By Dr. Gary Edwards
Chief Customer Officer, Mindshare Technologies
It's that time of the year again — the holiday beloved by couples and despised by singles is fast approaching. Are you ready for the influx of Valentine's Day shoppers this week?
According to the National Retail Federation, only 54 percent of Americans are planning to celebrate Valentine's Day this year compared to 60 percent last year. While the U.S. may be a little less romantic this year, those that are celebrating are spending more than last year ($133.91 vs. $130.97 on average), with men spending more than twice as much as women ($108.38 vs. $49.41).
With the impetus on men to impress, how can you effectively cater to these high-spending shoppers at this time of year? Here are five tips to help deliver an enhanced customer experience, help spread the love, and in the process, gain more than your share of the Valentine's Day spoils.
Deliver a great experience across channels
Regardless of the channel in which customers are interacting with your retail brand, it is important to keep in mind that they are expecting the same great experience whether they are in one of your stores, speaking with a contact center representative or making a purchase online.
Roughly three in five — 59 percent — of consumers prefer to purchase their Valentine's Day gifts online, according to an online survey by Adroit Digital. Online shopping is particularly appealing to men, 68 percent of whom said they prefer to do their shopping online, compared to 53 percent of women. These figures underscore the importance of ensuring all your customer touchpoints are integrated.
Offer in-store gift wrapping services
Men are not necessarily "gifted" in the gift-wrapping department and tend to be busy. Retailers that offer a gift-wrapping service may be a little more enticing to men to shop at. Whether it is a free or paid service, offering this option to customers will go a long way, keeping your store top of mind for the next shopping trip. Simply stock your stores with a small variety of Valentine's Day inspired gift bags and wrapping paper options that your customers can select from, and ensure that your staff can provide this value-add service without any major delays.
Deliver some "shoppertainment"
With the competition constantly on the rise and consumers tightening their wallets, retailers are looking for more innovative ways to create an exciting and engaging in-store shopping experience. The new era of "shoppertainment" is being introduced by leading brands all over the world through the addition of interactive and exciting elements such as theaters, musical displays, digital showrooms and more to their stores.
Empower employees to forge a human connection with customers
While going the lavish "shoppertainment" route may not be an option for your brand, you can still deliver an unforgettable customer experience by ensuring that you have highly engaged and trained employees. Those on the frontlines of a retail store often have the greatest impact on a customer's in-store experience. For your Valentine's Day shoppers, have your staff interact with customers to help them seek the perfect gift for their partner by getting to know the likes and dislikes of the gift recipient and making product recommendations. Remember that many customers may just be coming in for that special Valentine's gift for their sweetheart — but they have the potential to become customers for the long term.
Launch a Valentine's Day contest or promotion
Valentine's Day contests and promotions are another area in which your retail brand can improve customer satisfaction. Create a Valentine's Day boutique in your stores that features select products merchandised as a collection of holiday-specific offers. Products in that section can include a free gift with purchase or other added benefits that can help increase sales.
To entice male and female shoppers to want to trek into your store to purchase a gift for their special someone, you need to go the extra mile. If done right, your customers will fall in love with your store — and make sure not to forget the single shoppers that come in on February 15th for the discounted candy.
Gary Edwards, PhD, has led worldwide and domestic research on customer & employee behavior for more than 20 years. He oversees the marketing insights department and sales organization at Mindshare Technologies with a focus on influencing client strategy and customer relations. Prior to joining Mindshare, Gary led worldwide and domestic research projects in customer and employee research working with a wide range of Fortune 500 companies. (Photo by Corrie Barklimore.)