4 ways retailers can get a head start on the next holiday season
By Michael Lazzaro, vice president of Clover Growth, First Data
According to the most recent SpendTrend report from First Data, 2017 was the strongest holiday season in four years for retailers, with a 6.2 percent increase in spending this year versus in 2016. From Oct. 28 through Jan. 1, brick-and-mortar retailers enjoyed an average ticket size of $68.57. Ecommerce averaged an even higher spend, with average receipts exceeding $103.
With so much money flowing into the retail sector during the holidays, it’s never too early for a small business to start thinking about the next holiday season. Retailers should already be thinking about ways to position themselves to acquire shoppers and ensure they’re set up to provide smooth shopping experiences that lock in sales and keep new customers coming back.
Here are four characteristics of the consumer shopping experience small businesses should keep in mind to help make the most of the next holiday shopping season.
1. Loyalty is up for grabs
Today's consumers are on the hunt for the best deals. Google's 2016 "Consumers in the Micro-Moment" report revealed 65 percent of smartphone users searching on mobile look for the most relevant information available, regardless of the company offering the information. The same study found one-third of users have purchased from a company other than the one they originally intended to because the information was useful to them when they needed it.
The battle for customers is not just won or lost based on the quality of the products you provide or your reputation — although both are highly important. Businesses win when they intersect with shoppers during the key "micro-moments" when they are looking to buy.
During the holidays, small businesses need to make sure they are discoverable to shoppers who are looking for what they are selling. If you sell or list your products online, make sure your inventory is up-to-date and your product and/or service descriptions are accurate. Businesses should also consider creating content about your products that provides information consumers are seeking.
2. A consistent online presence is crucial
While making sure your product, service and inventory descriptions are up-to-date is key, your company should make sure the basics are accurate as well. Check that your store address and hours (especially if you plan to have special holiday hours) are up-to-date on all of the top online locations where that information might appear, like Yelp, Google My Business, Apple Maps, TripAdvisor, Bing and Yahoo!.
Reviewing and updating your information on these sites is important because the methods some use to collate information can leave them error-prone. Some create business listings by "scraping" other digital locations for information, including tax and business registration data, social media posts and other data sources. In addition to mismatched addresses and hours, phone numbers, website URLs and other information critical for helping consumers contact you can be incorrect.
When these sources surface inaccurate information about your store and misrepresent you online, it creates a potentially bad experience for consumers looking to contact — or shop at — your business for the holidays.
3. Optimizing for smartphones is key for holiday shopping experiences
Google reported that in 2016, 27 percent of web shoppers only shopped using their mobile devices. That same year, according to Adobe, more half of retail website visits and 35 percent of sales on Cyber Monday came from smartphones and tablets. The importance of mobile devices for shopping is well-established, but that also means the stakes are higher for creating customer-friendly experiences on mobile. After all, 30 percent of mobile shoppers abandon a transaction if it isn't optimized for mobile, according to mobile commerce company Mporium (formerly Mopowered).
If your company is selling online, you'll want to make sure the mobile version of your website is set up so users can easily find your site, search for products, add them to a cart and complete their purchase. Most website templates today offer mobile-optimized sites out-of-the-box, but you can validate the shopping experience by completing a purchase yourself.
Mobile-optimized websites aren't just critical for enabling holiday shoppers to find and purchase your products on their mobile devices. Shoppers are also using their mobile devices to find businesses and shop in-store. With this in mind, your company should also consider exclusive in-store offers on mobile so customers are more compelled to visit your location.
4. A positive post-purchase experience can increase repeat shopping
Your relationship with customers doesn't end at the point-of-sale. A consumer's post-purchase experience can dictate their sentiment toward your business. It can also be key for increasing repeat customers and lifetime value — and the holidays are a great time to leverage new customer relationships into repeat business that can pay dividends throughout the new year.
Minimize returns by ensuring that damaged goods or incorrect items are not sold and shipped. Accurate product descriptions can help ensure that customers receive items that meet their expectations.
Be sure to have a clear and easy return policy, and offer free returns if possible. If you ship products, keep your customers up-to-date about the status of their order: they should receive an email when their order is received, shipped (or delayed), and delivered.
At a time when small businesses are competing with well-heeled corporations (that offer deep reach into local communities with local fulfillment centers and same-day delivery), mom-and-pops need to be prepared for consumers to find them online and offer the type of service that will make consumers feel confident in their purchases.