While many retailers are shying away from early Christmas creep (some more effectively than others), the holiday shopping season is in full swing, with U.S. ecommerce sales expected to see gains of 16.6 percent this holiday season.
And while retailers can expect the traditional in-store shopping crowds, many shoppers will skip the long holiday lines by shopping across many channels: directly with retailers and brands through desktop websites, mobile apps and on third-party marketplaces like Amazon. Since shoppers expect top-notch, seamless experiences across channels, brands and retailers must deliver to gain a competitive edge.
Astound Commerce Insights surveyed 1,000 frequent shoppers (and smartphone owners) in the Competing for Customers: Holiday and Beyond report, to understand trends and consumer preferences that can guide retail strategies this holiday season and throughout 2018. Check out the highlights below:
Be Mindful of the Great and Powerful Amazon
There’s no denying that Amazon has changed the retail landscape, which has vast implications for the holiday season. In fact, seven in 10 online shoppers report that they will make at least 26 percent or more of their purchases on Amazon, while 40 percent intend to make more than half.
Brands and retailers can still redeem themselves, though — especially if they take a cue from Amazon. Price match policies, free and fast shipping and a more curated assortment are all factors that lure customers to Amazon. This means not only providing customers with the products they want, but also improving logistics to match the convenience customers have come to expect thanks to Amazon.
Step Up Your Social Strategy
Half of U.S. online shoppers have made purchases due to social media engagement, with six out of 10 millennials reporting the same. And 26 percent of online shoppers expect to use social channels to purchase this holiday season. When asked what social elements were most important, the following options ranked highest:
- Product referrals from friends via social channels (37 percent)
- Looking for gift ideas on social media sites like Pinterest (31 percent)
- Discovering products via social channels (31 percent)
Brands and retailers need to make products discoverable and easily shareable across popular social channels as consumers increasingly use them to inform purchase decisions.
Prioritize Flexibility in Customer Service
The holiday season can be stressful for shoppers, which creates an opportunity for brands and retailers to deliver memorable experiences by providing excellent customer service. That requires a multi-touchpoint customer service model so shoppers can receive answers to questions and solutions to problems whenever is convenient for them.
Our survey indicated that consumers expect a variety of customer services options, with shoppers reporting that they sometimes or often use the following channels for customer service during the holiday season:
- Email (74 percent)
- Q & A (73 percent) and Onsite FAQs (71 percent)
- Via the retailer’s app (70 percent)
- Call center (67 percent)
- Live chat (66 percent)
Given the diversity of customer service models expected by shoppers, brands and retailers need to invest in more flexible, robust programs that can diminish holiday shopping stress.
By mastering the retail holiday experience, brands and retailers can not only capitalize on a busy shopping season, but also inspire loyalty in customers who will return throughout the year. To learn more about our research, download Competing for Customers: Holiday and Beyond.