According to Deloitte, retail holiday sales are anticipated to climb upwards of 5.6 percent over last year’s shopping season, with sales expected to exceed $1.10 trillion between November and January.
As you can see, retail is far from dead. So rather than worrying about the so-called “retail apocalypse,” the main focus for retailers should be around how to account for a greater share of a shopper’s overall spend this holiday season.
To achieve this, retailers need to better understand the starting points at which consumers choose to start engaging. Instead of thinking in the traditional, siloed approach of online vs. offline, it’s imperative to evolve efforts towards a more holistic approach that creates a seamless brand engagement experience.
Preparing for Finicky Holiday Shoppers
Let’s face it– we are all time-starved. Between work and home, it’s often tough to add additional “things” into our daily mix. Which is why consumers have proven to be more impatient during the holidays – and unfortunately, more willing to abandon a retailer quickly if they don’t receive the experience or service at the pace they expect it. In fact, last year, NRF found that 77 percent of shoppers left a store because they couldn’t find what they were looking for. Even worse, payments platform, Adyen, found that almost $40 billion is lost each year due to long checkout lines. Something needs to change. Here’s a hint – it’s your approach.
The truth is, online is important but it’s only half the story. Brick and mortar stores continue to be an integral part of an effective omnichannel strategy – a fact that today’s retailers must embrace and capitalize on. Similar to online user experience, a satisfying in-store experience can secure a repeat customer, while a frustrating one will almost certainly result in lost opportunity that’s not easy to win back.
My advice to you is to consider enhancing your customer journey management strategy, allowing customers to schedule in-store appointments ahead of time and around their time-starved lives. This level of predictability not only bridges the divide between the digital and physical space – something we here at BookingBug like to refer to as “the failure zone”– but it also enables retailers to easily compile and analyze consumer behavior. Having that layer of data-driven visibility empowers you to know more about your customers and provide a better experience that can create brand loyalty.
Predictability Is the Long Game
While it can feel like shoppers these days are unpredictable, they don’t have to be. You just need to have the right tools in place to meet consumers wherever they are to provide the best experience possible. As I mentioned, pre-scheduled appointments and events are an underused yet extremely valuable way to incentivize shoppers to come into the store. Research has found that 60 percent of consumers are interested in attending an in-store event or product demonstration, yet only 23 percent have ever been invited. That’s a lot of lost opportunity.
There is tremendous value in giving shoppers the option to book appointments ahead of time. Not only does it allow retailers to minimize (or eliminate) wait times with queuing, but the consumer has the benefit of knowing exactly when they will be served. Concurrently, the retailer can ensure they have the necessary resources prepared for when the customer arrives.
An Omnichannel Experience is Crucial to Building Loyalty
While we have all been caught up in the major shifts and convenience that digital affords, it’s important to note that for many considered purchases, human-to-human interaction still matters and has great value. In fact, consumers will often increase their basket sizes more than three times after a positive human-to-human experience.
Consider this: an individual is researching a specific product on a retailer’s website. Everything checks out and he or she decides they want to purchase. The retailer’s storefront happens to be on their way home from work, so they stop in the next day. Once in-store, it happens to be busy and the shopper can’t find the product they’re looking for, and sadly, there is not an associate in sight to ask for (or offering to) help. They leave the store frustrated and likely jaded towards ever coming back.
This is a lost opportunity that didn’t have to happen. This is that aforementioned “failure zone,” or the space between digital and physical brand experiences where so many potential sales are lost. In order to avoid this, I would argue that retailers need to also consider their workforce strategy. Where retailers currently use historical knowledge and data to predict when more or less staff is needed, taking it one step further towards forecasting store traffic patterns will give you greater operational efficiency – especially during the holiday rush! To add, it will also help to ensure each customer is served in a timely and personalized manner, when (or hopefully before) they ask for it.
When it really comes down to it, no matter where consumers choose to shop, retailers must have holistic strategies in place to unify their brand experience. Modern consumers want the flexibility to shop on the channel and device of their choice, and you have to remember that the journey is never a straight line – it’s winding and has many stops along the way. In order to be successful, today’s retailers must be prepared to closely follow this dynamic journey, and not just manage but bridge the divide between online and offline to establish a lasting brand connection.