How to win with holiday shoppers, in-store and online

| by Gary Edwards
How to win with holiday shoppers, in-store and online

Fourth-quarter retail sales can make or break a brand, since anywhere from one-third to seventy percent of annual retail sales occur between Thanksgiving and Christmas. During this critical time, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are facing enormous pressure from online-only competitors and showrooming — a practice where consumers shop in-store and purchase online later, often from a different retailer.

The biggest pitfall for brick-and-mortar retailers is failing to elevate shopper experiences to one that builds anticipation for “walking out” with their purchase. More than ever, retailers need to identify effective strategies to trigger immediate purchases and for customers who want to combine store and on-line experiences, provide an omni-channel experience that delights shoppers and keeps them “inside” their brand versus looking elsewhere.

The holiday season presents not only the largest opportunity, but also the most serious challenges to retailers. Here are three ways retailers can improve in-store experiences, motivate customers to purchase and overcome showrooming this holiday season.

Get Clear and Focused on Your Customer Journey

    It’s critical to understand your ideal customer journey, from the moment they set sights on your store all the way through to the completion of their purchase and leaving your stores.

    Retailers should have a clear “journey map” that articulates the key moments of truth throughout the chronology of a customer visit. Across these key moments, success hinges on clear articulation of which “moments” are designed to be elevated as differentiators for the brand, which are aimed to meet standard industry practices, and which in turn may be compromised and purposefully be set “below” standards. With the latter, for example, Big Box retailers have intentionally reduced elements of the store experience to more of a warehouse “feel” and interactivity.

    With clarity on the journey, and which moments are defining ones that differentiate your brand, it is then very revealing to determine which elements of the experience are well scripted and infused into important staff behaviors.

    Unfortunately, few retailers have a clear sense of this journey and fewer still have codified it into a series of what I call “branded behaviors.” When the holiday season rush hits, it’s then left to chance or circumstance what if any differentiating moments are adhered to and further still, what further compromises are made to manage the customer rush.

    Train Employees and Increase Engagement

      Many traditional retailers don’t meet customer service expectations due to inexperienced sales staff, and with holiday seasonal help, this phenomena only worsens. One-in-five consumers say big-box retailer associates can’t adequately answer questions in their area of expertise. Thirty-nine percent don’t feel like sales associates even listen to their questions.

      Employee attitudes and proficiency significantly impact customer experiences. When your employees are happy and trained properly, shoppers are treated better. Knowledgeable and trained sales staff can also increase basket size, revisit rates and recommend your brand to their friends and family.

      The burden is on the retailer to provide adequate customer service training and any additional education to equip sales staff to do their jobs effectively. Improving employee satisfaction and engagement should be a top priority. Use internal apps or other technologies to stay connected with sales associates, and recognize achievements with rewards and praise via social media in order to reinforce the right “branded behaviors” among your associates.

      Improve Personalization

        Online powerhouses like Amazon excel in personalization. Consumers expect the same level of personalization when they are shopping in a store. Having positive interactions with retail sales staff is one component of personalization. Retailers should be able to articulate and train staff on the two or three particular types of journeys customers take, and then have them adapt their behaviors accordingly. At a women’s apparel store for example, the associate on the floor needs to quickly ascertain if she’s helping a shopper on a targeted “quick in and out mission,” or if she wants help escaping into an oasis and exploring options at a leisurely pace.

        Stay Consistent in Experience Design in Store and On-line

        Another key is to keep the branded experience consistent across channels and locations. Voice of the Customer (VoC) solutions help chain and omni-channel retailers achieve consistency. With the right tools, brands can use customer feedback to improve experiences and increase revenue.

        On a practical level, brands more and more incorporate “click-and-brick” opportunities so shoppers can interact with the store’s online resources and technology whether it’s iPads, mobile apps or augmented reality. With targeted offers, personalized recommendations and social media integration, brands can bridge the gap between the store and online. When you focus more on delivering an incredible in-store experience that integrates technology and translates seamlessly online, you won’t need to worry about losing revenue to showrooming.

        This holiday season, focus on creating great customer journeys, in the store and online, being sure that the training and tools put in place are constantly kept in line with what customers expect from your brand and love to experience.

        Topics: Customer Experience, Customer Service, Employee Training, Omnichannel / Multichannel

        Gary Edwards
        Dr. Gary Edwards is chief customer officer at Mindshare Technologies, a leading global provider of Voice of the Customer (VoC) solutions to the world’s most respected multi-unit enterprises. Gary is responsible for oversight of Market Insights and Sales. At Mindshare, Gary is actively involved in helping brands solve business challenges with research and technology solutions. www

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