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While the holidays may seem over for consumers, retailers are already gearing up for next year—and we have some suggestions for them! With just a few small improvements that address consumer pain points during the busiest shopping season of the year, retailers can gain an edge on their competition for the 2017 shopping season. Here are our top 3 recommendations based on the best (and worst) customer experiences we encountered this past season.
Every year the vast majority of complaints I hear about holiday shopping are related to shipping. Whether it’s because packages go missing, end up damaged or left at the neighbor's house, or simply that the packaging or shipping label gave away the surprise to family members, consumers are practically begging for a better shipping experience. And while retailers can’t control everything (I’m looking at you, Mother Nature) they can completely control their customer’s experience when they reach out for help. Regular testing of how customers find and utilize shipping and tracking information on a website or app can reveal subtle annoyances that might not seem like an issue now, but can easily escalate when the holidays are a few days away and a package is nowhere in sight. Simplifying and streamlining the user experience for customers trying to track their shipments can save companies countless hours in customer support.
Most retailers offer the option to include a message with gift purchases, which is great. What isn’t so great are the character limitations I’ve seen popping up with many retailers. I recently tried to send a bouquet to my mother for the holidays, only to find I had a mere 60 characters with which I was to include my ‘heartfelt’ message. And I ran into this with several other gifts I ordered from retailers online. Sending a gift straight from the retailer is a fantastic option. But the one small oversight of too strictly limiting the length of gift messages removes the only way customers have to personalize a gift being straight to its recipient.
Another shipping woe is the seemingly growing trend of separating out the time before an item ships, to the time it takes to ship once it leaves the store. For example, if an item notes it has a 2-day shipping option, that’s helpful for those last-minute shoppers. But it quickly becomes a frustration when the fine print notes that the item may take 1-2 weeks for processing before it’s shipped. Setting consumers’ expectations with realistic expectations of when their order will reach their door as well as transparent explanations of any additional costs for expedited shipping will save a lot of frustration.
As a retailer, it’s never fun to hear about the frustrations of your customers, but it’s still important to listen. Continuous user testing will enable you to keep your finger on the pulse of customers preferences and habits and uncover experiences that, while seemingly subtle in the offseason, can quickly become a major issue during the holidays. By starting a regular habit of testing now, retailers can jump-start improvements well ahead of the next holiday shopping season.
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