The season for holiday shopping is nearly upon us—only 38 days until Christmas! —and with it comes the peak shopping period for retailers across the country. To capitalize on the profit boom that has become an integral part of the season, brands will need to be on top of their customer experience game.
 
A new report from CFI Group and Radial emphasizes the need for convenient and efficient customer experience to meet sale expectations leading into Christmas and beyond.
 
According to the research, 2016 Holiday Retail Report, this year’s holiday shoppers are more than receptive to joining a loyalty program at their favorite retailers, but only when given the right incentive. Of the 500 randomly selected survey participants, 84 percent indicated that they generally would sign up for a loyalty program.
 
Drilling down further, however, reveals the motivation behind joining these programs: 93 percent of these same respondents say that “special promotions” are influential factors in their decisions to enroll. Among these factors were faster delivery (40 percent) and preferred treatment, which at only 37 percent may be less of a differentiating feature than companies may have prepared or hoped for.
 
These special promotions were also a factor for customers to join a brand’s online community, along with the ability to read reviews from other customers. These reviews have become an increasingly significant part of the purchasing process with 94 percent of survey participants grading these reviews at least “somewhat important” when making purchasing decisions.
 
This preference presents a clear opportunity for retailers to make these reviews available through a first-party hosting platform to stay top of mind for customers browsing products. Amazon and Walmart provide excellent examples of this, with both companies being among the first of what is now almost every online retailer offering product reviews directly on their sites, eliminating the need to visit third-party review aggregators.
 
As the holiday season creeps closer, retailers are gearing up for the most competitive dates on the calendar. Beginning in the wee hours of the morning following Thanksgiving, customer experience will be king, and stores both online and otherwise will be pulling out all the stops to win over loyal customers.

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