This year, retailers will need to capture the imagination of consumers as they consider the holiday season like no other. Immersive online experiences that are beautiful, personal, innovative and value driven will rule the season across every price point.
To deliver a digital customer experience that's memorable and engaging for the 2020 holiday season, most retailers should explore and prepare for the following actions right now:
1. Create an online customer journey that's efficient, but highly personal, insight-driven or purpose-led.
That means upgrading photography, increasing available live chat, and artificial intelligence (AI) investments that allow consumers to get to smart recommendations quickly as well as highlight a strong brand point of view. For example, use purchase history to create a beautiful, immersive, personal must-have themed list with a connected list of TikTok- or Instagram-related content. Or offer a specialized set of experiences that are crafted around a set of product offerings — e.g., a great hiking experience with the products that make it extra special!
2. Consider product assortment that create ties to community or localization.
Right now, isolation from familiar local rituals is challenging a sense of connection. Local product partnerships, local online pop-ups, and products or services that support local craftsmen will be extra desirable. Also, shareable products like wine tasting kits, art classes and online fitness programs will all be important as the trend of being “apart together” continues. I love a local bar that's offering a cocktail making class on Zoom with a kit for purchase or a local dance studio that's offering an online virtual small group class for adults — with a great after-class happy hour on Zoom!
3. Drive innovation for in-person experiences.
If retailers intend to capture consumers in a physical experience, it will be critical to offer rich, joyful, unusual opportunities for entertainment retail. Safety will continue to be important, but consumers will be looking for surprise, delight and experiential moments that inform a purchase. I personally find Zoom consults or in-person private shopping appointments to be a snooze. I want to be wowed by your deep insight of my preferences. I recently had a hotel call me with a lovely personal invitation to a customized Vodka tasting based on its knowledge of my preferences, an outdoor spa massage, and a private surf lesson with a local pro — all based on my search history, and all delivered within 30 minutes of my initial online search. This was a curated experience to create a memorable stay just for me. That was the extra mile that I wanted!
Above all, now is the time for retailers to tap into consumer sentiment that's focused on community, connection, shareable products and services that have a strong call to action. If planning in-person shopping, wildly creative and immersive experiences will be essential to standing out and growing consumer brand loyalty during the holiday shopping season and beyond.
Antonia Hock is the global head of The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, a consulting and advisory firm helping organizations create exceptional employee and customer experience since 1999.