The Holiday Season - No Better Time to Walk in your Customer's Shoes!

By Jason Hunt, SVP & Digital Lead, Avanade

The holiday shopping season is upon us. As online retailers continue to steal attention and revenue from brick and mortar stores, in-store retailers across the country are looking for new ways to leverage technology to maximize consumer interest in their brands and increase foot traffic. Of course, the ubiquity of mobile devices means getting people through the door is no longer good enough, as many connected customers are happy to cross-shop online while browsing the racks, constantly weighing their options and comparing prices before making a purchase. However, it’s crucial to note that price isn’t the only factor shoppers are taking into consideration. More than ever, technology has provided personalized online experiences that go beyond price and convenience, leaving traditional retailers struggling to take advantage of the holiday rush.

While this kind of personalization seems impossible to replicate in stores, the right digital strategy can help boost traffic, build loyalty and increase revenue.

Building a Seamless Online/Offline Experience

Smart shoppers expect to receive the same level of service from a brick and mortar store as they would get while shopping online. Attempts to replicate the experience and quality of a major online retailer like Amazon, is where many retailers go wrong. They divert resources and attention away from their stores, creating the kind of imbalance that customers recognize and avoid. Instead, retailers should be complementing the online experience, focusing on the human experience, thereby giving the customer a holistic and delightful shopping experience.

Enabling and Empowering Employees

If retailers want to offer a customer experience on par with what’s available online, they should be looking at this experience in totality, starting with the person providing it. Employees must be enabled with tools that make them feel as smart as an online algorithm, which can be achieved using a combination of CRM, mobile and IoT technologies that track a visitor from the moment they enter the store. If the data identifies a loyal high value customer, employees should be empowered with the right business processes that allow them to act in the best interest of the customer and the company. This could mean empowering managers to offer incentives or discounts to close a sale. , At Avanade, we see a trend where companies are realizing that to provide a good customer experience, they need to invest in providing a great employee experience. Employees can provide a great customer experience when they have access to data, through devices like tablets and mobiles, which empower them to make decisions and act in the best interest of the customer. When you give your employees the digital tools they need to be successful, they’ll be more satisfied, more motivated and ultimately more productive.

Creating Experiences that Go Beyond the Price

The simple truth is that it’s very difficult for brick and mortar retailers to compete with the online giants when it comes to price. However, research has shown that consumers are willing to pay a premium-within reason-if it comes with a great in-store experience. This can be achieved with the strategies outlined above, beginning with arming employees with the right technologies to combine the convenience of online shopping with the human connection of face-to-face interactions. The stores that survive will be the ones that invest in building these connections and cultivating lasting brand loyalty.

While it may be too late to implement a digital boost to your sales processes for this holiday season, there is no better time that now to begin building a strategy for next year. Some tips for making the most of all the activity during the holiday season:

1. There’s Always Data to Analyze - There are many pieces that go into building a superior customer experience so ensure that you are capturing all the data you can during this time. And, don’t wait until after December to analyze data - visit your stores and talk to your employees now to see if they have suggestions for improving productivity during these busy weeks.

2. Walk in Your customer’s Shoes– There’s no time like the holidays to watch the way customers shop - the pressure is on and chances are that you will see the best and worst behaviours during this time. Better yet, become a customer yourself, re-engage with your brand and look for ways to improve. You might discover actions that can be taken immediately to deliver a better experience.

3. Ensure Your Store Information is Up to Date - This is the time when people look at stock availability, opening hours, store locations, data on busy times, etc. Ensure you are providing relevant and accurate data – it goes a long way in increasing in-store foot traffic.

Sometimes, all it takes are some small tweaks to have a huge impact on your ROI.

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