July 30, 2018
Holiday shopping patterns have changed. Where the retail sector has long built up toward large-scale sales on Black Friday and then waited for customers to come to them for the rest of the season, a bevy of sales and promotions are taking place throughout the period. In this environment, consumers are more aware that they can get a good deal all throughout the holidays and are becoming more discerning in how, when and where they shop.
The customer experience is more important than ever as these conditions come together. With the rise of eCommerce and blending of the digital and physical worlds, many retailers are exploring new strategies to get ahead in a competitive marketplace. A great sale may be enough to garner customer attention, but the experience is what drives a sale. Segmenting your customer base to better understand what your audience is looking for, and tailoring the experience to different groups, can go a long way in helping you stand out this holiday season.
The New Holiday Reality
The holiday shopping season has a rhythm of its own, with ebbs and flows that give brands opportunities to stand out from the crowd if they understand their customers.
Do most of your customers prefer shopping online and only doing research in stores? Then consider putting more resources into Cyber Monday than Black Friday so you can better support your largest user base.
Do your customers tend to be young and tech-savvy? Then think about focusing on mobile and social commerce to give them a stronger user experience.
These types of strategies form the backbone of how you can organize your holiday shopping plans, but the innovation isn't just happening in isolated areas, it is taking place as brands try to bridge the gaps between channels.
For example, consider a consumer who comes into your store to browse products prior to making a purchase online. What does that customer want from your store and how can you blend your in-store and online experiences to create a more seamless interaction? Here are a few options:
Use in-store kiosks so users can easily browse your product catalog and complete an order. This way, when they find something they like in the store, they can move right to purchasing through your channel. You can use accelerated shipping or in-store pickup to entice users to purchase within your ecosystem, simplifying the transaction and ensuring they don't go to a third-party site.
Reconsider your in-store layout for the digital-savvy customer. Maybe you don't need as many duplicates of a product on shelves because you can use display items to let customers get a sense of a product. From there, customers can scan a barcode or use a digital kiosk to tell you what they want and an associate can pull it out of the stock room.
These types of tactics blend the eCommerce and in-store experience in a natural, intuitive way. Beyond this, you may also want to rethink what your brand considers an ideal shopping environment. Because digital services make products so accessible, many consumers are looking for unique experiences to dictate their purchasing decisions. If you can offer something fun or truly new in your shopping experience—either online or in-store—you may be able to attract users looking for something exciting.
The holiday shopping world has changed, but the underlying ideas are the same: Get to know your customers, build your operational models around their needs and don't be afraid to shift when needed.
The Practicalities of Strong Customer Experiences
Of course, creating exciting blended experiences that help you stand out across the entire holiday sales season requires strategic innovation. You need to take a practical approach to updating your eCommerce capabilities in order to bring together the digital and physical shopping experiences. As you prepare for the holidays, here are a few questions you'll need to consider:
How are your customers spread out geographically? Understanding the location dynamics among your customer base will help you streamline fulfillment, adjust your warehouse strategies and select the optimal locations for experimental projects.
What kinds of lifestyles stand out among your customer base? Habits and lifestyle patterns can have a huge impact on how people handle the holidays. Segmenting your customers based on their lifestyle trends can help you understand how to fine-tune shopping experiences accordingly.
How have your customers shopped in the past? Review historical sales data to identify tendencies in customer activity and pin down any gaps in your retail model. Sales metrics can indicate not only how consumers have responded to your past strategies, but also help you to think ahead and develop tactics to time your sales and promotions based on historic patterns.
About Tim Hannes and Pixafy
Tim Hannes is Senior Front End Developer at Pixafy with over five years of experience developing mobile first responsive eCommerce websites. Pixafy is an eCommerce agency anchored in tradition and deeply invested in the future of digital commerce. They are online retail experts that specialize in B2C and B2B implementations. Their highly experienced team with blended skill sets includes platform engineers, UI developers, designers, marketers and system architects provide their clients digital transformation and channel harmonization across every aspect of their eCommerce universe. A sister company of Net@Work, a leading business technology services firm, Pixafy leverages the core Net@Work platform which includes a suite of software products including Sage, NetSuite, Microsoft, and Salesforce, allowing them to provide extended value and comprehensive solutions to our customers.