Consumers are set to spend up to $166.9 billion this holiday season through online and other non-store sales. To put this in perspective, more than a quarter of holiday sales in 2019 will happen online. It also represents a 14% increase in online year-on-year sales, and a huge $150 billion more than was spent in 2009.

Digital channels like websites and social media are a fundamental component in every holiday sales strategy. But they are also one of the most hotly contested areas with brands competing for attention and share of voice.

To help you delight customers with an unforgettable digital customer experience this holiday season, Qualtrics has compiled our list of top tips.

During the holiday season consumers are going to be bombarded with offers. You can avoid being lost in the marketing vacuum by tailoring the interaction to the individual. First and foremost, this means serving consumers offers based on their purchase history. But to be meaningful you need to go further than this.

Using experience data (X-data) you can personalize customer interactions at scale – from pinpointing what times certain customers, segmented by demographics, employment, location, etc, are more likely to buy through to what products to suggest to them. And similarly, you can identify what device customers are more likely to use to purchase a certain product. Big ticket items that require extensive research, for example, are less likely to be made through the mobile channel. This can all be managed in real-time to optimize the customer experience delivered.

Fueled by these insights you can personalize the product you are offering and tailor your marketing strategy for maximum impact, such as the timing of an email send or the products you’re promoting. Combining the operational data (O-data) from previous purchases with X-data will make your interactions more relevant and impactful.

Avoid network outages

Network outages are unfortunately still commonplace for many brands during periods of peak activity, such as seasonal sales or new product launches. The impact of these can be far reaching – from the initial impact of lost sales to lasting brand damage.

Detailed planning of website performance can help your brand avoid the negative consequences caused by network outages. By analyzing historic and current traffic data you can predict the bandwidth requirements you will need to manage especially high volume days and times. The result is a fully functioning, fast, and available website that delivers a great customer experience – and deal – for your customers.

Lend a helping hand

Holiday shopping can be a stressful experience, with customers seeking product specifications, reviews, and delivery queries at record speed. You need to be able to answer these questions quickly if you’re going to convert more deals and reduce cart abandonment. An effective way to do this is by offering in-platform chat support through a pop-up chat window or Facebook Messenger. Meet your customers in a way that is relevant and comfortable, and you will see a boost in loyalty and satisfaction. This kind of support related engagement can also help accelerate the purchase decision.

Brands can also benefit by tracking individual behaviors and engagements segmenting their audiences, and setting trigger points for a human representative to get in touch when needed. An example of this might be when a customer appears to be struggling to find the information they need on your website. You can respond to this by engaging them accordingly in the moment, such as through an online intercept, to try and resolve their challenge in real-time.

Clearly communicate key dates and information

Consumers choose to use digital for the convenience it offers. But it also leads to a number of questions, such as delivery time, cost and availability. When you’re shopping during the holiday season you do not want to have to worry about unanticipated issues.

Make sure delivery times and fees are clearly visible, and that customers can only purchase products that are in stock. It is also a great idea to promote the cut off date by which all orders must be made so that they arrive before Christmas Day. Another good idea is to notify customers when items have been dispatched or when they are on the truck for delivery. This simple set of actions provides meaningful communications that customers genuinely appreciate.

Show customers you care

Acknowledge every customer engagement, whether it’s good or bad, by closing the loop. This act demonstrates to your customers you’re invested in ensuring they have a great shopping experience, and that you value their business at a time when they have more choices than ever before.

Furthermore, as humans we are creatures of habit. This means the more familiar someone is with your brand, the more likely they are to choose it in the future. By increasing consumer exposure to your brand you can capitalize on this behavioral trait.

Closing the loop might be something as simple as an automated email or text confirming the item has been delivered. For more complex issues it might be a call from a representative resolving a query or complaint. To increase efficiencies when closing the loop, have a set of criteria outlining the method of communication and customer type the different engagements receive. Capturing feedback, and ensuring customers feel heard, in these moments is a powerful tool that will inform and refine your customer experience in the future.

Get in the holiday spirit

Avoid being a Grinch by bringing some seasonal cheer to your digital channels to delight customers. On the most basic level, this can be done by running festive graphics and banner ads online, or adding a seasonal design to your usual branding and homepage.

If you want to take your digital experience to the next level, improve your online user experience by building web pages for gift ideas, such as “gifts for the family” or “gifts for your partner.” This small shift is a great way to help customers navigate your site – not to mention inspire gift ideas – and promote your best deals.

The digital experience is a critical part of every engagement your customers have with you – whether they buy online or in-store. Customers see a consistent and integrated engagement that ultimately leads to an outcome. Ensuring your digital channels can deliver this type of experience is a critical step in delighting customers and capitalizing on the significant business opportunities available this – and every – holiday season.

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