Retailers Elevate the Customer Journey with ‘Feel-Good’ Experiences
Inflation and market turmoil have altered consumers’ reality this holiday shopping season, but that doesn’t mean brands should match the gloom. As they look to make sense of this topsy-turvy spending cycle, savvy retailers are finding ways to insert joy and lightheartedness into their December campaigns.
“Brands need to read the collective room before connecting with their audiences this holiday season,” says Hero Digital Chief Creative Officer Erin Lynch. “We are all really tired of a constant stream of news, so lightness and moments of joy will be welcome across all consumer touchpoints.”
As retail brands try to understand their customers and their current sentiment on the economy, Lynch recommends they focus on providing what she describes as “hyper-personalized interactions” that put the customer in control of their own narrative. For example, customers should have the choice for the type of messaging they most want to see and the platforms where they would like to engage with the brand.
“In addition, brands should provide some consistency from previous years in bringing back beloved marketing and advertising campaigns that consumers are used to viewing and can associate with the joy of the season,” Lynch says. “To do so, brands should acknowledge where we are with the economy, but not overly dwell on it.”
Making Customers Feel Good in Tough Times
Billions of dollars are at stake this holiday shopping season, but with retailers and consumers still figuring out how much will be spent and on what kinds of goods, unpredictability has become the norm.
Inflation is top of mind for nearly all consumers, and higher prices are forcing shoppers to rethink what they’re buying and who they’re buying for. According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales in December are projected to increase 8% percent from last year. As of October, the annual rate of inflation in the U.S. was 7.7%.
Rather than trying to match the current sentiment, Lynch says suggests that brands try to “elevate” the customer experience and focus how they make people feel when they buy from their stores as a way to strengthen customer relationships beyond the holiday season.
“More and more brands such as Google, Everlane, State Bags, Warby Parker amongst others are adjusting their approaches to match current sentiments by doing a ‘donate to charity.’ In addition, the ‘round up’ to donate function at checkout is becoming more and more prevalent this year, not just in-store, but online as well,” Lynch says. “This is a win-win-win approach for all. The customer feels good. A worthy cause receives a donation. And brands receive positive sentiment and a loyal customer.”
The right digital experiences give consumers the freedom to shop on their own terms — sometimes stopping to touch products and roam the aisles, and other times getting in and out as quickly as possible.
“Brands that can read any signals of a consumer’s mindset and objectives and act on those signals will be the winners,” Lynch says. “Online shoppers who have the time and willingness to engage deeper should be offered relevant features and content. But for the shopper who is time challenged and knows exactly what they want, they need to be offered a direct path to purchase without any extra noise.”
Lynch also notes that a strong customer experience relationship has many entry points, routes within, and worthwhile destinations. Even from the purchase point, the customer could still go on to become a brand advocate, a frequent customer, or even a member of the brand’s team.
“Focusing only on the path to purchase takes away from crucial moments to create a holistic 1-to-1 experience with your customers so that they become lifelong advocates,” Lynch says.
With many brands threatening to shut down free returns in 2023 and consumers saying they plan to spend less in the coming year, Lynch says it’s anyone’s guess what the future has in store. Regardless, brands still have many opportunities to grow their relationships with their customers this season — regardless of what the economic forecasts might indicate.
“We are all tired of doom and gloom. Even with the economy as it is, consumers are willing to spend money and are more likely to turn to the brands that can provide a much-needed and well-deserved moment of joy and happiness,” Lynch says. “The brands that can provide a personalized experience will further engage and retain loyal customers beyond this holiday season.”