5 Customer Experience lessons of Christmas 2014
For retailers, the peak Christmas trading period is fundamental to their revenues. However it is also the most competitive time, with everyone looking to increase their share of the £36.5 billion Britons were expected to spend on Christmas shopping. Add in that every year consumers are demanding more, and you can see how difficult it is to deliver the right experience to customers across every shopping channel.
As the dust settles on the 2014 Christmas season what are the lessons for retailers to learn? I think there are five to bear in mind:
1. Christmas is a moveable feast
It may be a US import, but Black Friday is becoming a fixture in the UK, starting the shopping season much earlier than before. At the same time with Boxing Day sales now beginning on Christmas Day (or even Christmas Eve) there is little respite for retailers – the pressure to deliver is constant across the whole peak period. As footage of near-riots in shops offering Black Friday sales shows, retailers need to be prepared for quickly changing levels of interest if they are to maximise their revenues.
2. Mobile is growing
More and more Christmas shopping involves a mobile device – whether carried out directly or with a smartphone or tablet used for research. Argos predicted that half of its Cyber Monday traffic (2.5 million visits) would come from mobile devices, for example. This has a knock-on effect on customer service – often mobile shopping takes place out of office hours, with peaks in the early morning (from commuters) or during the evening (with shoppers buying as they watch TV). Customer service has to be ready (and available) to deal with queries – fail to quickly provide an answer and the consumer is likely to defect to a rival.
3. Convenience is key
Obviously ecommerce is an increasing part of Christmas, with a predicted £4.7 billion being spent online. But it is important to understand the reasons that shoppers go online, with factors such as choice, price and above all convenience driving their behaviour. Retailers that win will be those that make it as easy as possible to buy from them, through the consumer’s channel of choice, and provide the information and service that they need to inspire trust and confidence.
4. Consumers hold you responsible
The collapse of CityLink and issues at other logistics companies showed what a complex ecosystem retail is. However, no matter how much of the delivery process is outsourced, the customer holds the retailer ultimately responsible. So it needs to have control (and knowledge) of where deliveries are, and be ready to step in quickly to sort out any problems, even if they are not directly caused by its actions. Ultimately, it is your brand’s reputation that is at stake.
5. Be flexible
Despite planning beginning in the summer, Christmas is invariably difficult to predict. So you need to be ready to adapt operations as circumstances change, reacting to rivals or jumping on particular trends. Customer service needs to be equally flexible – ensure that you deliver a consistent experience across every channel, no matter how events change. Centralise knowledge, such as around stock levels or delivery delays, and make the latest information easily available to consumers, frontline shop staff and contact centre agents so that they have a complete picture of what is happening.
These lessons aren’t just relevant to the retail industry. Consumers increasingly expect the same speed, ease of use and convenience, whatever sector you are in. Therefore every business needs to learn from Christmas 2014 and incorporate it into their planning moving forward.