Customer Experience News & Trends

What the holidays will do to customer expectations — and how to prepare

You don’t have to be in retail to feel the effects of changing customer expectations due to the holiday season. Here’s what your customers want now.

With Halloween over, retailers switch gears to attract and keep loyal holiday shoppers.

Those online and in-store experiences help form new customer expectations for all B2C and B2B interactions. So even if you don’t cater to a retail crowd, you’ll likely see a shift in customer expectations very soon.

Here’s what customers expect in the coming months, according to research by Deloitte and Listrak — and how you can deliver what they want:

1. Convenience

Almost 75% of customers say that the ability to buy online and return in a store affects their decision to buy from a company. If they can’t have the convenience of getting and returning products wherever they want, they might not buy. Almost 60% say that the convenience of ordering online and picking up in store affects their buying decisions.

It comes down to options. Customers may not even take advantage of them. They just want to know they have options, the study found.

Key takeaway: It’s not just Amazon anymore. Almost 30% of retailers offer multiple order, pickup and return options. Even if you have limited options on how customers can get a hold of or return your products, help customers feel they’re in control. Say, “We can have it ready for you Tuesday at our facility or have it delivered to you Thursday. What do you prefer?”

2. Knowledge

Thanks to Google, customers walking into a store this holiday season will already know a lot about the products and services they want — and they’ll expect that the person who helps them will know more. Knowledge is an important factor in sales. Nearly half of customers say that working with a knowledgeable person increases the likelihood they’ll buy.

Key takeaway. Now’s the time to beef up front-line employee training to ensure they can answer almost everything customers throw at them. Plan two sessions:

  • One to focus on new or changing products and services and how those changes will affect customers.
  • The other can be a skills booster on where to access information — in your database, from in-house experts or through your social media channels. Teaching employees where to find answers is often more effective than trying to teach all the answers to them.

3. Speed

Customers are busy throughout the year. Most will tell you they’re even busier this time of year. That’s why more than 60% of customers say that working with someone who can help them make their purchases quickly will increase the likelihood that they’ll buy, the study found.

Of course, customers don’t want to be rushed into making decisions. But once they’ve made their decisions, and are ready to finish deals, they want everything to happen quickly.

Key takeaway: Online or in-store, checkout has to be as seamless as possible. It’s not the time to ask customers questions outside of what you need to complete the purchase. Save any questions you want to ask for creating a customer profile or getting feedback on the experience for a post-sales email or call. You might not get as good of a response after the purchase as you would during the purchase, but you’ll avoid frustrating customers during the sales experience. That’s a key factor in repeat sales and customer loyalty.

4. Uniqueness

During the holiday season, customers are increasingly moving away from mass-produced, cookie-cutter products and experiences. Two-thirds of customers in the study said they’ll buy local good with two of the top reasons being the wanted to:

  • find unique gifts, and
  • support their local economy.

Key takeaway: Researchers say stressing your company’s local origins, unique features — whether it’s in how you create or deliver your products and services — and how you support your community will help increase sales throughout the year.

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