The holiday season that was once a weeks-long sprint has become a marathon for brands that spans all of Q4. At first, the timeline was expanded to compete with massive spending opportunities, but it is now a necessity for retailers due to many logistical hurdles. It’s important to start early in your preparation and promotion to determine what customers need from you and then follow through for them.
Why customer-centric experiences are important
To be candid, there is too much competition during the holiday season – and throughout the year – for retailers to ignore customer needs. Previously, brands told consumers what products to buy, where to buy them, and when. But in the last few years, customers have become less loyal to brands out of necessity for budget and time restraints, and because it’s easier to find a new brand than ever before. The best thing you can do as a brand is develop a holiday approach that is centered around what products consumers want to buy, how they want to buy them, and on what platforms they want those products to be available.
Where to start
Flipping your brand experience to center around customer needs is a heavy lift, but you can also start small this holiday season if you are in the beginning phases of building a customer-centric approach with these two tips.
1. Plan for KPIs the entire quarter – While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are still the biggest shopping days of the holiday season, it would be nearsighted to only measure success based on that week given that the holiday season now stretches from October to December. When you set benchmarks for the holidays, plan for KPIs at different milestones throughout the holiday season instead of one spike in November. This will help you not only measure success for the entire season, but can also offer insights if a pivot is needed due to unanticipated customer demands.
2. Cover the basics – What was once the new age of retail quickly became the foundation for brand experiences. Make sure you have curbside pickup; buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS); and other delivery methods covered. Consumers are also less likely to follow through with a transaction if you don’t have their payment preference available, so it’s best practice to offer as many payment options as possible to alleviate friction at this crucial point in the customer journey.
How to stand out
Once you establish your strategy for meeting current consumer demands, it’s time to make your brand stand out from the competition, and here are two ways you can do it.
1. Align your options to customers’ preferences – Options are key for offering experiences that your customers prefer, but you can’t offer everything under the sun overnight. You can tap into your first-party data to prioritize what is in high demand for your specific customers and their patterns of behavior – like how they prefer to pay and receive products. Don’t forget to segment by region and demographic to narrow down preferences even further to understand key factors (hello, inflation) for different audiences.
2. Consider your marketplace strategy – For the 2022 holiday season, the question isn’t whether to sell products on a marketplace, but how you integrate a marketplace strategy into your overarching plan. In order to maintain control over the customer relationship and avoid giving all your products away to third parties, consider what will go on a marketplace and what will be exclusive to your owned channels.
For more consumer insights, download our 2022 Holiday Preparation Playbook that has a consumer behavior fact sheet and more keys to success for the holiday season. For help implementing these holiday strategies, you can connect with the full-service Merkle team to establish a cohesive, cross-channel holiday strategy.