Here they come - the holidays! With BFCM first on deck, the next 6 weeks are one of the craziest and most hectic times of year for consumers and retailers alike. While the 2020 holiday season will certainly look different as a result of new COVID restrictions, that doesn't change the reality the customers will still be buying gifts and the holidays are an opportunity to both retain current customers and acquire new ones.
While the typical holiday strategy revolves around discounting and promotions, we recently heard from retail leaders that this approach may not yield the results the industry is expecting. Instead, we encourage retailers to focus on standing out by offering new, innovative, and relevant services that can help customers feel confident not just about what they are purchasing, but also how.
9 Services Worth Offering during the Holidays
Give your customers the service they deserve, no matter how they choose to shop this holiday season.
Virtual Shopping Assistance
More customers will be doing their holiday shopping online than ever before, so it's important to make that experience is pleasant and efficient as possible. One key strategy is to offer the same level of personal service online that customers are used to receiving in-store. There are tons of ways to offer service through your e-commerce site, including over livechat or through virtual appointments. Despite all the convenience of e-commerce, the downside is that it does not allow customers the opportunity to touch, feel, try, or (where relevant) smell. Therefore you should make sure to put an extra emphasis on how you can give customers the confidence to purchase without these sensory resources for them to rely on.
We've written about BOPIS before, but especially with important deadlines like Christmas, offering Buy Online Pick Up In-Store can be even more critical to your audience. BOPIS continues to grow in popularity during the COVID era, so especially during the holidays giving customers a speedy and potentially cost-saving way to receive their purchases can set your business apart. The benefit to you as a retailer is that you can use BOPIS to better predict and control when customers will be visiting your store, and use that traffic as a way to up-sell and cross-sell the customer based on what he or she are purchasing. If your store is going to be open during the holidays, you can also consider adding an extra incentive such as a free gift with customers' order if they visit you in-person to retrieve it.
Curbside Pickup is like BOPIS's even more COVID-friendly cousin, giving customers the option to stay in their car or stand outside your store and still fulfill their orders at a location rather than through delivery. Curbside pick-up also creates an opportunity to put your store on customer's radar, and start a conversation with them that can lead to more purchases in the future.
For those customers who want it all and want it now, there's also the option of same-day delivery. Through apps like SHIPSI, you can offer your customers their items the same day they order them without any additional cost to you! Don't underestimate customers' willingness to pay for convenience, especially around the holidays.
With consumers extra conscious about their health and safety this season, offering contactless payment is a great way to give them the confidence they may need to bring them in-store. These methods are considered more sanitary because they do not require customers to actually swipe their card into a machine or hard their card to someone else. Contactless payments overall have become more popular over time, with many buy-now-pay-later companies like Afterpay and Quadpay also introducing POS versions of their apps so that customers can take advantage of their services when shopping in-person. Most credit cards now offer the NFC technology that enable tap-to-pay technology; other options include mobile wallets or mobile payments apps like Apple Pay. Payment isn't the only thing going contactless at stores though; you should also consider how you can take advantage ofQR codes and other digital displays so that customers aren't required to constantly handle your merchandise.
Gift wrapping has always been a big part of holiday season, but it can be a hassle. Whether you're operating online or offline, offering this service and other similar gift-focused logistics including a "from" note and proper return receipt as part of customers' order options results in an excellent and low-maintenance gift-giving experience. High-end e-tailers like Net-a-Porter have this process down pat, but it's less common among smaller brands. If you're focused on gifting as a particular marketing strategy, these are services to help set you apart.
Extended Return Windows
Many retailers have already extended return windows during COVID given the challenges posed by full shut-down and limited operations and many also honor extended windows during the holidays. It should come as no surprise that this year calls for even more understanding for customers who need to make returns. You should also ensure that your return periods are the same across all channels - the last thing you want is a customer caught off guard when she can't make a return in-store. Overall 2020 is the year to be gracious and prioritize the loyalty that can come from accommodating customers over holding onto a sale.
Personalized Gift Guides
My inbox is totally flooded with gift guides! Don't get me wrong, I love a good gift guide, but they are less impactful when they have items that are not relevant to me. Instead, consider making a personalized gift guide for your top customers, highlighting the products that you know will be good fits for them and their loved ones. Endear's lookbooks make assembling a personalized gift guide quick and easy, so that you can make all your customers feel like VIP's.
Text Messaging Hot Line
SMS is booming, there's no doubt about that! But often the focus is too much on brands pushing content to customers, instead of giving customers a way to reach out to them. A text message "hot line" is a strong way to encourage customers to initiate the conversation with a topic they want to talk about. You can read about a great example in the skincare category here, but overall a hotline can work for any brand. Another key aspect of this strategy is to focus on where you can lend true expertise instead of using it as a product push strategy. For example, it can be a great channel for sharing new content you've created or tips on how to wear or use your products. Make sure that however you decide to use your hotline, you're also taking time to inform your customers that it exists by sharing details on your website, social media, and through any other marketing channels you have available.