Are you ready for the holidays?

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Are you ready for the holidays?

Companies are working hard to prepare for the holiday season, some starting to roll out their first holiday promotions as early as September, in an effort to realign with buyer tendencies. According to the Booz & Co Holiday Retail Outlook 2012, shoppers are tackling their lists sooner, but remaining cautious in their spending.  Affordability is expected to play a role in buyer habits this year, meaning shoppers are likely to start their search early, in pursuit of the best holiday deals.

This behavioral trend is expected to lead to an increase in “show rooming” during the 2012 holiday season.  Sources site the evolution of smartphone enabled shopping, combined with residual effects of a lagging economy as being root causes of this increasingly common practice.  While shoppers may flock to stores to view merchandise in person, in real time they can check the web for competitor pricing via mobile devices. A growing percentage of final purchases will be made online, where it is easier and faster to find the best deals. According to Deloitte’s 2012 Holiday Forecast, non store purchases are expected to rise 15-17%, mainly due to online purchasing.

In response to this gradual shift in behavior, retailers are focusing more and more on non store channels, including e-commerce, mobile, and social.  As shoppers increasingly adopt “multi channel” shopping habits, businesses must present a consistent experience both in store and online, stepping up their strategy to keep up with evolving consumer demands, and convert customers earlier in the buying season.

Stay Engaged:

The holiday shopping season will bring with it a wave of increased demand for customer service.   How customers expect to be serviced, however, has changed significantly year over year. As customers take part in show rooming, being available on social or mobile platforms becomes an increasingly effective tactic for positively impacting conversions.   Live chat is a great way to intelligently engage customers, and can be utilized on mobile devices, as well as social channels such as Facebook.  An integrated approach to engaging your customer ensures you’re accessible when they’re ready to buy.

Stay Relevant:

When designing intelligent targeting strategies during the holidays, remember that most shoppers are no longer buying for themselves.  While “self gifting” is an undeniable occurrence during the season, notifications or product suggestions based on historic behavior may be irrelevant.  If you’re leveraging historic data with respect to buyer behavior on your e-commerce site, consider tweaking your rules to put a greater focus on in-session behavior, as this data may prove more impactful to driving conversions.  Technologies such as LivePerson offer features that allow you to develop customized chat invitations, tying them to data mined from Google Analytics in real time.  The messaging can be tailored based on the key word or specific Google Ad driving the customer to your site.  Insights such as these allow you to deliver the right message at the right time.

Get Creative:

If you are getting started later in the season, get creative and try some simple strategies that can be implemented, even during a code freeze.  Try running a promotion via your social feeds, or arm your live chat agents with links to a landing page that promotes a special offer or coupon code.  Make the most of your technology investment, and look for easy overlays that can drive seasonal messaging.    These can be leveraged to deliver quick, customized messages that promote specific items, up sells, and seasonal offers, tailored based on entry paths, geolocation, or any number of other data points.  This strategy is quick to implement, and gives a high touch and personalized feel to the user experience.

As customer expectations continue to evolve, making the most out of your customer interactions is the key driver to enhancing both experience and ROI.  Understanding buyer behaviors and engaging with shoppers in a relevant way are critical to turning a transactional interaction into a real connection.  During the holidays, with competition ramping to a seasonal high, creating a meaningful dialogue with your customers is a key differentiator in the market, building brand loyalty that can last year round.

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