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Are You Prepared for the 2022 Retail Holiday Season?

Travis Most | July 19, 2022 

After back-to-back years of unprecedented disruption, retailers must be ready to maximize their successes—and their sales—this holiday season. While the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is hopefully behind us, retailers are still dealing with economic uncertainty, including soaring inflation, supply chain delays, and staffing shortages.

In the face of these challenges, how can businesses keep current customers happy and loyal while simultaneously attracting new customers?

While the current economic climate is anything but merry, retailers can still have a profitable holiday season. To be successful, plan early, be flexible, and have the appropriate technology and partners.

Even in the heat of summer, when people are still slathering on sunscreen and heading to the pool, it’s not too early to start planning for the jolliest time of the year. Here are some tips to maximize your sales:

Adjust your timelines. Rising inflation will likely influence shopping decisions, including timing. As prices continue to climb, consumers might worry that buying gifts could be more expensive in December than they are now. This may lead some customers to buy discounted products early, in an effort to beat price hikes. Salesforce found that 37% more U.S. shoppers plan to buy gifts earlier this year to get better deals. Be prepared with plenty of inventory and a solid online infrastructure. Also, consider creating buzz by offering “exclusive” or “limited-quantity” items, or promoting features, like a product’s sustainability, to generate sales.

Provide personalized experiences: According to Salesforce, 66% of consumers expect retailers to meet their specific needs and wants, yet only 32% of retailers are able to convert data into personalized customer experiences. Retailers must close that gap. By personalizing outreach to customers and prospects—based on individualized shopping habits and preferences—businesses make customers feel valued. Recommend products that will appeal to them. Engage with them on social media. Make it easy for them to buy. Go the extra mile for them. For example, if a customer is looking at a specific sweater online but the item is sold out, set up your systems to send an automatic (and personalized) email when that sweater is back in stock.

Anticipate customers’ needs: Use data to make it faster for customers to find the items they want, which will increase sales and conversion rates. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can direct customers to relevant products based on behavioral data and can provide additional product recommendations (such as batteries for the children’s toy a customer just added to their cart). Similarly, offer intelligent product bundling to sell more items per transaction. For instance, a customer who buys an artificial Christmas tree online may also need ornaments, a tree topper, and a tree skirt. Providing a “bundle” with those products simplifies the shopping experience while also increasing sales.

Reward loyalty. Today’s customers want more than “just” redeemable points from your loyalty program. Up your game by offering early access to coveted products, exclusive membership deals, and invitations to members-only events. Collect data on customers’ purchase history, product preferences, and shopping habits to curate individualized experiences. Beauty juggernaut Sephora, for example, offers its members exclusive benefits, including individual sessions with make-up artists, personalized perks, and product discounts, which increases both sales and customer loyalty. 

Spotlight sustainability as a differentiator. Sustainability matters, as 78% of customers look at brands’ environmental practices when deciding whether to buy from them. Demonstrate your sustainable practices, like using environmentally friendly packaging, reducing waste, and collaborating with like-minded vendors. Emphasize sustainability as you engage with customers and prospects. Starbucks, for example, is well-known for rewarding their loyalty members with product discounts and loyalty points when they bring in reusable cups for their beverages.

Leverage omnichannel retailing. A prominent trend expected to impact holiday sales is omnichannel retailing, an integrated sales approach that creates a seamless shopping experience, whether a customer is engaging on a brand’s social media platforms, shopping in-store, or purchasing from their online shopping cart. It’s critical to connect the dots between your business’s systems, channels, and departments to ensure an integrated customer experience—no matter how customers choose to shop. Building the necessary information infrastructure has a high ROI, as data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to attract prospects and 6.5 times more likely to retain them.

Evolve with the times. A silver lining to the challenging events over the last couple years is that we’ve all learned to be more flexible and creative. If a retail brand couldn’t get shipments from overseas due to supply chain lags, for instance, they found local suppliers instead. And as more customers gravitated to buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS), nearly one-third of retailers turned locations into micro-fulfillment centers to meet this demand. With customers expecting (and demanding) fast delivery (especially around the holidays), many brands have invested in last-mile delivery, the last step of the delivery process when a package is moved from a transportation hub to its final destination at a customer’s home. Investing in last-mile can help ensure prompt service and happier customers. Since the world isn’t the same as it was a few years ago—or even last year—retailers must continue to evolve accordingly.

Provide exceptional customer service. No matter what perks a retailer offers, or how well they personalize the shopping experience, providing extraordinary customer service should always be the #1 priority. In fact, 91% of customers are more willing to buy again from a retailer who provided a great service experience. Even seemingly “small” gestures—like remembering customers’ names, offering free gift wrapping, providing complimentary coffee or champagne in-store while shoppers browse, or special ordering products that customers request—can make a huge difference in terms of boosting customer happiness, satisfaction, and loyalty.

ListEngage, a go-to marketing-centric Salesforce partner, works with national and global brands to drive positive business outcomes. Contact us for more information about how we can partner to make the holiday season more festive and profitable for your organization.

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Travis Most | Strategic Account Executive

Travis is a Strategic Account Executive with ListEngage. Travis’ career has been in operations and management consulting focused on marketing, sales, and customer service. He has worked with numerous global and national retail and consumer goods organizations over his 15+ years in consulting. Travis has been working primarily in the Salesforce ecosystem for the last 7 years, in solutions, sales, delivery, and practice leadership roles.