For most businesses, the holiday season is routinely the busiest time of year. Due to COVID-19, the sales environment has experienced some dramatic changes. These changes have been looming on the horizon for quite some time, but the pandemic has catalyzed a shift towards an omni-channel approach for a variety of businesses.
According to Price Waterhouse Cooper, Canadian consumers plan to do more of their shopping online, as they prioritize convenience, health, and safety this holiday season. While consumers are expected to spend less overall, PWC projects that the difference in spending between 2019 and 2020 is largely due to Canadians spending less on travel. It’s expected that consumers will likely spend nearly as much as they did last year on gifts and other items.
Holiday 2020 presents unique challenges, but with a larger number of consumers looking online, also unique opportunities for businesses to reach a new audience of customers. Holiday seasons are often momentary upswings in the larger picture for most businesses, but they don’t have to be. There are several ways to carry that holiday momentum into the new year, and that’s exactly what we’re going to discuss.
1) Invest in your online presence
A business’ online presence has never been more important. This isn’t just limited to ensuring you have the perfect domain name and a solid hosting platform, but your social media presence, and marketing strategy as well. With 71% of consumers preferring to shop through both online and in-store channels, its critical for your business to put its best foot forward whenever the opportunity arises.
Fair or not, if your business doesn’t have a website (or at least social media channels), for many holiday shoppers your business is virtually non-existent. When a person begins searching for product information to inform themselves and evaluate alternatives, nearly always begins online. While social media channels add tremendous value to a business, they are not alternatives for a secure website. Websites allow businesses to easily communicate product information, while also providing valuable data relating to consumer preferences—information that is far more difficult to discern through social analytics.
2) Create a consistent communication strategy
Speaking of social media, a consistent communication strategy is key to getting the most out of your social activity this holiday and beyond. With the average person spending 2 hours and 22 minutes on social media daily, it’s incredibly valuable to establish a presence on all relevant social media platforms, while maintaining a consistent communication. However, “consistency” isn’t merely referring to the frequency of content shared, but consistency in terms of voice, tone, and messaging as well.
As the adage goes, “go where your customers are”, but don’t forget to let them know you’re there. Remember, social media is just one part of a larger marketing equation. Consider integrating email marketing campaigns as well. Whether it’s a series promotional emails with exclusive discounts, or a monthly newsletter for your subscribers, email marketing is incredibly effective. It generates a higher ROI than any other form of marketing. For every $1 spent, email marketing generates $38.
3) Be proactive in collecting feedback
It’s difficult to define “customer satisfaction” when you don’t know what your customers think. Of course, web and social analytics can be used to infer consumer perceptions and preferences, but there’s no substitute for clear, measurable feedback.
Focus on establishing a methodology for obtaining customer feedback and transforming that information into actionable insights. Fortunately, there are several ways to collect customer feedback. Some of the most common are:
- Email Forms
- Customer Interviews
- Focus Groups
- Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
- Better Business Bureau
In addition to web and social analytics, incorporating some of these methods into your customer feedback loop will provide your business with loads of valuable data. Once you’ve collected the feedback, look for patterns, trends, and most importantly, areas that can be improved. The holiday shopping rush will likely bring people to your business that have never shopped with you before. As such, it’s one of the best times to collect feedback and get fresh perspectives on your business.
4) Build a Loyalty Program
While a lot of the focus this holiday season is on getting as many people through the door (or your checkout cart) as possible, it’s important to try keeping those customers as well.
Increasing the number of customers is great for the growth of your business and will do wonders for your revenue in the short-term, but retaining customers is far more valuable in the long run. Referrals generate more leads than any other source, and the cost of acquiring a new customer can be anywhere from 5 to 25 times more than retaining a customer. Simply, it’s very profitable for your business to keep your customers happy.
With that in mind, remember to set aside some of your marketing budget to focus on creating loyal customers. Reward customers for patronizing your business. The frequency of rewards and the value of each individual reward will differ tremendously based your financial situation. However, the purpose of every loyalty program is to reward customers the more they interact with your business. Loyalty programs can come in several different forms, from punch cards, to VIP offers, referral programs, to games, there are lots of options to choose from for your business.
5) Invest in your customer experience infrastructure
Fundamentally, inspiring customer loyalty and expanding your customer base begins at a foundational level. Like any other holiday season, something is bound to go awry. How your business deals with these situations leaves a lasting impression on customers. People trust businesses who take their concerns seriously, as such, establishing and continuously nurturing trust is not just imperative, but an investment in your business’ longevity.
Establishing a standardized support system can help your business react effectively and provide the appropriate level of support. This can come in a several different forms:
- Live Chat
- Social Media Support
- Support Hotline
- Email Support
That said, there are ways in which your business can be more proactive in terms of addressing customer issues.
A variety of self-help tools like a resources page on your website or a community forum can be incredibly effective at solving issues long before they reach your support team. As we’ve mentioned, the customer’s experience is going to significantly impact how they perceive your business. As such, not only is it important to ensure your business is ready to react to any problems your customers may face, but also be proactive in solving common issues, in order to create a more satisfying customer experience.
This holiday season, selling your product and services will be more challenging than ever before. Simply generating as much business as the last couple years is a victory in and of itself. But even if there are fewer people walking through your door or clicking on your website, there are a few things you can do to make sure people keep coming back. Invest in your online presence, communicate consistently, be open to feedback, and reward loyalty. Hopefully by the time the decorations come down, and the new year rolls around, you’ll be able to carry the momentum you’ve generated this holiday into 2021.