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You Can Make Holiday Shopping Easier: 4 Tips for Retailers

Here’s how to create a satisfying retail shopping experience during a tough economy.

A person looks at their phone while holding a cup of coffee
With mobile commerce getting more popular every year and margins tightening by the minute, it’s never been more important to optimize your mobile commerce experience. [d3sign / Getty Images]

Rising consumer pessimism means retailers need to work harder this holiday season to keep shoppers merry. How do you balance the online and in-store retail shopping experience? How do you contend with a more complicated path to purchase? How do you keep customers satisfied and spending at the same time? 

The simple answer is to create a seamless retail shopping experience that knits digital and physical touchpoints together. For companies, that starts with creating agility across online and mobile commerce channels. But it also means giving customers greater flexibility when browsing and buying, no matter how they choose to shop.

Here’s what you can do to get your online and brick-and-mortar channels ready for the 2022 holiday shopping season.

Tip #1: Offer faster mobile commerce experiences

Put yourself in the shoes of a time-starved holiday shopper who’s suddenly remembered a must-order gift. Would you rather hop in the car, pull out your laptop, or grab your phone?  

With mobile commerce getting more popular every year and margins tightening by the minute, it’s never been more important to optimize your mobile commerce experience. In fact, in the second quarter of 2022, mobile accounted for 71% of traffic share and 61% of total order share. Make phone and tablet shopping easier with: 

  • Mobile-specific marketing: Does your mobile app send push notifications when an out-of-stock product returns to inventory in time for holiday delivery? Do you send well-timed text messages to your best customers when a flash sale starts? If not, it’s time to add that to your holiday retail strategy. 
  • Hassle-free browsing and checkout: Opt for simple designs that load fast and add bigger “buy now” buttons that are easy to find on a mobile device. Consider enabling one-step purchases right from the product page, and don’t forget to add convenience-focused payment options. Mobile wallets, for example, ensure customers won’t have to scramble at the point of purchase to find their credit card. 
  • A fantastic post-purchase experience: Consider that 41% of digital leaders are prioritizing experiences like returns optimization over the next two years. Ensure your self-service channels are optimized for mobile so customers can accomplish routine tasks from their phones.

Tip #2: Make social selling part of the retail shopping experience 

How can you help your customers find the right products when so much depends on flat Instagram images on a small screen? By enabling associates (or even influencers) to interact with your customers on a live stream, you can turn virtual retail shopping experiences into personalized and physical interactions. 

Suddenly, your customers can see the product from different angles, ask about flexible fulfillment options like same day delivery or in-store pickup, and inquire about return policies. That process helps customers avoid buying gifts that won’t work and has the potential to reduce online return rates, which can be as high as 20.8%.

Consumers live on their phones, and pushing your brand experience and checkout to these social networks helps remove the friction that a consumer encounters between discovery and purchase.

Rob Garf, vice president and general manager, retail, at Salesforce

Leading retailers are already perfecting the art of capturing customers’ attention on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. That’s not just for vanity’s sake: All signs indicate that social commerce is just getting started. In fact, it’s predicted to grow three times faster than traditional ecommerce over the next four years.

“Consumers live on their phones, and pushing your brand experience and checkout to these social networks helps remove the friction that a consumer encounters between discovery and purchase,” Rob Garf, Salesforce’s vice president and general manager, retail, told Retail TouchPoints earlier this year.

Tip #3: Prioritize fulfillment and inventory optimization

Nothing says “bah, humbug” quite like finding out the product you ordered online is out of stock or stuck somewhere on a snarled supply chain. As retailers face continued inventory and shipment challenges, digital leaders are solving the problem by prioritizing fulfillment and inventory optimization. What does that mean in simple terms? Now’s the time to solve the “where is my order” problem once and for all:

  • Prioritize transparency: Does an offer for a comparable product mean your customers won’t mind if a shipment is delayed or unavailable? No. But at least you can be honest and transparent — something that 74% of customers say is important. And by keeping open a line of communication, you can be the holiday hero that shows up with potential solutions. 
  • Empower your customers: Ensure your customers can access their order history, track delivery, and use self-service to arrange a return or exchange. Enable flexible fulfillment options, like buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS), a choice that’s popular with customers and that’s been adopted by 85% of retailers.  
  • Rethink order management: The right order management system gives your online and in-store associates access to real-time inventory and fulfillment data. When your employees can follow customer orders from the point of purchase through delivery, they can stay proactive if there’s a problem — like offering a similar product that’s available for on-time shipment. 

Now’s the time to solve the ‘where is my order’ problem once and for all.

Only 24% of retailers and brands have “out of stock” notifications for sold-out items online, according to the 2022 Omnichannel Retail Index. “This feature could be a differentiator especially as we continue to experience supply chain and logistical challenges,” said Kathy Kimple, executive director at OSF Digital, a commerce and digital cloud transformation company. “This could be useful in multiple ways: communication and keeping the customer in the know, re-capturing the sale when it’s back in stock, and messaging them about alternative options.”

Tip #4: Add flexible payment options

As inflation lingers, flexible payment options are bound to grow in popularity. With some consumers saying they may not buy any gifts this year, programs like buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) may make an important difference in the retail shopping experience–and to retailers’ profitability. Digital leaders are twice as likely as digital laggards to prioritize investments in flexible payments: One company grew average order value by 50% after implementing BNPL. 

Delaying payments or offering installment options aren’t the only ways retailers are rethinking transaction flexibility. Apple Pay, for example, is increasing in popularity: While 54% already accept Apple Pay, another 34% plan to add the option within two years. Not only do mobile wallet options streamline transactions with one-click payments, they also expand the number of payment options customers have at checkout. 

Give holiday shoppers the gift of convenience this year by removing friction from their retail shopping experience.

Matt brings 30 years of experience in consumer retail. He was previously the chief operating officer at Bergdorf Goodman, where he transformed the iconic 120-year-old brand to a digitally enabled customer experience. Matt approaches the business as a consumer anthropologist and is obsessed with human behavior, relationships, and experience.

More by Matt

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