Pandemic or no pandemic – understanding how your customers think and their evolving shopping intent is key in designing a bespoke customer experience. Two things that are being underscored as clear holiday season trends now and beyond are timeliness and relevance. With digital commerce turning increasingly competitive, one frustrating experience is enough to turn a potentially loyal customer over to a rival in the US (57%) and the UK (62%).
So how do retailers get those first impressions right and retain brand trust and reputation amid an overwhelming list of operational to-dos? Is it time to explore that innovation you always wanted to but were too shy to try when business as usual? Which holiday tactics will make you look like a trend-setter rather than a follower?
To answer these and other pressing questions, we’ve rounded up some effective customer experience tips and tactics that you can employ now and even after the holiday lights are taken down:
Bring back the cheer with Augmented Reality (AR)
Even with stores slowly opening up, variance in safety standards will continue to keep most shoppers cooped up shopping on their screens. Only this time, they will hinge on a more riveting experience compared to what the pandemic had to offer until now.
Brands that can tap into this expectation for some holiday magic will see greater engagement. For instance, beauty brands like Ulta and Sephora have emulated their in-store try-on experience virtually using GlamLab, and have seen sevenfold engagement in this post-COVID time. Similarly, Kohl’s partnered with Snapchat to bring its customers a virtual closet where they could perform virtual try-ons by simply scanning a Snapcode.
And here’s something novel. Apart from physical products, the pandemic has also unraveled an audience for new-fangled digital assets. Behr Paint and West Elm, a furniture and décor brand, partnered to offer a range of Zoom backgrounds so that users can smartly skip the tidying up and focus on more important matters for their next meeting.
Maximize marketing ROI through targeted campaigns
Segmentation based on channel and buyer persona will be crucial. Also, marketers will need to bear in mind that no two geographies will unfold the same demand simply because of varying infection levels, restrictions, and other local authority protocols. Tracking these aspects closely through daily news updates will help pivot your strategies more effectively.
The trend for this holiday season has been – the more local you calibrate your campaigns, the higher your conversion chances. By blending historical location behaviors with targeting technology like geofences, brands can deliver personalized ads to multiple devices in the same household. Also, search continues to reign high as a discovery enabler. The below data snippets from Adobe reflect it will drive a 9% higher share of purchases this holiday season, almost reaching the 50% mark at 46.5% of total online shopping revenue.
Win them over with personalized experiences
Thanks to digitization catalyzed by the current crisis, most retailers have had the opportunity to collect valuable customer data. However, leveraging it beyond a first-name personalization to create contextual experiences via multiple channels across the customer journey should is a holiday season trend that’s catching up. And with 7 in 10 consumers shopping based on micro-moments, retailers can use past purchase data to pre-empt such contexts and patterns to serve up the right messages, deals, and promotions at the right time.
Think everything from customized on-page recommendations to curated gifting guides emailed to their inboxes. Plus, instead of limiting yourself to suggestions inspired by their previous purchases, capturing intent from their browsing behavior and individual sessions will prove beneficial now and in the long run. Tools like Crazy Egg and Optimizely let you do just that.
By employing these holiday season trend-based tactics retailers can make more strategic ad placements, cross-sell and upsell better, provide highly-targeted recommendations before a checkout, all to increase the AOV (average order value). Also, as shoppers look for gifting inspiration this year more than ever, gift guides tailored based on their current preferences will be ready reckoners especially for those primed to buy.
Strike the right partnerships and co-market to gain better traction
Unusual times warrant unusual calls – and if you are up for it, you could just strike a lucrative business relationship. While this year’s pandemic induced holiday season trends have seen a slew of brands to foster new partnerships to diversify delivery and ensure last-mile coverage this far, there’s still a lot to explore. For instance, if you are a wine brand, collaborating with a luxury chocolate manufacturer will help co-create exciting gift boxes.
Similarly, with baking being a favorite lockdown hobby, brands like Kitchen Aid could consider partnering with a popular baking ingredient player like Betty Crocker to whip up subscription models that go beyond the holidays.
Combo offers will also lure shoppers as value for money and convenience are influential drivers among deal seekers. Retailers open to exploring such partnerships will not only create win-win situations through shared audiences but also gain a competitive advantage. All it takes is identifying the right brands and categories to team up with to kick start a profitable venture.
Automate wherever possible
This year has witnessed an e-commerce surge like no other. Unarguably, the pressure to perform is compelling marketers explore options to automate routine processes. Automating everything from highly-segmented email campaigns cued to each stage of the customer journey, to customer service chatbots both on your website and Facebook page will be crucial.
According to Shopify, another holiday season trend being observed is that support volume requests generally increase by 65% during these days. With most of the workforce still working remotely and employees taking a holiday break, maintaining customer service performance will require investing in chat-based automation technologies. Also, if you are selling internationally keep in mind the time zone differences so that responses are delivered within the expected timeframe.
As far as cataloging for new products is concerned, ensuring these are standardized to align with your current website demands time and an eye for detail. Automated content auditing platforms can help do this at jet speed providing greater accuracy and more time-to-market. On the social media front, using scheduling tools like Hootsuite and Buffer ensures your deals and discounts don’t get missed while affording you the time to focus on more pressing issues.
Refresh your FAQs
It’s not always easy to put yourself in your shoppers’ shoes. Tracking customer responses on your products and services this season will be highly critical. Questions like ‘What’s the status on my order?’ ‘Is there a promo code?’ and ‘How can I return my order?’ are bound to top the list. Capturing these holiday season trends both on your social media handles and on your website through live chats, chatbots, product reviews, and search queries will reveal their current needs.
Once assimilated, make it a point to constantly update your FAQs section with the most popular queries to offer a time-saving customer experience. You can even place the top queries at the start of your chatbot window. These aspects may seem unimportant right now, but in the larger realm of the customer journey, they play a significant role in driving a memorable experience.
All in all, with the pandemic uncovering newer asks, retailers who view them as opportunities and rise to the occasion will witness steady growth in both acquisitions and conversions. Driving increased traffic and sales will depend on how quickly you can pivot strategies to emerging trends and meet your holiday shopper’s needs with contextualized content via channels of their preference.
Netscribes has been supporting a bevy of international marketplaces and retailers in mastering their customer experience journey with end-to-end e-commerce solutions. To know how we can help your business, connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org