Customer Experience Featured Article

How to Have Holiday Retail Success All Year Long

April 24, 2014

Retailers have a lot to learn from the holiday madness of 2013. For the first time since 1888, both Thanksgiving and the first full night of Hanukkah fell on the same day, with Christmas on their heels. In other words, the intensity of holiday shopping was ramped up by a shortened season, and businesses we hit with this rush at full force.

While the biggest shopping season of the year presents big revenue opportunities for retailers of all types, it can also prove a disappointment for retailers wthat don’t have their A game when it comes to the customer experience.

There are more ways to buy than now ever, with online sales increasingly constituting a big part of the shopping experience. No longer is waiting in line on Black Friday (News - Alert) the way to buy gifts—it now is a 24-hour competition for sales.

Roughly 91 percent of shoppers went online to research and make purchases this past holiday season, according to CMS Wire, and 34 percent prefered shopping online to avoid crowds.

Shoppers also used a variety of devices to perform their shopping, including tablets and smartphones, in addition to more traditional desktop computers. Despite this variety of accessibility, 81 percent of consumers expected a consistent experience not matter what channel they chose to use. For retailers, that’s a lot of pressure to unify the virtual shopping experience.

Surveyed customers also privileged companies that handled their shopping habits well and made holiday shopping easy. Half of shoppers feel that customer service suffers during the holidays, and at the same time 73 percent said they would pay more for a better customer service experience.

This last fact should underline the importance of being ready for customers.

Industry publication Chain Store Age recommends three ways that retailers can prepare for customers and the new shopping reality this holiday season.

First, optimize customer support. Prepare customer service agents for being able to effectively access customer information, perform transactions and interact with the right applications.

Second, leverage real-time data. The effective use of real-time data can deliver accurate pricing and availability information, which is key during the holidays when it comes to a good customer experience. Nobody wants their gift to fail to arrive or come after the season is over, and that means knowing what is in stock and when more will be available if an item is out of stock.

Third, set goals and objectives for seasonal employees. Temporary employees brought aboard for the holiday shopping season need to understand sales goals and incentives so they can deliver on customer needs and know when to offer discounts.

If these three tips are put into place, and retailers have a consistent presence across communication channels, it may feel like the holidays all year round.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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