The importance of being foundTo make sure you attract these customers on your online channels this holiday season, make sure you have a strong Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy for your website, and think social: post holiday deals and promotions on social media, and accompany them with high-quality images of your products to help increase engagement and improve your brand identity.
The holiday shopping experienceAlthough an adequate digital strategy is fundamental to be found, brick-and-mortar stores remain an important player – especially in the holiday season. For many people, going downtown or to the mall to buy holiday decorations and gifts is still an essential part of the holiday experience. And the real differentiator in physical stores is the shopping experience. Unfortunately, during the holiday season in particular it’s hard to give customers the relaxing and personalized service they expect. Increased customer traffic, temporary products and holiday staff can lead to confusion, dampening the shoppers’ mood and putting revenue at risk. And once you have aggravated a customer during the holiday rush, you may not be able to win her back later in the year. This could mean a huge blow to your revenue, as it is between four and ten times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. It’s therefore imperative to try to keep customers happy and relaxed when they step into your store this holiday season. Here are our 10 tips to help you create an in-store holiday experience that customers will want to come back for:
1. Give them spaceOverloaded and crowded corridors are one of the top reasons why customers dislike shopping during the holiday season. Make your store more welcoming by giving people enough room to browse and move about even if they are pushing a pram or carrying a full shopping basket.
2. Pay attentionWhy are people braving snow, wind and crowds to come into your physical store instead of shopping online from their sofa? For the service. You therefore have to make sure that your employees have time to dedicate to all your customers in need – never mind the holiday rush. Hire enough seasonal sales assistants, and train them to pay attention to cues and to put the customer’s needs first.
3. Make signalsWhere is the homeware section? Is this 20 percent off? Where can I find the ladies’ changing rooms? Clear signage in your store is fundamental: it decreases the level of frustration and impatience among customers, and by reducing the number of repeated questions it leaves sales associates free to serve customers who want to know about the products.
4. Let it flowUse your floor space wisely. Depending on what you sell and the size of your retail store, choose a layout that encourages browsing and impulse buying. Many sources online provide store managers with useful information on store layout and customer flow. Analyze your customers’ walking pattern, pay attention to whether products located in some areas sell less than others, and consider whether it would be worth shifting to a different layout, at least during the holiday craze.
5. Check it outQueues at checkout are perhaps one of the most frustrating experience when shopping at peak times. Speed up the queues by:
- Placing novelty and interesting merchandise where the queue forms, to keep people entertained while they wait.
- Using a POS system that performs well under stress.
- Using self-service and mobile POS.
6. Keep coolTense and snappy employees are the anathema of customer service. It’s easy to get stressed out when working in retail over the holidays. As a manager, you need to make sure you help reduce, rather than increase, your staff members’ stress levels. Keep the atmosphere light and diffuse difficult situations. The holiday season is long – help your employees stay friendly and patient throughout.
7. All the info, all the timeDoes this computer bag come in another color? Do you still have the pro version of these? It’s easy to get flushed during the holiday rush as more and more customers enter the store with a precise idea of what they are looking for – and no time to waste. Tech can help. Equip your employees with a mobile Point of Sale which they can use to look up items specs and availability, immediately.
8. Play it againBackground music can help keep your customers (and staff) relaxed and jolly, even if there are queues at the till. Play seasonal music to create a holiday atmosphere; for your staff members’ sake, however, make sure to alternate Christmas music with non-seasonal songs, and don’t keep the volume too high.
9. Don’t be messyImagine entering a fashion store to do some gift-shopping, and finding this: items everywhere, shirts unfolded, t-shirts strewn on the floor, a child stepping on a brand-new jacket – which, at this point, looks as tired and used as a second-hand one. This is, unfortunately, not an uncommon scenario during the holiday rush. And what can a customer do in these conditions? There’s no way they’ll find the right product, let alone the correct size. And it’s unlikely they will want to pay full price for items that already look worn and tired. Frustrated, they will probably leave. To prevent the risk of your store looking like a battlefield, and to make sure that customers entering your doors can find what they are looking for, hire extra staff to keep the aisles tidy and pleasant at all times.
10. Ship it and take it back
During the holidays, many people shop for gifts. This makes it especially important to offer extended return policies, allowing people to return their items past New Year’s Day, and favorable delivery conditions. if you run an omni-channel business, it is imperative to offer click and collect and to accept in-store returns for items that were bought on the e-commerce site: according to a UPS study, 60 percent of shoppers prefer to return items to a store – and once in store, 70 percent of them will make additional purchases. Even though e-commerce sales during the holiday season have been growing year after year, in-store shopping is still important to many consumers – for a large part of them it is, indeed, a part of a traditional holiday experience. Even brands that started as pure-play e-tailers have realized the importance of having a location where people can touch the products and be immersed in the brand culture, and started opening up physical stores. If you can provide shoppers with good service and a relaxed, pleasant atmosphere, you won’t have to worry about your sales this holiday season.