Customer Experience

5 ways to connect with customers online during the holiday season

We’re now right in the middle of the holiday shopping season. It’s the busiest time of year for customers with long gift lists for friends and family, parties to arrange, homes to decorate, and journeys home to plan. It’s easy for things to become so frantic that retailers’ relationship with their customers becomes disconnected and there’s a higher danger you deliver poor customer experience. Speed, convenience and staff able to resolve issues quickly are what customers really want from you just now – not more festive jingles and animations.

To illustrate the impact of customer connection, a report from the National Retail Federation last year said consumers will spend an average of $1,007.24 during the holiday season in 2019, up 4.1% from the $967.13 they said they would spend last year. These holiday consumers spread their shopping across multiple channels: both online and in a variety of bricks-and-mortar stores. And to demonstrate the mix of channels, 50% of online shoppers said they would pick up their purchases in-store.

So far, so straightforward. Another survey, this time by PwC revealed that customers were generally unimpressed by their experiences with brands, citing a ‘lack of human touch’ as their main criticism. It also found that consumers would spend up to 16% more on products and services if better CX was part of the package. And looking to the future, 82% of US consumers indicated, ‘I’ll want to interact with a real person more as technology improves’. Globally, the survey says, 59% of consumers feel companies have lost touch with the human aspect of customer experience.

When we apply the potential for a 16% increase in spending to an average American’s holiday spend of $1,007.24, simply by providing a more human touch to the customer experience, that’s a huge amount of extra revenue around the holiday season.

So, what can companies do to create meaningful interactions with customers and humanize the online holiday shopping experience - at a time of year that is, ironically, all too often lacking in genuine festive cheer and human kindness?

Here are our five top tips to help you humanize your CX and connect with customers online this December:

1. Be people-orientated by default

You don’t need to be an anthropologist to understand that humans are complex. We think, act and make decisions in surprising, and sometimes irrational ways - especially in the stressful holiday season. Marketing programs that attempt to segment people solely by, e.g., age, gender or location fail to understand individuals’ human wants and needs, their income, brand affinities and communication channel preferences. We also all share some universal characteristics, referred to by the Qualtrics XM Institute as the Six Key Traits of Human Beings. More than just zip codes, we’re:

  • intuitive
  • self-centered
  • emotional
  • motivated
  • social
  • hopeful

Understanding these six characteristics lets you treat customers as people, and by using the available data you can build a complete picture of each individual customer.

2. Create rounded, individual customer profiles

By gathering as much information as possible about individual customers all along their customer journey, you achieve ‘data density’ that enriches your relationship with them. By gathering data over time, you’ll probably even know what they did and how they shopped last holiday season. Patterns of behavior (X-data) and information such as time of day or location (O-data) can combine seamlessly to inform bespoke, relevant content for each customer. By building individual profiles, you’ll know the person better and your targeting will be more accurate and relevant. Your CX engagements will be more effective – and more human.

3. Personalize the customer experience

When experiences are personal, they become part of the fabric of our lives and are harder to give up. Gone are the days of ‘one size fits all’ that low-level tech imposed on your customers. Combining high level X-data and O-data within your CX process means you can demonstrate to your customers that you’re paying attention to them. Personalization is particularly useful for addressing that common holiday season issue - cart abandonment. A personalized abandonment email containing a tailored special offer may tempt a site visitor back to their shopping cart. The message is: this company cares about me abandoning my purchase - they’re worth a second chance.

4. Talk with your customers

You’ve made customers feel special by personalizing their experience. They’ll expect to take this further into a 1:1 approach with your company. AI chatbots are becoming smarter across all digital platforms, helping to humanize the customer journey. From starting up conversations to escalating queries and feedback to the most appropriate teams, your customers will experience a more emotional and human connection with your brand. Online chat feedback identifies common queries and pain points so you can make rapid resolutions. During the holiday season, busy customers appreciate being able to talk 1:1 with your brand.

5. Act on negative feedback immediately

That in-store holiday jingle selection is driving customers to leave the premises prematurely, and they’re telling everyone about it. You need to know that information fast so you can get Christmas with the Chipmunks off loop and customers coming back into the store. Sentiment analysis tools pick up negative online comments in real time; you can act on the information immediately - whatever it may be - and your customers will feel listened to and valued.

Ecommerce is an environment of rapid change, yet one thing remains constant: customers value, and indeed demand, human interaction. Essentially, CX is all about the impact on the individual. And during the holidays, everyone likes to feel special.


Explore our research into retail CX during the holidays

Daniel Saunders

Daniel heads up content production in Europe. As part of his role, he gets the chance to work with some of our biggest customers in the region to showcase how they’re delivering breakthrough experiences to customers and employees.

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