This year has been full of challenges for retailers, but peak season is upon us and now is no time to stop impressing! Customer experience can make or break Christmas shopping and with it being a little different this year, planning is essential to create a faultless, enjoyable and festive experience for customers.
Balancing consumers’ demands and desires with the rules and keeping everyone safe is no easy feat, but no matter what size your business is, you are still able to enjoy a successful holiday season. Here’s how.
- Prepare early
Even in the usual buildup to Christmas, it can be a rush to get everything done in time. Early planning is vital in ensuring you are able to stock desirable products, as well as being able to market these with plenty of time.
Supply chains may experience delays, staff numbers may be reduced and budget may be tight, so get started as soon as possible and create a contingency plan in case you experience unexpected challenges.
- Hygiene first
One of the factors that will play a major role in making customers feel comfortable is hygiene. Place hand sanitiser at entrances and throughout stores, considering those that are operated automatically to reduce the need to touch dispensers. Clearly signpost sanitiser stations and promote your cleaning routines to make customers feel at ease.
- Prepare for queues
We all know how busy Christmas shopping can get. With reduced capacity instore, consider making the queueing experience as pleasant as possible, creating covered or heated areas to keep customers comfortable while they wait. Clearly mark areas to stand, making sure social distancing is followed in line with regulations.
- Get organised online
Make sure you are able to clearly communicate your messaging across all online platforms. For some stores, this may be through email newsletters, Google Local Business listings or a website update, while others may look to create an entire online store to meet consumer demand.
- Think about collection methods
If customers are able to purchase online, consider whether you are offering delivery, or if click and collect is something you could benefit from. As retailers look to reduce the number of customers instore, it can be worth having a nearby click and collect location, to offer another convenient method of receiving their order.
- Buy intelligently
Before purchasing, take time to look at the demand for specific products. It won’t be easy to predict the amount of stock to purchase ahead of time, however understanding supply chains and knowing lead times is the safest way to understand your ability to purchase higher volumes of stock. For some retailers that are struggling with cash flow, it can be beneficial to allow customers to buy products instore and have it delivered to their home when it comes into stock. Again, this is where delivery and collection options come into action.
- Demand forecasting
Being able to accurately predict demand will play a large part in making this Christmas period profitable in retail. With adapting consumer preferences and plenty of unpredictability, having the ability to carry out demand forecasting quickly will be essential this year.
There are many changes instore and online this Christmas and the best way to keep customers happy is to communicate effectively. Explain your new policies and measures, as well as the benefits they bring, adding personality into your communications where possible. Transparent and clear communication, whether it’s about potential delivery times, one-way systems, queueing or any other information, is the best way to make customers feel valued in these unprecedented times.
- Reconsider layout
Traditionally, Christmas shoppers like to wander around stores, browsing for gift ideas and inspiration. This usually leads retailers to place many of the best items deep within the shop, encouraging people to explore. However, this year, retailers may look to put best-selling items closer to the doors and tills so people can make their purchases quickly and leave, freeing up space instore. Move furniture as required to allow plenty of space between shoppers, finding the perfect balance between safety and experience.
- Reconsider opening hours
Many retailers are opting to extend opening hours, allowing customers to visit earlier or later than usual in a bid to reduce crowding and create more of a relaxed, enjoyable environment. Extended opening hours can be a fantastic way to attract more cautious shoppers, as well as giving you a competitive edge against other retailers.
- Train staff
Make sure all staff are fully trained on their responsibilities, including any health and safety or cleaning processes that may now be required. It can even be worth splitting responsibilities up, so some are responsible for sales while others are responsible solely for hygiene-related tasks.
These considerations will help you to plan a very merry Christmas for customers and staff alike, making it enjoyable, fun and festive!