How to make the holidays easy for your customers, and more profitable for your brand

How to make the holidays easy for your customers, and more profitable for your brand
By Andrea LeGrand
Andrea LeGrand
Account Director, Loyalty and Customer Engagement
Nov 12, 2019

With two-thirds of consumers having just begun their holiday shopping in October, there’s still time to make the most of the season for both your shoppers and your brand. Here are six things to keep in mind.

Brick and mortar isn’t dead

It’s critical to have a strong online experience, but don’t forget about your physical presence, too.

According to Blackhawk Network, a branded payments provider, 28 percent of U.S. internet users said they shopped in-store more often this year vs. last year, which could point to in-store shopping being on the rise. They also found that 82 percent of U.S. boomers said they made purchases in a physical store at least once a month. And according to a June 2019 report from CivicScience, nearly half (49 percent) of millennial internet users surveyed said they conduct the majority of their shopping in-store.

Is brick and mortar making a comeback? Evidence suggests it might be. Physical stores should consider their experiential retail approach – everything from ambiance like music, décor, lighting and curated displays, to services offered, like wrapping gifts, extending return policies and assisting customers with getting packages to their cars. Engage your customers by providing refreshments, hosting special events, designating areas to try products and services, and offering concierge services to make the shopping experience easier and more enjoyable.

And brands should also be focusing on opportunities to integrate their online and offline presence for a seamless customer experience all year long. The holidays provide a particularly opportune moment to do this. Brands like Levi, Michael Kors and Calvin Klein are integrating the in-store experience into e-retail with a ‘true fit’ service – allowing customers to give feedback on the brands, sizes, and fits they usually shop for.

Apps are where it’s at

Having a presence on your customer’s mobile device is key to capturing more sales, which means your brand’s app can unlock more revenue.

Rob Garf, Vice President of Strategy and Insights at Salesforce told eMarketer, “This holiday season, we anticipate mobile making up more than 50 percent of orders—which would be a first.” The article also included data that found in the first five months of 2019, app usage accounted for the majority of mobile time spent for leading online retailers like Amazon (76 percent), Walmart (81 percent) and Etsy (71 percent).

But your brand won’t benefit from numbers like those if it’s just sitting in an app store. With an overflow of mobile apps, every download takes precious real estate on a consumer’s device, and therefore must provide value to your customers. So, what does it take to get your customer to download and use your app? Deals, coupons, and rewards. According to and LISNR data mobile shoppers were most likely to download a retailer’s app if presented with these perks. As for the apps that fall to the wayside? Mobile app users cited having too many apps on their devices, data security concerns, a lack of interesting features, and unappealing coupons as several reasons why they skip the download.

Start making the push now to get your customers to download your app. Entice them with the promise of exclusive deals, additional discounts, early access to sales, free shipping and more throughout the peak holiday shopping season. Offering something upon app download can also help them take that first, crucial step.

Hot deals and modern conveniences are the new norm

There’s no real surprise here – your customers have become accustomed to all kinds of special deals and brands making their lives more convenient. If you don’t play in both – or at least one – of these areas, expect to lose some business to others that do.

According to RetailMeNot, 62 percent of Americans say they always research deals or discounts before purchasing gifts for the holidays. And 58 percent will not complete an online purchase without free shipping while holiday shopping.

And while overnight and same-day shipping, “buy online pick up in store” (BOPIS), and free shipping aren’t new conveniences, consumers expect them more and more. And this expectation is only amplified during the hectic holiday season. Because of this, 96 percent of retailers report that they plan to change their shipping tactics this holiday season to compete with larger retailers like Amazon and Target. RetailMeNot also found that more retailers are implementing BOPIS efforts to make the shopping experience easier.

Subscriptions – The Gift That Keeps on Giving

We’ve all seen the vast array of subscriptions – cosmetics, luxury goods, wine, beer, meat, books, flowers, socks and more – and people are buying into them. Research by McKinsey shows that 15 percent of online shoppers have signed up for one or more subscriptions, frequently through monthly boxes. What we all maybe thought of as a fad, looks like it may be here to stay. If your brand is able to break into the subscription game, it’s likely you will benefit greatly during the holiday season.

In our research, we found that consumers have two types of subscriptions: “necessities” and “indulgences.” For example, pet food vs. a Netflix subscription, respectively. Depending on your product, try to sell items that could fall into both categories. This may not be a solution for all categories but think outside the (subscription) box and see if it makes sense for you to join this popular gifting solution.

Reviews you can use

According to Bazaarvoice, the user-generated content interaction rate was 8 percent over typical beginning in mid-October, meaning that shoppers were beginning to research, read reviews and consider different products in advance of holiday sale days coming later in November.

Furthermore, the annual research shows that 64 percent of shoppers consider ratings and reviews, consumer-submitted questions and answers, and consumer photos important elements of their shopping experience. Across their clients, product pages with at least one review experienced a 354 percent increase in conversion rate and a 446 percent lift in revenue per visitor compared to product pages with no reviews, whether or not visitors engaged with the review content.

If you’re feeling light on reviews and/or need more recent and relevant content, consider the following tactics:

  • Send a “call for reviews” email and social post
  • Ensure post-purchase trigger emails are in place asking for reviews and photos
  • Send complimentary items to consumers asking for reviews and photos (if products can be sampled!)

Tis the season for shared values and appreciation

In the midst of all the holiday chaos, this time of year also brings reflection on what we’re grateful for. With such heavy focus on deals of the day, 24-hour shopping and the stress of getting the perfect gifts, consumers sometimes just want a genuine thank you, or even a way to give back to charitable organizations. Consider some of these ideas to break through the clutter and connect with your customers:

  • Send a simple message wishing them a happy holiday and letting them know you appreciate them
  • Donate to a cause on their behalf
  • Offer to match their charitable gift or donate loyalty points

The holidays can be a stressful time for your customers. Keep their spirits high by making your offerings as user-friendly, up to date, and worthwhile as possible. It’ll be the gift they remember beyond the holiday season.

To learn more about how to form effective and emotional relationships with your customer, check out our Humanizing Loyalty Report.

ICF’s global marketing services agency focuses on helping your organization find opportunity in disruption.
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Meet the author
  1. Andrea LeGrand, Account Director, Loyalty and Customer Engagement

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