5 Ways to Improve the Customer Experience for Holiday Shoppers

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This post is the latest in our “Holiday Blitz” series. It’s our editorial focus for the month of November, including topics holiday shopping behavior, year-over-year trend analysis and retail strategies. See the rest of the series here

The retail space starts to feel chaotic this time of year, with brands pulling out all the stops to win over holiday shoppers. Amidst all the talk of sales and discounts, retailers this year are looking at integrating new customer experience initiatives designed to bring in first-time shoppers and encourage long-time loyalists to spend even more than usual.

According to the National Retail Federation, more than 165 million people expect to shop over Thanksgiving weekend, spending an anticipated $1,048 each on items like holiday décor, gifts, and purchases for themselves between now and the end of the year. How can traditional brick-and-mortar retailers compete with direct-to-consumer brands and ecommerce players with razor-thin margins this holiday season? One way is by launching customer experience initiatives designed to impress shoppers in their target demographics.

To learn even more about the customer experience strategies retailers are launching this year, we checked in with a few industry experts. Here are their thoughts on the best customer experience strategies retailers are trying out this holiday season.

1. Early Engagement to Drive Anticipation: “In 2018, a quarter of all Black Friday-themed emails were sent between the first and second week of November. These early emails garnered a 13.1% average open rate and a 1.5% average click rate – both outperforming the rates of business-as-usual emails. These metrics illustrate the value in engaging consumers early – not necessarily to drive a purchase – but as a way to build anticipation for the big day. Retailers with physical stores and e-commerce presence may want to test the performance of earlier sends before determining their most effective Black Friday strategy.” (Gurjit Sandhu, Yes Marketing)

2. Meeting Shoppers on Instagram: “Seamless multichannel distribution is key for retailers who want to meet their customers where they’re spending their time, and Instagram is a high impact touchpoint for many demographics. Considering the platform has at least one billion users and recently launched a shopping feature, it’s easier than ever for users to move from browsing to the point of purchase. Retailers that neglect to add Instagram to their channel distribution list miss out on a significant sales opportunity.” (Chris Dessi, Productsup)

3. Premium Loyalty Programs: “For shoppers, the holidays are all about finding the best deals, but it can be difficult to sift through daily promotions that are hitting commercial mailboxes and inboxes alike. More shoppers are enrolling in premium programs that charge an annual membership fee for exclusive store access, faster shipping and instant discounts on purchases. Since customers don’t have to wait until the holidays for these benefits, they’re more likely to ignore marketing clutter from other brands that only promise perks for the short term. However, if a brand doesn’t have a premium loyalty program in place, the holidays provide a helpful increase in digital and physical foot traffic to help brands piece together a successful one for 2020.” (Tom Caporaso, )

4. Experiential Retail Campaigns: “Retailers who are prepared to be mobile-ready, enable buy-online and in-store pickup, and push creative boundaries with experiential retail campaigns are sure to break through the clutter and maximize sales potential. While the holiday season presents an opportunity to satisfy current customers, it also opens the door to reach entirely new audiences. By ensuring seamless multichannel distribution is in place, retailers can successfully reach their customers whether they’re shopping on Amazon, Walmart Marketplace or Instagram.” (Chris Dessi, Productsup)

5. Saving the Best Offers for Black Friday: “To preserve the thrill and excitement of the day itself and maximize conversions, retailers should aim to save their best and biggest offers for Black Friday. A possible approach is to announce the start of the sale early on Friday, provide customers with an inventory update on Saturday, and then wait until early Sunday to specifically target shopping cart abandoners (online) or casual shoppers (in-store) with a surprise incentive to prompt a purchase.” (Gurjit Sandhu, Yes Marketing) Clarus Commerce

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.