This Thanksgiving holiday, 173 million Americans went shopping. They spent nearly $8 billion online on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, and another $6.6 billion on Cyber Monday, up about 18 percent from the same time last year, according to Adobe. Most impressive is that 54 percent of online shoppers used a mobile device to make a purchase, and this may be the first holiday shopping season where online sales hit $100 billion.
It’s no surprise that significantly more people prefer to shop digitally this year. It’s convenient and often simple. Online retailers, consumer direct companies and marketplaces pull out the stops, demonstrating their digital brand and demand gen sophistication during the holidays. What is surprising, however, is that brick-and-mortar stores also saw an impressive amount of foot traffic. According to the ShopperTrak, store traffic on Black Friday fell less than 1.6 percent, due in part to many retailers’ decisions to remain closed on Thanksgiving Day. The uptick in online shopping did little to impact retail store visits.
Overall, the National Retail Federation (NRF) reported that more than 64 million consumers shopped both online and in stores. It also noted that multichannel shoppers spent $82 more on average than the online-only shoppers, and $49 more than in-store shopper.
The bottom line is that shoppers are using all the channels, to the benefit of both customers and companies. This week’s news is a wakeup call that omnichannel excellence isn’t a nice-to-have option for businesses, retail or otherwise. It’s the only path forward. Not being able to serve customers in the channels in they prefer is a one-way ticket to the naughty list, and possibly out of business.
The Thanksgiving shopping statistics zero in on the sales and marketing experience. Companies that operate in those areas should be happy that they’ve gotten e-commerce essentially “right.” Online websites and mobile apps work pretty well. Consumers are comfortable with the technology and the purchase process. But companies should not be content to stop at the point of sale.
Customer experience encompasses the entire end-to-end journey, much of which happens after the revenue has been recognized. Of course sales numbers matter, but there is a gaping hole in too many companies when it comes to thinking strategically about post-sales processes and interactions. Fulfillment, supply chain, customer service, and retention/loyalty activities are too often neglected as companies pursue only the sale.
Yet consumers often make purchase decisions based on post-sale features. Flexible shipping options are a top priority for 50 percent of customers and easy returns are most important for 36 percent, according to the NRF. And their comfort with digital channels extends past the point of purchase, as well. A truly omnichannel customer experience takes into account pre- and post-sales interactions across the business.
Omnichannel buying experiences include pre- and post-sale services, and customers have high expectations for satisfaction everywhere. How companies treat their customers in the last mile of service experience continues to vary widely, yet it is becoming the battle ground where brands will win or lose.
6 tips to power CX this holiday season
During the holiday season, our clients in nearly all industries see a jump in support interactions. And this year, more customers will go online for customer service help. For each of our retail clients in particular, we will support more than 1 million digital customer interactions between now and January.
We’re in the trenches hearing from customers and associates every day about what makes a good experience after the sale. Here are some essential tips for we’ve learned that help make the holiday season jolly with a holistic, end-to-end customer experience in all channels.
1.Help customers help themselves. Add deadlines and other tips to help customers plan and understand the details of the purchase and post-purchase process. Optimize information to be clear, concise, and descriptive in places like contact center IVR messages, chatbots, website self-service options, FAQs, contact information, website home page, and associate scripts. Enable artificial intelligence and machine learning for simple interactions.
2.Promote robust omnichannel capabilities. Tout when you have amazing capabilities such buy online, pick up in store, flexible return options, mobile receipts, showroom services, or other features. Spread the word on your IVR, website, via social, and in your associate scripts.
3.Encourage customer-facing associates with a rewarding culture, joyful atmosphere, gamification, and incentives to act in the best interests of the customer. Even simple prizes/incentives/rewards should be in play throughout the season; especially for nonretailers who support the holiday season, such as credit providers who manage identity threats and delivery companies tasked with the last mile of service.
4.Empower associates to be trusted advisors and “converse as a concierge.” Provide personalized recommendations to customers to help them make the most of the company’s products and services.
5.Coach versus teach. Take a coaching approach with associates. At the busy holiday season, they need to learn and apply while “on the field,” and circumstances are fluid and unpredictable. Give them the skills to handle a multitude of situations, and the flexibility to situations themselves whenever possible.
6.Share insight with everyone. Every employee within the organization contributes to the customer experience. Marketing, sales, operations, supply chain, finance, and the executive team all hold key insights that can help the company in real time. Share as frequently as feasible front-line insight that could help improve customer interactions and experiences across the company
If Thanksgiving in any indicator, the retail sector is primed for a good holiday season. And you can bet that the same consumer behavior observed is found in other industries, as well. Lessons learned from the first five days of the holiday season can be applied to keep the positive momentum around customer experience through the New Year and beyond.
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