Holiday shopping season isn’t on the horizon … it’s here. In fact, some stores began launching holiday deals as early as October. And while consumers are seemingly ready and willing to buy, customer experience can make or break peak season for any retailer.
Almost every shopper coming through your doors or visiting your website is seeking a smooth, hassle-free experience. Yet holiday shopping historically has been full of friction, from frustratingly long lines to out-of-stock products. Therefore, it’s more important now than ever to be mindful of the technology you turn to.
Let’s explore a few ways retailers can effectively use technology to create a better shopping experience this holiday season and beyond.
Make it Mobile
Mobile phones, as once predicted, haven't sent brick-and-mortar retail to the graveyard. Rather, smartphone-toting consumers use them in stores to access in-app discounts or coupons, look up product information, gain loyalty credits, and more.
According to this year’s Cox Consumer Pulse study, six out of 10 shoppers reported that personalized, real-time discounts delivered to their mobile phone would most improve the in-store shopping experience. This even topped artificial intelligence-enabled payments (e.g., Amazon Go) and augmented reality for virtual product testing.
Along with personalized in-store mobile deals, consumers are taking notice of their inboxes, too. Seventy-seven percent of surveyed consumers prefer keeping up with their go-to shops’ latest offerings and specials through email, despite the rise in social media. In fact, even shoppers between 18 and 29 years old preferred email over Facebook and Instagram.
While email is a surefire means to reach customers, ensure that your messages are customized and offer value to the recipient.
Focus on Friction Free
Reducing friction might very well be the new path to achieving customer loyalty. Consumers won’t stand for long lines, and if a much-wanted item is out of stock, they’re likely to shop elsewhere.
Since busy schedules make holiday shopping tough, it’s critical that retailers prioritize using technology to facilitate frictionless shopping experiences. When looking for a frictionless role model, businesses can look to Walmart. Forty-two percent of shoppers reported Walmart had the most frictionless experience across e-commerce and in-store, rising above Target, Nordstrom and Best Buy, among others.
A sampling of the tech mix at the world’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer includes autonomous checkouts, site-to-store pickup options, and self-service lockers focused on reducing friction and improving the experience. Of course, not every store can scale innovation similarly off the bat. However, knowing what works at large can be a great place to start when considering what’s feasible for your brand.
Turn to the Right Tech
There are tech initiatives both small and large that can help improve your performance and delivery of customer service this holiday season. That said, it’s critical that retailers understand the impact technology has on their customers’ in-store and online experiences.
Before rolling out new solutions or initiatives, the most important thing to consider is whether it will truly resonate with your shoppers. You can uncover this by doing your research to sift through the flashy tech and find effective solutions, testing them out on a smaller scale and iterating the technology over a period of time.
By considering the customer experience at every step of your tech journey, your business is sure to leave customers shopping merry and bright during peak season.
Murray Goldstein is the executive director, marketing at Cox Business, the commercial division of Cox Communications, which provides voice, data and video services for more than 355,000 small and regional businesses nationwide.
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