Despite the holiday season being a busy, hectic, and arguably stressful time, customers rarely deviate from the traditional customer journey — from research through to post-purchase analysis. The difference for the modern, pandemic-era consumer is where and how the steps of the journey are conducted.
It’s becoming increasingly evident that customers are not depending solely on in-store channels to discover items, learn about and compare products, and complete a purchase. They’re turning to their mobile devices, to peer reviews, and to alternate methods of payment that don’t involve a physical terminal. The retailers who don’t offer tools that support the evolving customer journey — especially during the holiday season — will not be the top choice for very much longer.
Understanding the journey, along with the nuances of holiday shopping habits, is essential for telecom retailers in 2021.
This blog will break down the steps of the customer journey and what tools can best support shoppers and ensure profitability for your stores.
The Customer Journey of the Holiday Season
The first step towards closing a sale is to ensure that a customer is aware of not only the products a store carries, but also the brand, reputation, and what the customer can expect when they interact with the business.
Digital and traditional out-of-home advertising are two great ways to generate awareness with prospective and current customers, but during the holiday season, advertising “noise” is at a high. Local Inventory on Google cuts through distractions and connects a retailer with their desired audience. This platform uses proximity to put a retailer’s product catalog in front of customers who are searching online for products in that area. This minimizes the chance for that customer to be distracted by other retailers.
Google also offers local inventory ads; detailed, visual, digital advertisements that showcase detailed product descriptions and images. A retailer can build these advertisements so that they capture the right audience at the right time. For iQmetrix clients who sign up to use Local Inventory on Google, they will receive a $100 ad credit for each store that uses this solution.
When a customer has awareness around all of a brand’s elements, they can then include that brand in their purchase consideration.
Capturing customers isn’t just about having the right products, it’s about being the best choice. It’s important for retailers to actively stand out during the holidays so that customers can easily identify the value of the business — otherwise, they may look elsewhere. Not only does Local Inventory give businesses improved visibility through proximity search, but the solution also ensures that a potential customer can see a business’s entire product library all in one place. Product details, specifications, colors, and availability are easily viewed on Google search results pages so when a customer comes into a store, they are confident that the retailer has what they need.
Customers can also become aware of a product or brand through customer reviews. Even if the testimonial comes from a stranger, a customer trusts what other consumers have to say. A leader in the review generation space, TracPoint, has outlined why peer reviews for products are essential in this blog. Their platform, REVV, also captures reviews when feedback is fresh with shoppers. This provides researchers with the best information about the retailer’s experience.
Comparison is key in the consideration stage, and having full product details — including an assurance that the item is in stock — is everything a customer is looking for. When they can see products, prices, and stock status of multiple products in one place, a customer can easily evaluate which product is right for them. This functionality quickly renders any alternative retailers who make comparison harder or are further from the customer irrelevant. Not to mention, when store location is easily seen alongside this comparison, a customer can evaluate their options and make a plan to purchase.
This is the point where the customer has done their research and feels confident in buying a product. This is likely the most high-touch step of the journey. Store associates are working tirelessly to satisfy the asks of the customer, regardless of the method they prefer.
But it’s not all about the transaction. With the experiential nature of retail, the moment the customer is walking toward a store is the moment the “transaction” has begun. And it’s all about preparing for any possible scenario, knowing which pain points a customer could feel, and have solutions at the ready that resolve issues.
If a customer is waiting in a long line, or they see the length of a line outside a store and decide to go somewhere else, the retail experience is tarnished from the get-go. A queue management solution, that enables customers to join a virtual queue, alleviates wait times. This kind of functionality sends the customer a notification when an associate is ready for them, so when they arrive at the store, they are assisted immediately — no wait time needed. iQmetrix clients added this queuing solution to their in-store technology stack to remove any barriers for customers to begin shopping while also using queue management technology to improve their shopping experience.
Offering BOPIS or ROPIS (buy or reserve online, pick up in-store), or curbside pickup lets customers personalize their shopping experience and injects flexibility into the process.
Management of customers, even before they enter the store, comes down to having the right staff working at the right times. Strategic workforce scheduling platforms, like Shiftlab, pair point-of-sale data with employee analytics to create efficient, effective purchase pathways. This leverages the right skills to support a shopper throughout every part of the purchase step.
The holidays can be a financially stressful time for customers. Offering flexible payment methods, like deferred payments or financing, means a customer can find the perfect gift without the burden of large, lump-sum costs. PayBright, an iQmetrix integrated partner, provides this feature. The retailer is paid in full while the customer pays on a schedule that works for them.
And don’t forget that the levels of comfort a customer feels about shopping in-person can vary drastically, person to person. Remote payment functionality means a customer can pay at a distance, through their mobile device, and no physical interaction is necessary. iQmetrix clients have been eager to implement touchless Remote Pay as their customers are more often expecting distanced payment options when they are in-store the buy.
What makes flexible payments even better is when they work together. Implementing systems that allow for multiple tools to support the customer is what will set one business apart from the rest.
Reviews are crucial to raising awareness of your business and the products you carry. Reviews also assist customers in effectively analyzing prospective items to purchase. So, including a process to collect reviews is important to a profitable business cycle.
With TracPoint REVV, a customer is prompted to complete a review near-instantly after their shopping experience. Not only does this automate the review generation process, but it also captures the immediate, and most accurate, thoughts and feelings of a customer who has just interacted with that retail brand.
Throughout all three stages of the purchase step, associates are pivotal. And they are never more important than during the holidays. Implementing tools like Arcade, which gamify employee motivation and engagement, ensure a store’s workforce is always in peak performance. These solutions give retailers the resources to support sales staff during the busiest time of the year and beyond.
The nature of the holidays is that some customers are one-time shoppers with no possibility of becoming loyal, repeat buyers. However, regardless of their loyalty status, these customers should be considered for any campaign that would pique their interest.
When associates collect email addresses or mobile phone numbers, with the customer’s consent, they are now available to send messages in the form of a follow up to their purchase, a discount or notice of an upcoming sale, or a monthly location-based newsletter so that the brand remains in the know and connected with the store. It’s even better if offers and information can be housed where customers can easily access it—like in a downloadable, branded application that also increases customer loyalty. TracPoint Apps is just that, and enables retailers to extend the reach of their purchase environment to create a great experience throughout the customer journey.
Thanks to robust retail management solutions that identify customer purchase history and preferences, a business can also run meaningful marketing campaigns that align with the needs and wants of its customer base. Leveraging Google advertising functionalities, like using Google Local Inventory Ads, is a great way to keep products and brands in the customer’s focal point, encouraging repeat purchases outside of the holiday season. These digital advertisements showcase a retailer’s inventory with detailed product descriptions so the customer knows exactly what to expect from the ad to the purchase.
Nailing the retail experience during the holidays is sure to have customers excited about a brand, but it’s when a business goes above and beyond that turns a customer into a brand advocate. Using a variety of tools that integrate with each other to create a cohesive experience, a holiday shopper could turn into a vocal brand advocate.
It’s here again that TracPoint REVV is an invaluable asset to any retailer. Having access to immediate post-purchase thoughts, a business can improve its operations from constructive comments while showcasing its strengths with positive customer testimonials.
A business that can also leverage its CRM and POS data can turn those insights into positive outputs that impact the retail processes. With an intelligent retail CRM and POS, analyzing holiday results and employee performance is easy. From there, a retailer can identify the actions and solutions needed to improve operations and benefit the customer experience. Whether it be the need for an optimized workforce and scheduling process, a way to manage in-store traffic, or widening the possibilities for ways for a customer to buy, data-driven decisions stem from the right tools.
While it’s important to be mindful of a customer’s journey throughout the holidays — given the added busyness and stress of the season — these steps and related tools are important to be on the pulse of all year long.
To learn more about which tools can provide next-level support to customers, associates, and businesses during the holiday rush, check out our infographic.