A Christmas shopping wishlist for 2015
It's not uncommon to have mixed feelings about Christmas shopping in stores. With stronger omnichannel capabilities, retailers could deliver a much better customer experience.
Christmas shopping in stores should be fun, but it's often something we approach with trepidation rather than excitement. The prospect of crowds, stock shortages and running out of time to pick up last-minute gifts all tend to dampen our festive spirits and increase our stress levels.
Sure - more staff, longer opening hours and gift-wrapping services do make life easier and the overall experience more positive. But it's nothing compared to the simplicity and convenience of shopping online, and it's clear that retailers could do much more to keep their customers satisfied during this critical time of year.
Here's how I'd personally like to see retailers improve their omnichannel capabilities and offer a better Christmas shopping experience in the future.
1. Better, more omnichannel-aware customer service
A brick-and-mortar store's most important asset is the people who work there. As a human being, I like to interact with other human beings - more so than I do with websites and mobile apps, in fact. And yet I'm often disappointed by staff who can't answer my questions, particularly at Christmas, when time is precious.
It'd be great to meet a salesperson who already knows what I've been looking at online and where I am in the customer journey, and can solve the problems that may have stopped me from converting previously - all while adding value to the in-store experience.
2. A wider range of fulfillment options
Much of the time, doing Christmas shopping means going to a large department store or mall and purchasing a number of different items in one trip. This can be a source of stress in itself - we need to carry a lot of stuff around, queue to make our purchases, wait for them to be wrapped individually, and finally take them to our cars and home.
What if we could pay for items in store and then pick them up from a convenient location later? Or what if they were delivered directly to our homes? In the future, I'd like to see retailers offer a wider range of fulfillment options to meet my needs at any given time.
3. Better mobile services
It's time that retailers embraced showrooming and the rise of the mobile shopper. According to research from Columbia Business School, 60 per cent of this demographic say they're more likely to buy products in store after checking online reviews on their smartphones.
Retailers have it in their power to make the conversion even easier, using location and behaviour-aware marketing messages and offers to appeal to the time-conscious Christmas mobile shopper.
4. More assistance to track down elusive items
Dealing with stock shortages of popular items is a never a pleasant part of the Christmas shopping experience. When I can't find a product I want, I'd love for a salesperson to be able to locate it in real-time - perhaps in another store or online - and help me complete the purchase then and there.
Or, even better - perhaps retailers in the future could use predictive analytics to prevent stock shortages from affecting me in the first place?
5. A simpler way to pay
Finally, I'd like to see retailers offer a wider range of payment methods so I'm not forced to the Christmas shopping period juggling cash and cards. Maybe I could use my smartphone, or whatever payment method is linked to my account in their web store - I don't mind, so long as it's simple enough that it gives me a sense of peace in the middle of the chaos.
I am not only dreaming of a White Christmas, but also a truly wonderful customer experience.
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