The holiday shopping season gives business owners a window to recover from financial losses throughout the year and reach new customers. Improving the customer experience (CX) helps you retain current patrons and create loyal fans out of first-time buyers.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) reported 190 million shoppers over Thanksgiving weekend in 2019 and an increase of 16% in spending. While it’s impossible to predict what consumers might do in 2020, research firms such as Deloitte point to a slight expected uptick in sales this year. People have been locked in their homes for months on end and are ready to gather with family and friends and spend a bit of the money they’ve saved by not traveling or eating out as frequently.
This year is the perfect time to step up your game and benefit from word-of-mouth referrals. Make the user experience as amazing as possible so people can focus on the joy of the season. The entire world needs a positive finish to a difficult year. Here’s how to improve your CX to make that happen:
1. Train Your Employees
Many people find holiday shopping stressful. Train your employees to make people’s lives a little easier. If a frazzled husband comes into the store on Christmas Eve with no idea what to buy his wife as a present, do your workers know how to handle the situation and guide him to the perfect gift?
Your staff needs to have a little extra patience during the holidays. Shoppers don’t always act nicely. Your employees will deal with a lot of personalities, so providing a refresher in customer relations is a smart tactic before the rush hits.
2. Add Digital Signage
If you’re located in a shopping mall or strip mall, people may overlook your store as they go about their day. Adding digital signage to your storefront and inside the store takes things to another level. You can also swap out messages to include directions to new arrivals, inform patrons of what the hottest product is or greet visitors in a fun way.
3. Create a Multi-Channel Experience
According to McKinsey & Company, buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) grew 28% and grocery delivery by 57% in 2020. Much of the increase is due to the pandemic, but as consumers shift the way they shop, they’ll expect a consistent experience across different channels.
Allow customers to shop online and pick up or return items in-store. You might also want to ensure that your customer relationship management (CRM) system tracks customer details. If a person contacts a rep online or on the phone, the employee should be able to pull up their info and meet their needs without the customer repeating the same details.
4. Ramp Up Efficiency
Over time, nearly every business lets little habits creep in that cut into their productivity. Conduct an audit of your store prior to Thanksgiving, so you can see what areas need improvement. Look for things that slow your checkout line down and facilitate inefficient customer interactions, plus other aspects that might aggravate the user.
If you aren’t sure, pull in some of your top customers and ask them to give feedback. Those who frequent your store often may see things from the outside you don’t notice. The weeks and months before the busy season are the best time to fix issues.
5. Start a Loyalty Program
Want to keep those shoppers who discover your store during the holidays? Offer a loyalty program, such as a punch card, each time they spend $10. Companies such as Starbucks provide points for each purchase. Over a period, customers earn free drinks and other goodies. Make sure the reward is something your target audience wants, and you can remain profitable even while providing perks to your most loyal fans.
6. Plan Your Content Now
You’ll be incredibly busy during the mad shopping rush. Now is the time to plan your content for the holidays. What specials will you offer, and can you schedule social media posts ahead of time? The better your posts align with other advertising, the more smoothly shopping will go for your customers.
7. Provide Wrapping
If a customer works and has a family and social life, the idea of adding in time to shop and wrap gifts becomes overwhelming. Think about things you can provide that will make their lives easier, such as complimentary gift wrapping with a certain purchase amount. You could also pre-wrap popular items, so people can pick up the packages and be good to go.
8. Add Some Merriment
The holidays are supposed to be fun. It’s easy to forget the joy of the season with all the activities and worries. Bring some of the fun back by creating an experience for your customers. Have Santa stop by for a visit, or provide cookies for store visitors. Offer trick-or-treat bags for your younger patrons.
Keep in mind that you need to limit social contact for now, so think of ways to prepackage things you would normally set out for consumption. Host a holiday party and invite a few people at a time or make it a virtual online event.
9. Provide Self-Service Options
Many places have turned to self-service pick-up. If you order something online through Walmart, many of the superstores have a huge machine. You go up and scan your barcode, and the machine finds and spits out the item you ordered. While you might not have the funds to invest in advanced robotic equipment, you could certainly create bins where people can pick up their items. Or, you can provide lockers where the code is emailed to the buyer and they pick their items up within a certain time frame.
10. Offer a Generous Exchange Policy
Have you ever been the recipient of a gift that didn’t fit or wasn’t particularly likable? Allow people to exchange items they’ve received for something they like better. Err on the side of the customer with your holiday exchange policy, and you will improve the experience for your customers and those they gift items to. You may even win a few additional clients with your policies.
Put Yourself in the Customers’ Shoes
Look at your business model through your patrons’ eyes. If you were shopping in your store, what might make the experience more pleasant? Survey your top customers and ask them for ideas on how to improve things. Be open to suggestions from the general public, your employees and other business owners. With a little creativity, you can create an amazing experience that makes customers want to come back and shop again.
About the Guest Author
Lexie is a digital nomad and web designer. She enjoys hiking with her goldendoodle and baking chocolate chip cookies. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, and connect with her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.