Every year something exciting happens. We imagine ourselves millionaires and want to spend hours browsing retail shelves in a search for that perfect gift for a loved one. Tis the season. For business owners this period is marked by incessant anxiety and frustration. There are way too many things to deal with! Worse even, customers are jumping ships and flee to your competitors because you happened to have missed some valuable insights about customer preferences.
But fear not. Thankfully, there is a plethora of information and research online that reveals the needs and wants of customers.
Based on the forecast for this year, the holiday retail season will be a blast. US consumers are planning to spend between 3.5 - 4.5% more than they did in 2016
. Sounds like good news, doesn’t it?
But let’s look at all the data to get a comprehensive picture:
How the US Consumers plan to shop this season
Online sales will increase 12.2% this season compared to the previous year according to a forecast from Forrester Research
Inc. Yet another research
points out that 82% of shoppers plan to buy gifts online.
While this might seem like a positive trend for e-commerce stores, there is another insight you should be aware of. Fully three-quarters of all holiday shoppers expect to buy from Amazon. So even though online sales are expected to rise, the large chunk of it will be taken by Amazon.
Shoppers are expected to buy online to avoid holiday crowds and at retail stores when the need for trying or touching of the product is too high.
Another interesting trend revealed by Forrester is the consumers’ tendency to procrastinate. This year shoppers are expected to wait even longer before making their purchases, meaning that expedited shipping and in-store pickups will be most valuable from a customer perspective.
You probably already have a Holiday plan in place, but it is worth revisiting it to see if it is aligned with these recent research. Here are some more suggestion based on the research findings:
Tips to increase sales during holiday season
1. Get an online store
If you haven’t yet tapped into the power of digital, get on the bandwagon now. Even though people still need to touch and feel the products before they buy them, the holiday season is about giving to others which means that generic products will be favored over personalized items.
2. Review your product assortment
Consumer mindsets change drastically once the trees change their colors. While consumers strive to stay mindful of their finances in the early fall, they start throwing money on lavish gifts and unnecessary items as the holiday season approaches. And they hope to present those purchases as gifts to some distant relatives or friends. People start buying and sometimes their choice isn’t the most thoughtful one.
This is the time to review your assortment and dig out those expensive accessories and pricey toys. The more decorative, creative and pretty your product offerings are the more sales you can expect to generate.
3. Incorporate recommendation feature into your website
According to the Forrester, 64% of online shoppers like to see recommendations or suggested products while they shop. This trend is reinforced by the dire state of information overload that we’re in. It is simply impossible to find the right product among millions of identical products!
Add recommendation functionality to your website and make use of the collected data to decipher customer preferences. You can also allow users to like and save their favourite items. On the media buying front, avoid showing ads to customers who already bought your product.
4. Offer expedited shipping and pick-up in store
Consider offering free delivery to early buyers, since free delivery ranked high as a consideration factor in the surveys.
Additional services are not the first consideration for holiday shoppers. Still, some nice add-ons can greatly improve customer experience and give you a competitive advantage. As mentioned earlier, an increased number of customers are postponing holiday shopping, so services that ensure guaranteed delivery will be much appreciated.
5. Improve customer support
When the rush of holiday shopping gets out of control, it’s important to remain calm and provide a high level of customer service. There is added stress around holiday shopping, so people are less likely to tolerate bad customer support. Of all the respondents surveyed by the Forrester, 68% of online consumers expect the brands to answer within a day and 26% want to receive a response in a 2-hour time frame.
This puts an enormous pressure on business owners. Streamline your customer service processes and seek latest technological solutions, such as omni channel CRMs and chatbots, to cater to your customer needs.
6. Upd ate your marketing communications across all channels
Align all imagery and marketing materials with the holiday theme. Holiday theme puts customers into a buying mode. Most customers also have a mental budget of how much they are going to spend this holiday season. So put out your holiday merchandise as early as possible and start creating an atmosphere of joyous celebration online.
You have to keep a subtle balance here. Don’t make a mistake of putting out holiday merchandise too early. US customers are inundated by holiday messages all year around. As a result, they are very sensitive to overly salesy tactics.
7. Optimize mobile experiences
According to Adobe Digital Insights
mobile visits have risen by 33% compared to the last year. People are willing to try mobile shopping experiences though these attempts rarely go smoothly. If you have the technological prowess, streamline and speed up mobile check out processes.
During the holiday season, everyone is pressed for time, and people are willing to buy products from their mobile devices. Make sure your buttons and text fields are big enough to type in from the smartphone and offer different payment methods including digital wallets for fast checkout.
Some people argue that having access to the immense amount of data should eliminate the need for holiday promotions. Nowadays companies can tailor their offerings to concrete customer needs regardless of the time of the year.
But holidays are centered around the idea of gift giving, and while data provides a complete picture of personal preferences and behavior, it still doesn’t tell much about the person’s relationships with other people. Holiday promotions are here to stay until AI acquires some hyper-empathy skills.