cart funnel?
With answers to these questions, you’ll be able to monitor your website metrics throughout the holiday season to know when there might be an issue. Have plans in place in anticipation of possible problems, ensuring you never risk an opportunity to capture a sale or retain a loyal customer with a positive shopping experience.
• Have you quantified and forecasted product demand for new and existing customers to help inform the inventory levels of each product?
• With rising shipping costs are your free shipping thresholds and paid shipping tiers priced to help maintain order profitability?
Identifying possible inventory and availability risks as early as possible allows time to prepare alternative plans. Planning ahead will ensure you have enough depth and variety of products available for each of your customer segments to maximize sales during the holiday selling season.
Calculate if changes are needed for free shipping thresholds and paid shipping tiers to satisfy customer expectations while still maintaining order profitability. If changes are needed, test these changes during a summer or early fall promotion to see how customers react. Analyze the results, and, if sales are negatively impacted, be sure to review the profitability of the test before reverting to your previous shipping offerings because the profitability may paint a different picture. The goal is to ensure maximum orders, maximum profitability, and maximum customer satisfaction this holiday season.
Marketing and promotions plan
• Which promotions and ad campaigns delivered the highest profitability and customer lifetime value last holiday season and during other recent key promotion periods?
• Have you identified and prioritized different marketing campaigns for different target shopper profiles?
• Have you identified top-performing customer segments by promotion type and/or marketing channel?
Take time to do a deep analysis of past promotions and seasonal deals to identify what drives success and what does not. Leverage data from past successful promotions as a baseline to drive new strategies for a holiday season we know will be challenging given the current economic environment. Identify exactly which promotions you should and should not repeat. Likewise, review top-performing promotions by customer segment to prioritize which of them you should focus on for different types of promotions and in different marketing channels.
Strategize new promotion ideas and test them during the summer and early fall — for example, does an exclusive deal drive a higher customer lifetime value versus a short-lived flash discount? If you’re an omnichannel retailer, be sure to test your promotions both in-store and online as you may have different results for different customer experiences and transaction types. For example, are your most profitable customers the ones that purchase online or in-store first? Preparing in advance ensures you have enough inventory on hand for products you plan to promote and market during the holiday season.
Taking the time now to prepare for the 2022 holiday season will set you apart from your competition and ensure you’re in the best possible position to have a best-in-class customer experience, record sales, and the most successful holiday shopping season yet.
This article was written by Eric Best from Retail Customer Experience and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].