2020 has been a lot like looking both ways before you cross the street only to have a submarine fall on you. It started off well enough but quickly went sideways and the entire world is still feeling the ripples.
With Halloween in the rear view mirror now is the time to start thinking about the boost that customers, consumers, and guests need to jump-start their morale and your sales.
The best part about helping others improve their spirits is that it will fuel the soul of your organization as it builds customer advocacy.
The holiday season tends to brings out the best in everyone - if you ask my wife the combination of hot chocolate and Hallmark holiday movies is a one way ticket to winter bliss.
But in all seriousness, there is a reason why everyone is so excited for October.
Once you change the calendar to October 1, you can start seriously thinking about Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, and New Years.
Customers this season have stresses different that most previous years, but there is palpable excitement for the future. News of potential vaccines that have reasonable efficacy and near-term timelines have fueled economic headwinds and increased optimism.
There are 5 strategies you will need to deploy as you look to delight your customers and grow your market share.
Spread out Black Friday and bring the sales online
There is a certain manic tradition to Black Friday shopping. But this year must not be the year of the early morning queues and packed stores. I believe that retailers have been hurting their customer perceptions by hosting doorbuster deals that only a few could claim and by forcing folks to camp out in cold parking lots over night.
The other thing that has truly backfired from a perception standpoint has been opening on Thanksgiving to kick off the season. It was not only poison from a CX standpoint but killed employee engagement.
This year will begin a trend that will likely continue over the next decade. Stores will not open on Thanksgiving and they will spread their deals out across the season - and offer them online.
Online will play a larger role this year as ABC News projects online spending to increase by 49.5% and total holiday spending could hit $1 Trillion.
Don't Neglect Your In Store Experience
If you operate a brick and mortar location and are concerned about online sales eating into your top line revenue, you will still have about 2/3 of the total sales coming through physical locations. That is down around 5% to prior years, but still a significant amount.
This gives you unique opportunities to connect with your guests in more personalized and helpful ways - if you are ready to do so. Retailers who assume that online will gut offline sales could find themselves understaffed and misaligned with customer needs and objectives.
Be sure that your stores are safe, clean, and stocked for your holiday shoppers as they visit you. These in person visits will be rocket fuel for your future growth as you add value by anticipating and solving customer problems.
This is also a great chance to deploy a little extra compassion, empathy, and understanding. Your customers will appreciate an extra smile, a little conversation, and even a bit of holiday surprise and delight. Work with your team to ensure these are a part of your service behaviors.
Know that customers will be looking for value
This isn't to say that customers aren't always looking for values or deals - but the pandemic has led to record unemployment and there isn't likely to be any government action on additional stimulus until the new year. That means that many customers will be economizing this year and that is where they will be looking for maximum value.
Value doesn't always mean the cheapest, but premium purchases will need to live up to their price point in new and inventive ways. Keep asking yourself "is this product worth the price." Be honest as you answer and if you come up short you only have two levers to pull - you can decrease the price or increase some part of what your customers get. It's a simple formula, but one that many brands will have to execute for the first time.
Just know that your brand name may not be enough to drive the price point. The quality and quantity of an item will be a larger part of determining value from the customer and consumer point of view.
Customers may shop for the future
There has been a trend in recent years of experiences and memories being a part of the holiday giving season. For example, last year my wife and I gave our nieces a weekend zoo and penguin adventure for Christmas rather than toys or games.
That trend may continue, but it will be of a deferred nature. You may find cruise aficionados opting to buy a future cruise date. There may be travel enthusiasts buying airline gift cards. You may also find that restaurant gift card sales are up as folks look forward to restaurants expanding occupancy or new restaurants preparing to open up.
The point is that if you operate an event based or destination business, you may be uniquely positioned to offer your customers future experiences that they can buy now. This will lock in their cost and also give them something to look forward to. You will need to paint the picture of future happiness and help them buy in with confidence and excitement.
Local will drive increased revenue
There is a movement this holiday season to buy local or to buy from those you know. This is something you have likely seen on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as the public looks to slightly check the increasing power of juggernauts like Amazon.
That means if you are a local business you should be building relationships with other local businesses and within your community. This will be the season of small business giving, so be sure you are positioned correctly. Be open to cross-branding opportunities such as the local bakery offering packages with the local coffee roastery.
If you are a big box or large online retailer, play up your local vendors and put them front and center. Amazon sells may small business products, and in fact, many local and independent authors use Amazon's Direct Publishing platform to get their books to market.
Be aware of this trend and your customer's perceptions to win this space.
There is a much on the line for retailers as they seek to reinvent themselves in new and imaginative ways.
Customers are looking to spend this holiday season - but will be more likely to do so with businesses that are listening to them. Brands that respect their need for safety, value, and personalization will find themselves positioned well not just for the holiday season, but well into 2021 as well.
Have you adjusted your sales strategy for the holiday season to spread out your best deals from now until New Years?
How will you bring extra empathy and flexibility to your customers this season?
Have you equipped your teams with the tools and training to best serve your guests, customers, and consumer?
Tony Johnson, CCXP
Improve Your Customer Service with my Book: TOGETHER WE SERVE: Four Proven Strategies to Create Winning Experiences for Your Guests and Your Team Click to Purchase on Amazon.com
Tony Johnson is an award winning speaker and author on the topics of sales growth, customer experience, and leadership. Tony speaks to thousands annually and has been featured on ABC News and Fox News. He is available for business planning, motivational keynotes, leadership workshops, and employee service skills training.