By Gary Ambrosino, president, TimeTrade
The November Consumer Confidence Index made headlines as the numbers slumped to the lowest point within the last six months. On the surface, this could cause concern for retailers this holiday season. However, when you’re in a store, how often do you actually think about an economic indicator when you’re deciding how much to spend?
Instead, shoppers are focused on the customer experience – determining how well they trust the brand and more importantly, the sales associate assisting them to find what they need. Hesitant shoppers present a huge opportunity for retailers to win them over, now that the price-matching has leveled the playing field.
Here are the three ways retailers can increase holiday sales and keep customers coming back in 2014.
Personalization – at every stage of the buying cycle.
It's not a one-size-fits-all world when it comes to anything these days, especially customer service. In a world where you can personalize your cell phone, customize your shoes and even your barista calls you by name, the demand for personalization is higher than ever before. Shoppers want to feel like they are a retailer’s only customer, and that begins before they ever step into a store. According to a recent survey of 1,000 consumers, 92% revealed that a more personalized, improved experience is the thing they want most from retailers, trumping lower prices.
Giving customers the personalization they are looking for goes far beyond an email with the customer's name in the subject line. Retailers have a wealth of customer data at their fingertips to create more targeted, meaningful campaigns and promotions. Imagine if you could know exactly what a consumer wanted before they stepped into a store? It’s possible today.
A retailer’s most untapped resource: The employees.
Combine a deeper understanding of buyers’ needs with knowledgeable employees and you’ve created a formidable force. Major retailers surveyed at the Future Stores Conference in July 2013 found that consumers will spend 25-50% more when assisted by an informed, helpful store associate.
When a customer trusts a store associate, they trust the brand. The most successful retailers today are investing in training and equipping store associates with tools they need to more efficiently work with shoppers. Store employee structures are also evolving, especially during the holiday season. Temporary staffers rarely have the depth of experience or product knowledge that consumers crave. As a result, product experts are becoming the front lines for assisting shoppers while temporary hires support them. This creates a more streamlined process for both the staff and the consumer.
Create the most convenient experience possible.
Few people enjoy holiday shopping – fighting over parking spots and dealing with crowds isn’t for the faint of heart. However, what consumers really want isn’t complicated: answers to their questions and the ability to quickly find the products they need. The more retailers know about customers before they walk in the door — the greater chance retailers have of providing a valuable, personalized and satisfied buying experience. Retailers that reinvent what it means to go shopping during the busiest time of year will beat out the competition and set the stage for success in 2014.
In the long run, price-matching and flashy sales won’t earn you long-term customers. It's about efficient, personalized service. In order to cash in this holiday season, retailers have to take the focus off of price and volume, and focus on customer. For many consumers, holiday shopping forces them to purchase from retailers they typically wouldn’t – that’s the biggest opportunity. If retailers can give first-time, rushed holiday shoppers a unique experience, they can turn a one-time purchase into a lifetime customer.
Gary Ambrosino is president of TimeTrade. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.