‘Tis the Season…for Holiday Preparations!
Oh, the weather outside is…delightful? For most, the holiday season may seem a long way off, but the savviest retailers know that now is the time to prepare for the busiest and most significant time of their year.
Give Your Customers the Gift of a Positive Shopping Experience
Above all else, retailers should be gearing up for the holiday season by making sure that they’re focusing on the experience they’ll deliver to customers. Now is the time to make changes, but retailers need to be sure to test those changes to make sure they work and accomplish what they’re intended to do. Whether retailers’ holiday goals are to combat showrooming, provide better prices, deliver a better mobile app or deliver a superior customer experience, they must think of these things from the customer’s perspective. Retailers should buckle down and make summer the season of change and set themselves up for a successful holiday season.
So what will this year’s biggest retail strategies include? There will be more focus on integrating the mobile channel with the store experience. Last year, mobile commerce represented 1% of retail sales. While we’ll see it increase significantly year over year as mobile continues its rapid adoption, mobile will have the biggest impact as a companion channel. In that capacity it will have a far greater influence in the shopping experience than it appears to have by just looking at revenue numbers.
Consumers are using their mobile devices as research tools – whether it’s to get more information about different sizes or models for out-of-stock products, or they’re reading reviews or comparing prices.
The rise of mobile use extends the reach of retailers, because mobile consumers will be using their free time and mobile devices to conduct research. Whether they’re sitting on their couch watching TV, or waiting for their dentist appointment, or on their train commute, the ability to make productive use of their time during the holiday season will have a big impact on their perception of your brand…which could have a positive impact on your financials.
I expect mobile marketing to continue to grow as an influence on the shopper purchase journey, but for now it will only appeal to certain customers at certain times. As an example, there is a lot of buzz around mobile marketing geared towards the discount shopper – coupons as you’re walking out of the store, pricing strategies designed to fight off showrooming. The key for retailers is to stick to the overall strategy of the company – don’t become a discounter if customers’ brand expectations are different.
Consistency Across Channels
Delivering consistent brand messages across channels is one of the most critical strategies for achieving a superior customer experience this holiday season (and all year-round for that matter!) Consumers don’t separate channels – they don’t differentiate mobile from web or in-store experiences. To them, it’s one brand, regardless of channel. Many retailers forgot this last year and continue to struggle, because of their efforts to “optimize” each channel independently.
From our research on the top 100 brands, we know that the multichannel shopper is now the norm, and those shoppers are troubled by inconsistent pricing, product information and inventory information across channels. When they find something online, but it’s not in the store, it’s breaking that consistent brand message they expect. Consumers find it frustrating if they’re having totally different brand experiences across channels, especially when they’re hunting for the perfect gift.
Multichannel retailers will be more aggressive in combating showrooming this holiday season. Some will change their pricing strategies, but what they should focus on is delivering both a better in-store and mobile customer experience. Doing so will keep shoppers in stores and on company websites, providing an opportunity – especially during the holiday season – for storefront retailers to turn them into long-term, loyal customers.
We consistently see that retailers that focus on improving customer experience will have the most success – during the holiday season and throughout the year. There is a fundamental principle that we like to remind people of: you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Measuring the customer experience is critical, but it goes beyond just taking a snapshot of the experience during the holiday season – it should be measured leading into…throughout…and even after the holiday season to help keep the customers loyal and satisfied and thus, coming back to do business.