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How Do Today’s Consumers Shop During the Holiday Season?

How Do Today's Consumers Shop During the Holiday Season?

Digitization has transformed the retail sector. This holiday season, companies who recognize these changes can create customer magic and drive efficient growth.

Don’t panic if the crowds coming into the store seem a little smaller than usual.

Are customers grabbing fewer items at random from the shelves? It’s not necessarily cause for alarm.

The forces that determine retail success now are different in 2022 – and that’s because the experience of shopping is evolving.

Over the course of the pandemic, for instance, many consumers discovered how easily and enjoyably they could browse for their most coveted products through digital channels.

Besides a retailer’s website, they can now make purchases straight from social media platforms. They can replicate a trip to shopping malls by exploring many brands at once through online marketplaces. Instead of trekking back and forth to physical stores, they can bookmark or save items they want to buy at a later date.

The digital shift that has transformed the retail sector has been followed by a new set of challenges, however. Canada’s inflation rate is still higher than normal, and supply chain disruptions have yet to be fully resolved.

According to research conducted by the Retail Council of Canada and Leger, there are still grounds to be optimistic about the 2022 holiday shopping season. Consumers surveyed said they foresee spending an average of $790 on holiday purchases, which is in keeping with buying patterns last year.

The difference, based on another study, is how Canadians will be choosing where to invest their dollars. Just look at the 67% of consumers who say they’ll be carefully planning their purchases, and the 55% who say they are less likely to spend on impulse purchases than they were before the pandemic.

Recognizing these changes and using automation to capitalize on them will determine which retailers exceed expectations and create the kind of customer magic that drives efficient growth. Here’s what that will look like:

In-store shopping may become just as ‘digital’ as shopping online

For years, consumers have been starting their research online before visiting a retailer’s physical location. With the rise of mobile devices like smartphones, they’ve continued to compare prices and selection online while browsing the aisles. Today, smart retailers will equip their employees with the tools that complement these kinds of blended physical-digital experiences.

Associates can use a mobile device loaded with applications to help customers find products that aren’t in stock locally but can be quickly ordered online before they leave the store, for instance. They can suggest other products and accessories while processing payments with mobile devices to avoid consumers standing in line at checkout. Digital tools and data are also key to efficiently managing buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS), click-and-collect, and curbside pickup processes.

Using these technologies can also help retailers achieve lower costs. Rather than ask associates and warehouse staff to string together a bunch of disconnected applications, they can opt for a single, trusted platform to connect all the applications running on their devices.

Everyone gets their own personal shopper

Having a highly experienced associate give a guided tour of carefully-curated selections has traditionally been a perk offered only to VIP customers in luxury retail shops. Automation is allowing retailers large and small to democratize the concept of a personal shopper to consumers from all walks of life.

A personal shopping experience is really about taking customer data and leveraging insights to make specific, relevant recommendations for every buyer. This can all happen through channels such as a chatbot on the retailer’s web site, a mobile app consumers use, and even through the kinds of ads they get served as they’re browsing online.

For consumers, the magic in personal shopping experiences will not only come via a list of inspiring ideas. They will be looking for retailers to understand their needs to stretch their budgets further than ever. Instead of trying to tempt them with impulse purchases, a retailer’s use of data like purchase histories and what similar customers have bought should build greater confidence in how they spend their money.

The gift of loyalty is only given when customers are ‘wowed’ in the post-purchase stage of the shopping journey

Many consumers might engage with a retail brand during the holiday shopping season for the first time. That means the impression you make can drive increased lifetime value for each customer through repeat purchases… or not.

In addition to personalization and streamlined checkout, building customer loyalty is also about demonstrating your investment in the relationship long after a purchase is made. This meant hiring an army of support staff in the past, but automation offers another alternative that optimizes costs. Using chatbots, self-service portals, and dashboards that simplify the process of looking up customer data, retailers can quickly scale service operations to meet every shopper’s unique needs.

Think of this as a way to enhance your employee experience at the same time. Automating the troubleshooting of basic or commonplace issues means your team members can devote themselves to the kind of challenges that make the best use of their talents and time. The emphasis should be on providing genuine value and ease in response to every ask, whether it’s fixing a product or handling a return.

This all leads to bottom-line results. In fact, a global survey of Salesforce customers found 91% are seeing return on investment for automation through increased customer satisfaction (CSAT).

Holiday shopping is no longer about pushing and shoving your way through a store, worrying whether you’re getting the best deal, and recognizing you may have hassles after your presents have been opened. With automation, retailers have the ability to transform the process of holiday shopping into an enjoyable experience that feels more like a holiday.

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