With all the uncertainty around supply shortages, inflation and COVID, the 2021 holiday season is presenting retailers and brands with a myriad of challenges. However, as is often the case, these challenges also bring opportunities. As a result of COVID-19, consumers are now more comfortable shopping through digital channels. According to Shopify, 54% of consumers shifted more of their spending online since the pandemic began and Google, together with BCG, found that more than 70% of respondents said their shopping journey involved digital touchpoints.
By: Kevin Hisko, Jackman
With a focus on convenience and not wanting to spend unnecessary time in stores this year, consumers are investing more time in the pre-purchase stage of their journey, searching for products online, checking inventory levels, and comparing prices. Based on findings from our recent Jackman Human Insights Study, 81% of consumers compare at least two brands before buying online. Time-saving fulfillment methods like buying online to pick-up in store (BOPIS) and same-day delivery are growing in importance, as are real time updates on when shipments will arrive — our same research showed that 45% of consumers say receiving delivery updates or notifications matters after buying something online.
Brands that win this holiday season will focus on getting customers what they want, when they want it, in a way that connects the end-to-end customer journey. As your brand looks to improve your entire customer experience across all channels, we see four ways to stand out from the competition.
1. Reward loyal customers with prioritized access. By leveraging owned communication channels (e.g., email, push messaging) you can provide first access to your most loyal customers. When products hit the shelves (online or in-store) communicate these launches to your loyal customers first. Take it one step further and gate a portion of your website for digital drops. Consider rewarding your social followers by live streaming when new products arrive or create daily short videos, updating followers on what’s available. You could open stores early or stay open later for loyalty program members and use past purchase data to determine customer patterns, reminding them to purchase their yearly gift sooner than later. Every year there are a few staples on every customer’s list, and you can help ensure they have what they need, when they need it.
2. Differentiate through personalization. One way to offer personalization is by finding ways to make gift cards more memorable. For example, can you personalize the delivery or unboxing experience or provide an extra gift or feature (such as special wrapping, a fancier box, free song, or digital download)? If bigger ticket items are out of stock, look for ways to offer personalized alternatives by offering a bundle of products — for example, if a stove is out of stock, consider offering a bundle of related products that you do have in stock, like pots and pans.
3. Empower omni-channel shoppers through transparency. Provide customers with up-to-date information on availability, both online and in-store. Adding quantity levels on product pages online will help customers make important in-the-moment purchase decisions. If you have the time and resources, invest in ESL tags (Electronic Shelf Labels) to provide real-time stock updates in-store. Knowing there are only two items left could make your customer think twice about waiting to purchase. Update customers on when products will be restocked (both online and in-store) and provide them with tools to access that information (e.g., email, text, or push notification when product is restocked).
4. Double down on customer service. Whatever new products are launching online, in-store or on social, make sure your associates are informed and able to talk about them. If a customer visits your stores, website or app, and stock is low, your associates (in-person or through chat) should be able to suggest an alternative or get access to up-to-date inventory information. Also, consider how you can update and enhance your return policies to reflect the situation. If customers are doing their holiday shopping early, consider extending your return window. With so many people shopping online, set your customer up for success with free shipping labels for online returns.
Kevin Hisko is Director, Customer Experience at Jackman.