The holiday season is rapidly approaching, and with it a massive opportunity for retail brands.
After seeing a huge surge in e-commerce growth last year, retailers are poised to capitalize on a 7% boost in sales from November to December in 2021. This increase — the second-highest growth rate in 20 years — is forecasted to be driven by both in-store and online shopping.
So why do 79% of retailers say they don’t feel completely prepared for it?
If last year taught us anything, it’s that consumer behavior can change in the blink of an eye. While the aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic reverberate throughout the retail industry, brands must continue to adapt to significant changes to business as usual.
Fortunately, brands have a core corporate asset that can help them overcome potential obstacles this holiday season: their customer data.
Bridging the Online & In-Store Divide
There’s no denying that digital shopping will remain a cornerstone of retail moving forward.
Data shows there was a 15-30% increase in customers who made online purchases across most categories in 2020, and many consumers said they planned to continue doing so post-COVID-19.
With that said, not all of your customers feel the same way. Many people miss the experiential nature of brick-and-mortar shopping, and as vaccination rates increase, the demand for in-store experiences is rising. One study found that in-store visits had increased 28.5% during the first three months of 2021 — reaching a year-over-year increase of 12.5%.
Depending on your customer base, your physical locations may act more as micro-fulfillment centers — or “dark stores” — that serve online orders and in-person pickups. But with 43% of holiday shoppers planning to make purchases in physical locations this year, you may need to increase investment in showroom-type experiences that allow customers to touch and try on products with help from in-person sales associates.
By leveraging your customer data, you can embrace hybrid shopping and provide your customers the best of both worlds.
Turning Customer Intelligence Into Superior CX
Transforming digital- or physical-only shoppers into multi-channel customers offers plenty of rewards for retailers — including a 100% increase in average annual spend when compared to other repeat buyers.
But it brings its own challenges, as well.
From understanding customer preferences for in-store versus online shopping to planning inventory more precisely, brands need accurate, accessible and actionable customer insights.
And it’s not just marketers that require customer intelligence. Customer experience is a team sport, and every part of your organization should be powered by authenticated customer data.
Sales associates and customer service representatives require customer experience insights related to individual browsing and purchase histories to help them tailor shopping experiences. E-commerce and inventory management teams need predictive analytics to forecast the behaviors of different audience segments.
Different components of the customer experience fall under the purview of multiple teams. If these teams aren’t aligned — and don’t have the data they need — their failure to achieve a frictionless customer experience can damage brand loyalty well beyond the holidays.
Only by creating a single, comprehensive profile for each of your customers — AKA a customer 360 — enabling all your teams to collaborate around this single source of truth and empowering them to orchestrate omnichannel customer journeys and real-time customer experiences (both online and offline) can you deliver seamless CX that transforms holiday buyers into long-term brand advocates.
Authenticated, first-party data is the foundation of successful hybrid shopping experiences and much more. The good news for retailers is the holiday season is the ideal time to build it.
Supercharging Your Customer Data Strategy This Season
Due to third-party cookie deprecation disrupting how brands identify and target consumers, more than 50% of marketers are using this holiday season as a chance to beef up their customer data strategies.
How? By offering discounts and other services in exchange for personal data.
Every holiday season brings a surge in shoppers. This makes it the perfect opportunity to deliver high-value experiences your customers will gladly share information in return for.
By giving shoppers a reason to share authenticated first-party data, you can build brand affinity and drive customer loyalty and retention while preparing for a cookieless world.
But remember that earning customer trust is essential. The more your customers trust your brand and feel confident you’ll respect their demands for data security and privacy, the more likely they are to share their personal information.
Whether you’re leveraging special promotions to add value to online and in-store shopping experiences — or you’re simply being transparent about how you plan to collect and use customer data — look for ways to deepen relationships with your customers this holiday season.
Download the 2021 Holiday Readiness Guide to learn how you can optimize hybrid shopping experiences, fuel your first-party data strategy and much more this holiday season and beyond.