The all-important, highly anticipated holiday season has arrived, and by virtually all indications, deal-hunters are prepared to deliver for retailers, hitting both e-commerce as well as brick-and-mortar stores in droves.
The question is, as a retailer, what are you willing to do to ensure your regulars and newbies get the customer experience and rewards they deserve for patronizing your facility?
Purchases are slated to average more than $1,000 per shopper during the holidays.
Thanks largely to an economy that is firing on all cylinders, Americans will be buying to their hearts' content from here until Christmas Eve. Indeed, according to the National Retail Federation, purchases are slated to average a grand total of $1,007.24 per shopper. That's a 4.1 percent increase from last year's average of $967.13.
NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay indicated that buyer sentiment is at record-high levels, which bodes well for business owners' bottom-line.
"The holidays are just around the corner and consumers are ready to shop," Shay explained in an October press release. "Confidence is near an all-time high, unemployment is the lowest we've seen in decades and take-home wages are up. All of that is reflected in consumers' buying plans. Retailers expect strong demand this year, and are prepared with a wide array of merchandise while offering strong deals and promotions during the busiest and most competitive shopping season of the year."
Black Friday spending to top $500 per shopper
Bargain-basement prices are starting a bit earlier than normal for many retailers, but Black Friday - the day following Thanksgiving - is when sales spectaculars really kick into high gear. During this period, Americans are ready and willing to buy, buy, buy. A Slickdeals poll found that the average consumer will spend more than $520 on Black Friday alone, with clothing, electronics such as computers and laptops and high-definition televisions high atop their "must-get" lists.
Slickdeals CEO Joshua Meyers noted that the hype surrounding Black Friday is alive and well, as many people take advantage of the discounts aimed at getting people through the doors.
"With 80 percent of Americans saying they have shopped during Black Friday, it's clear that consumers still view it as an opportune time to shop," Meyers said in a prepared statement, as quoted by Yahoo News.
But just because highly coveted products - such as furniture, computer accessories, gaming consoles and children's toys - are selling for less doesn't mean that customers will patronize stores no matter what. To the contrary, at least 60 percent of shoppers in a PricewaterhouseCoopers study acknowledged that they'd shop someplace else if the customer service they received wasn't up to par. Furthermore, close to 1 in 3 said they would stop purchasing good and services with a particular retailer altogether after just one bad experience.
Whether it's shorter lines thanks to an efficient point of sales system or providing services that other competitors don't, delivering on customers' expectations can pay off in a big way during the holiday season and down the line. Here are a few strategies that may make this holiday sales season your most successful one so far.
Retailers should consider other days aside from the big three for deep discounts.
Offer early-bird Black Friday specials
Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday are three of the days when consumers expect to see "BOGO" signs and other red tag sales specials. But why confine these special discount events to this post-Thanksgiving window? Black Fridays have proven to draw massive crowds, which is something that many Americans don't want to bother with after an enjoyable feast with family and friends. As an alternative, you may want to consider extending Black Friday–like sales events so more people can take advantage of the discounts without ever leaving their home. Walmart, for example, plans to kick off the shopping festivities online the evening before Thanksgiving, with gaming consoles, television sets and mobile devices selling at a fraction of what they would normally (while supplies last).
Make it personal
Even though the holidays are all about volume, customers like to be treated like they're the only ones buying. Therefore, try to personalize the shopping experience. As noted by PointOfSale.com, you can do this through targeted email offers that customers get in their inbox, detailing products that are similar to those they purchased in the past. Your POS system may have data that you can use to provide customers with a more unique, one-of-a-kind experience that is tailor-made to fit their interests.
Implement feedback drawn from customers
When customers are asked their opinions regarding how a store could improve, valuable feedback frequently goes by the wayside, especially when no centralized themes emerge. Don't let lack of unanimity determine what changes to make. Even just one or two things - such as staying open later or ensuring more registers are open - can make a difference that loyal customers will notice and will reward, in kind, with more regular visits.
Make deals really worth their while
Everyone aims to sell for less, especially at this time of year when buying activity is frenetic. But to really turn heads, you need to set price points that are almost too good to be true, advised Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board.
"Given the strong economy and job growth – with expectations of more in the New Year - retailers should expect strong demand this season, with the potential to be one of the best shopping seasons in years," Franco said. "However, they will still face a tough and discriminating consumer - one who is expecting bargains and willing to wait for a deal. Retailers will need to get creative and offer numerous deals and promotions, especially given the increased competition from online merchants."