As online sales continue to soar, it is crucial to have a strong online presence and utilize the power of social media to attract customers to your online channels. However, it is equally important not to underestimate the significance of your physical store. In-person shopping remains an essential aspect of the holiday experience for many customers, whether they are exploring downtown or visiting malls to find holiday decorations and gifts.
Unfortunately, the holiday season presents unique challenges when it comes to providing customers with the personalized and relaxing service they expect. The combination of increased customer traffic, financial constraints, seasonal products, and temporary holiday staff can create confusion and dampen the overall shopping experience. This not only puts your revenue at risk but also jeopardizes your chances of retaining those customers in the long run.
Losing a customer during the holiday rush can have a significant impact on your revenue, considering that acquiring a new customer can be four to ten times more expensive than retaining an existing one. That's why it's essential to prioritize the happiness and relaxation of your customers when they step into your store this holiday season.
Here are our 8 tips to help you create an in-store holiday experience that customers will want to come back for again and again, no matter the time of the year:
1. Pay attention
Why do customers choose to brave the elements and visit your physical store instead of simply shopping online? The answer is simple: it's all about the service. That's why it's crucial to ensure that your employees have the time and resources to dedicate to each and every customer, even during the busy holiday rush. Fortunately, technology can be a game-changer in this regard. By transforming your POS terminal into a sales assistant, you can empower your store employees to provide a highly personalized experience. By providing your employees with the tools to check real-time stock availability and access customer shopping history, they can deliver a more efficient and personalized service. Imagine a customer walking into your store during the holiday rush, searching for a specific item that they purchased before but can't recall the name. Instead of frantically searching through aisles and feeling frustrated, your well-equipped employee can quickly access the customer's shopping history and find the exact product they are looking for. This not only saves time for the customer but also enhances their overall shopping experience. They will feel valued and appreciated, knowing that your store goes the extra mile to cater to their needs.
2. Give them space
Make the most of your floor space by strategically organizing it. Avoid overcrowded and congested areas, as they are a major turnoff for customers during the holiday season. Depending on the nature of your products and the size of your retail store, create a welcoming environment that allows people to move around freely, especially if they have a cart or a full shopping basket. Consider a layout that encourages browsing and impulse buying. Study your customers' walking patterns, observe which areas have lower sales than others, and assess whether it would be beneficial to rearrange the layout, even temporarily, during the holiday frenzy.
3. Communicate where things are
Ensure your customers can easily navigate your store by providing clear and informative signage. By guiding them to the homeware section, highlighting current discounts, and directing them to the ladies' changing rooms, you reduce frustration and impatience. This not only improves the overall shopping experience but also allows your sales associates to focus on serving customers who are interested in learning more about your products.
4. Maintain a tidy store
Picture this: you step into a fashionable store, ready to find the perfect gifts, but instead, you're greeted by a chaotic scene. Clothes are scattered everywhere, with shirts unfolded and t-shirts strewn across the floor. Even worse, you witness a child accidentally stepping on a brand-new jacket, which now looks as worn and neglected as a second-hand item. Sadly, this disarray is all too common during the holiday rush. In such conditions, customers have no hope of finding the right product, let alone the correct size. They certainly won't be willing to pay full price for items that appear worn and tired. Frustrated, they may choose to leave. To avoid your store resembling a battlefield and ensure that customers can easily find what they're looking for, it's crucial to hire extra staff who can keep the aisles tidy and pleasant at all times.
5. Simplify the checkout process
Long queues at the checkout can be incredibly frustrating, especially during peak shopping times. To speed up the process and improve the overall customer experience, consider the following strategies:
- Create an engaging queue area by placing novelty and interesting merchandise nearby. This will keep customers entertained while they wait.
- Invest in a reliable POS system that can handle high volumes of transactions, both online and offline. This way, you can continue to serve customers and process sales even if your internet connection goes down.
- Bring the register to the customer with mobile POS capabilities. Your staff can access product information, scan items, complete transactions, accept payments, and print receipts anywhere in the store, including outside the premises. This eliminates the need for customers to wait in line at a central register.
- Consider implementing self-service kiosks or ScanPayGo technology. These allow customers to scan and pay for items themselves using their personal mobile devices or provided handsets. While this technology is commonly seen in grocery stores, there is no reason why retailers in other sectors shouldn't take advantage of it.
- Offer convenient options such as click and collect or curbside pickup. These services are in high demand among shoppers as they bridge the gap between online and physical retail. They are highly convenient and, when necessary, can be contactless.
6. Stay informed, always
Have you ever had a customer ask if a computer bag comes in a different color or if you still have the pro version of a product? It can be overwhelming trying to keep up with the demands of customers during the holiday rush, especially when they have specific items in mind and no time to waste. That's where having the right technology becomes crucial in supporting and boosting sales. Unfortunately, many retailers still rely on outdated IT systems that can't properly sync information, are difficult and expensive to maintain, and fail to meet the demands of consumers. This not only poses a risk to your business but can also lead to significant costs, especially during peak season. To ensure smooth operations during the holidays, consider investing in a unified software solution that runs your business on a single platform. This will provide you with a clear overview of your business in real-time, allowing you to analyze data and gain valuable insights into what products you're selling and how much. With this data, you can make informed decisions and stay on top of things without any uncertainty.
7. Make it easy to ship and return
With the multitude of gifts purchased during the holiday season, it's inevitable that some may not be the perfect fit. That's why offering extended return policies is crucial. Allow customers to return items past New Year's Day, and make sure the return process is convenient and hassle-free. If you have an omni-channel business, accepting in-store returns for items purchased online is essential for your overall strategy. In fact, according to a UPS study, 60 percent of shoppers prefer returning items to a physical store. And once they're in the store, 70 percent of them are likely to make additional purchases. So, prioritize making the shipping and return process as seamless as possible to keep your customers happy and coming back for more.
8. Maintain a calm and collected atmosphere
During the holiday rush, it's not uncommon for your employees to feel tense or overwhelmed. Working in retail during this time of year can be incredibly stressful. However, as a manager, it's your responsibility to help alleviate, rather than add to, the pressure that your staff may be feeling. Create a light and positive atmosphere that diffuses difficult situations. Remember, the holiday season is long, so it's important to help your employees stay friendly and patient throughout. Implementing reliable software that supports your staff, from managing vacation requests to tracking work hours and making last-minute schedule changes, can not only boost your employees' productivity but also ensure that they are satisfied with their workload.