Christmas in July: Planning the Holiday CX Strategy

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What’s in store for ecommerce and retail this holiday season? Holiday 2022 retail sales are forecast to grow 3.3 percent over 2021, with a jump of more than 15 percent for e-commerce. M-commerce will comprise just under 50 percent of that e-commerce growth. Meanwhile, the Cyber Five holiday surges (the period running from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday) are expected to give way to a “longer and flatter” shopping season; prices are rising; and the supply chain is still tangled. Here’s how to optimize your customer experience now to drive revenue and loyalty this holiday season.

Review and Improve Your Customer Segments and Personalization 

There’s no avoiding the news about inflation, which increased by 8.6 percent in May. Retailers who are concerned about the impact of price hikes on consumer spending habits this holiday can use their existing customer data now to “understand where price sensitivities are strongest and for which customer groups.” This kind of analysis can help retailers match promotions and offers with the right customer segments, based on their price sensitivity. 

Updating segments and personalization can also help retailers refine and focus their customized offers during the holidays, when consumers are barraged with marketing messages. The more relevant your messaging is, the more likely customers are to pay attention to it. 

Unify Your Inventory Visibility Across Channels

At least half of the consumers surveyed for the State of Consumer Attitudes on E-commerce, Fraud & CX 2021 report said that convenience and selection were key factors in their decision to shop online rather than in stores. When it comes to seeing what’s available and being able to find what you’re looking for, e-commerce is hard to beat—as long as the inventory data customers see is accurate. 

A clear, continuously updated view of inventory across social, mobile, online and other channels can give retailers a competitive advantage this holiday season. The supply chain is still struggling with sea and rail delays as well as a shortage of warehouse space, so it may be more difficult than usual for consumers to find what they want. Learning after they order that the item is actually out of stock is frustrating and erodes trust. Accurate inventory creates an easier experience that builds customer trust. 

Get Your Promotions Ready to Launch Early

The traditional cadence of holiday shopping—a bit before Thanksgiving and then a Cyber Five frenzy to kick off the season—has been changed by the pandemic. Now, shoppers start buying gifts in late October or early November, which means the Cyber Five sales peaks aren’t as sharp as pre-pandemic. That early-shopping trend is expected to hold this year, which means your promotions need to be completely ready for launch by mid-October. You want to meet your customers with the deals and offers they expect when they’re ready to buy. 

Review Holiday Shipping Surcharges and Delivery Windows

Sixty-nine percent of consumers reported abandoning an online cart because of shipping cost or speed, and shipping is often slower and more expensive during the holiday season. The Postal Service and private carriers typically add peak season surcharges and extend holiday delivery time frames. 

Make sure you factor in holiday shipping delivery window changes as you plan promotions and set order-by dates. You may also need to adjust pricing because of shipping surcharges, but consumers may be more price-sensitive this year as inflation affects their budgets. This is another case where using data to understand your customers can help you make optimal decisions, like determining how much price matters to each segment or persona. 

Optimize Your Customer Journey for Mobile

Mobile will “drive essentially 50 percent of e-commerce holiday sales” in 2022, according to Insider Intelligence, and the ClearSale survey findings support that prediction. Forty percent of the consumers we surveyed always have their mobile phone with them while they shop online, while another 26 percent have their phones with them more than half the time. 

Optimizing mobile CX includes the basics like fast page load times, easy to use navigation tools, and checkouts that minimize data-entry requirements. Offering a digital wallet payment option may be the easiest way to streamline checkout, because it eliminates the need to key in card data and it can pull billing and shipping address data into the checkout form. More than 70 percent of consumers in our survey prefer digital wallets to card payments, and 35 percent say they’ve abandoned carts because checkout was too complex or time-consuming. 

Avoid False Declines That Can Undermine All Your Other CX Efforts

After you put in the work to optimize your segmentation and personalization, unify your inventory data, time your promotions correctly, review holiday shipping issues, and update your mobile CX and checkout, your investment can deliver more revenue and stronger customer loyalty—as long as your fraud control process doesn’t reject good orders by mistake. 

These false declines frequently happen when retailers rely entirely on automation to score orders for fraud risk and then approve or reject those orders based on the score. Scoring is important, but sometimes what looks like fraud can be a good customer. For example, a brand-new shopper making a high-ticket-value purchase during the holidays could be fraud—or someone visiting your store for the first time to buy a gift. Forty percent of surveyed customers said they’ll never shop with a retailer again after a decline, and 34 percent will complain about them on social media so others know to avoid them, too. 

To prevent this CX disaster, implement manual review for high-risk orders rather than rejecting them automatically. Fraud analysts can quickly determine which orders are truly fraudulent and which are good. The result is more orders approved and better customer experiences, without more fraud.

Taking these half-dozen steps now can help your store stand out with customers this holiday season. The more you can help shoppers find exactly what they’re looking for and get it on time without hassles, the more loyalty you’ll build for next year and beyond. 

David Fletcher serves as Senior Vice President at ClearSale, a card-not-present fraud prevention operation that helps retailers increase sales and eliminate chargebacks before they happen. As a serial entrepreneur, he understands the particular pain points that affect business owners today, and how fraud management can provide real-world solutions to those problems. At ClearSale, he spearheads business development, sales, partnerships and alliances with top e-commerce organizations.

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