While our clocks fall back, both retailers and customers will be stepping up for the holiday season. In every interaction, retailers and customers will share one common goal: make the most of a brief and busy two months. And while retailers face challenges in the form of increased staffing, shipping delays and returns liabilities, they stand to reap great rewards. The NRF reports over a quarter of all US retail revenue in 2015 was recorded in the holiday shopping season.
This year, retailers of all shapes and sizes have taken advantage of newly available technologies to compete with the tech juggernauts. Modernize your operations and make the most of the holiday shopping season with these three retail strategies:
1. Cater to busy customers online and offline
Today’s customers merge their digital and physical lives, and are connected wherever they go. Combining the immediate gratification of physical presence with the data-collecting capabilities of the online world can both accelerate the purchase process and increase loyalty.
Cosmetics retailer Sephora embraces the integration of digital and physical. Sephora knows their customers are often overwhelmed by the myriad options available to them, and need personalized help to find the optimal products. They also found that nearly a quarter of customers price-compare on mobile as they shop, so they focused on creating a superior experience both on the floor and on the phone. Their designers use strategic data collected from the Beauty Insider loyalty programs to craft engaging, personalized experiences on both digital and physical fronts.
Sephora’s efforts resulted in an industry-leading stack of integrated technologies. Interactive screens allow customers to experiment with makeup combinations. Point-of-sale displays communicate with Apple Beacon-enabled devices, showing customers how-to videos as they walk by. Smart apps direct customers to in-store items still in their online carts, then give the customer the opportunity to buy from their device right where they stand. By presenting the customer with enough information to make a decision and then the opportunity to purchase immediately, Sephora increases conversions from both online and offline channels.
2. Follow customers throughout the holiday season
A customer’s journey doesn’t end at checkout. Arguably, their most intense attention is focused on the shipment: video game retailer Gamestop’s customers check their package tracking pages an average of 5 times. That urgency is only increased during the holiday season, when gifting disappointment is a huge concern, and the attention too valuable to waste. Don’t turn customers to an impersonal third party carrier website for tracking information--branded tracking platforms can give retailers opportunities to present additional marketing or address potential problems before they occur and build trust with brand consistency. Gamestop takes advantage of the frequency of tracking page visits to drive over 29% of those visitors back to their site.
3. Optimize returns to capitalize on your holiday efforts
Returns don’t have to be a shadow looming over the new year’s books. Given that generous return policies are incredible drivers of customer loyalty--motivating 95% of customers to purchase again (Endicia, 2013)--it’s time to consider it a core strategy to be optimized. Today’s new platforms also offer advanced returns features, presenting customers clear return options while providing transparent shipment and status tracking. The data and optimization these tools provide help you streamline your inbound processing, increasing customer satisfaction, reducing costs and reducing the time-to-recapture of revenue.
What these strategies have in common is their ability to keep a name and brand persistent and top-of-mind, both before and after the purchase. At every step of the way, these strategies and their corresponding tools also gather loads of important data. Combining both opportunities to develop persistent, personalized experiences is the surest route to a lifelong customer.
After the holiday season, it’s never too early to think about next year. Take advantage of the copious data you’ll be collecting to look forward--evaluate your fulfillment performance in detail to optimize for next year’s new shipping rates, or analyze your returns to fine-tune your stock.
Amit Sharma, founder and CEO of Narvar