Tips for Nailing CX This Peak Season
This year has been one of uncertainty and disruption across the retail space, with many other headaches arising during peak season. As retailers decipher what to expect during this critical, late fourth quarter, there’s a million-dollar question hanging in the balance: With getting items to shelves still a pressing challenge, how does customer experience remain at the forefront of a retailer’s strategy?
Amid this period of ongoing inflation, labor shortages and supply chain delays, retailers will need to adopt a strategy focused on their CX and ways to streamline operations and shopper interactions.
Ensure Streamlined Experiences
There isn’t a holiday movie out there that doesn’t highlight the hustle and bustle of a store or shopping district during the season. This is with good reason — it's both accurate and relatable. Even in the era of e-commerce, in-store shopping hasn’t lost its luster or necessity for consumers. Nearly half (46 percent) of shoppers plan to head in-store this holiday season.
Whether it’s to get their hands on the latest toy, browse/search for that perfect gift, or even make a return/exchange, shoppers expect the same breezy experience they can get online. To make this happen, retailers should start by speeding up checkouts and return lines. An Omnico Group study showed that shoppers abandon a checkout line without making a purchase after just eight minutes of waiting, and 77 percent will not return. To avoid this fate, retailers need to plan early for extra employee training, ensuring team members have access to the right technologies and support to ensure they’re confident using them during mad rushes.
In addition, retailers should embrace options that allow shoppers to skip the checkout line entirely. While buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup gained popularity during the pandemic, they’re here to stay — one in three consumers say they want a BOPIS option this holiday season, and one in four say the same about curbside pickup. These options allow customers to shop at their leisure instead of fighting the crowds and pick up their purchases at a time most convenient to them.
Retailers have discovered that as consumers return to physical stores, they also want digital options to stay, with nearly 90 percent of consumers looking for a digitally enhanced shopping journey — whether engaging at home, via mobile or inside a physical location. This includes Gen Z shoppers, who don't exclusively prefer online or in-store shopping, as some might assume, but rather expect digital touches at every touchpoint. Unfortunately, only 13 percent of retailers describe themselves as “digital-first.”
While it may be too late to implement any significant digital initiatives for 2022, now is the perfect time to start looking at strategies for 2023. A few innovative options:
- Stepping up digital signage. This can be a great first step toward digitizing the in-store experience. Digital signage enables more nimble wayfinding and allows retailers to change messaging in a particular department easily or even for a specific item, allowing for flash sales or quick fixes in the event of product shortages or inconsistent pricing online vs. in-store.
- Bringing worlds together for shoppers. Shoppers aren’t interested in online exclusively, nor are they interested in in-store solely. They want their journey to connect the two experiences seamlessly. Now is an excellent time to map out your customer journey between different touchpoints — apps, websites, stores, parking lots, customer service — and ensure all points are woven together so that it feels like one shopping experience, not many. Shoppers want to get deals on social media, make purchases in apps, and pick up in-store without noticing they’ve gone between channels.
- Dipping a toe into interactive digital experiences. Some of the biggest retail powerhouses have incorporated this strategy to much success. Consider Chanel, which installed an augmented reality smart mirror in the changing rooms of its flagship stores thanks to a partnership with FarFetch. Working with a digital experience firm can help retailers discern what gadgets and tools can make their on-premise experience a must-see.
- Observe what's happening in your stores during the peak holiday shopping period. This may help point out some areas where there's an opportunity for digital to improve your shopper’s experience. Do shoppers wander trying to find the featured product or the location with loads of gifts for women? Digital can be deployed to help with navigation. Is it confusing for shoppers to distinguish between in-store checkout, BOPIS, and return/exchange areas? A combination of static and digital signage may be the way to help them “self-identify” the proper queue. Do your shoppers seem to need gifting inspiration? Digital signage can provide a way to present many thought starters to all shopper types for all gift recipients.
Full Steam Ahead
As consumer expectations grow for more streamlined, interactive shopping experiences, simply having product in stock is no longer good enough. Retail is entering an exciting time to experiment and learn. Whether that means elaborate, eye-catching displays in-store or simply a more streamlined checkout process, CX challenges now require a mix of answers — and the results will be on display this holiday season.
Lise Wilson is vice president, retail strategy at Miller Zell, a branded environment solutions company.
Related story: Strategic Store Design is Critical to Meet Anticipated Increases in Holiday Traffic
Lise Wilson is Vice President of Retail Strategy and Strategy & Account Director at Miller Zell, Inc., a leading full-service retail experience company.