Switched-on brands know that Christmas presents the perfect opportunity to attract and retain customers for the year ahead. And the savvier retailers have already identified that consumer behaviour will play out differently than it did last year, given the financial pressures that families are facing across the UK.
Over the next few weeks, consumers will shop differently—both in how much they buy and how they do it. Here are 6 trends for retailers to look out (and prepare) for:
“Phygital” retail will be fully embraced
Companies should think “phygital”, harmonising physical and digital channels to create seamless experiences wherever and whenever customers choose to interact with them. A single ecosystem approach provides the best of both worlds; whether that means leveraging technology to enhance the in-store experience, or vice versa.
Strong ethics are no longer a “nice-to-have”
Brands are facing intense pressure to stand for something more than their products and services. Nearly half of Gen Y and Z state that they prefer brands that make them feel part of something bigger and connect people around common causes or beliefs. The way they treat their employees is increasingly important to customers too. Frontline workers today report facing numerous challenges, resulting in attrition and burnout. Customers will support brands that employ well-trained, good-natured, and motivated employees.
Maximising (and making the most of) footfall is key
With families feeling the pinch, traditional consumer behaviour will shift this year; Christmas shoppers are expected to spend £4.4bn less, foregoing big ticket items for more budget-friendly alternatives, and they will be shopping earlier than ever to spread the cost and capitalise on Black Friday bargains. Strategic marketing will get customers through the door, but the real power is in the hands of the store teams; not only in the effective merchandising of key product ranges, but also in delivering the efficient, friendly, and knowledgeable service that customers expect and deserve.
Emotion is power
Consumers are looking for an antidote to the sense of doom and gloom that has pervaded 2022, so brands who can deliver the “feel good” factor are going to maximise their yuletide profits. Warmth and friendliness are key, but they are not enough in isolation; frontline teams should be encouraged and empowered to deliver unforgettable experiences that drive retention and advocacy.
Staff shortages are inevitable
As high levels of employee absence continue, and recruitment of the best people is continuing to prove difficult, stores must leverage signage and IT solutions to guide customers through the in-store experience. That said, it’s important to recognise that some customers – particularly the older generations – are less comfortable using tech. Staff still need to be deployed alongside technology to ensure these systems are working to support all customers. It must be remembered the human touch is still important in relation to some facets of the customer experience regardless of age, and that a hybrid approach is often the best strategy as eloquently outlined by Jo Causon at the Institute of Customer Service.
Returns flexibility matters
Returns policies will be an important consideration for customers this holiday season. A Christmas policy extending how long customers have to return items, such as that implemented by Superdry recently, will go a long way to enticing indecisive customers, as will the option to buy online and return in store. Empathetic policies will foster a sense of goodwill and trust, and will alleviate customers’ anxiety around spending their hard-earned cash.
Understanding (and crucially delivering) what customers want is the best safeguard retailers can put into place ahead of the 2022 festive season – brands that fail to focus on customer experience will certainly be getting the smallest slice of the (mince) pie.
A sales through service strategy is undoubtedly a winning tactic for all retailers to adopt. For more information about sales through service modelling, and to gain access to our benchmarking data, please get in touch.