In Store Customer Experience Falls Flat During The Holidays

Author

Steve Olenski, Contributor

December 5, 2014

The term “customer experience” or CX is very much in vogue these days. It is at or near the top of everyone’s mind who works and plays in the world of marketing. Or at least it better be for CX will undoubtedly be the one thing that makes or breaks a brand over the next 3, 5, 7 years and beyond.

Yes, it is that important.

“Retailers today must understand that they are being judged by highly connected consumers with many different views and experiences that are shaping their purchasing decisions.”

The quote above came from Julie Lyle, CMO of h.h. gregg and was culled from an article I wrote earlier this year entitled This Could Be The Biggest Thing In Retail And It’s Not Mobile. The “this” I referred to was IoT, AKA the Internet of Things. 

You can read all about it by clicking the link above but first keep reading this article.

Brick Meet Mortar

Obviously Lyle’s quote above was said in the context of the Internet hence the ”highly connected consumers” — however, those same connected consumers are of course very likely to visit a real life brick and mortar retail location to do some, oh I don’t know, holiday shopping perhaps.

Goes without saying that this time of year is the most important time of the year for retailers. Not sure if it’s the most wonderful time of the year per se but it is the most important time for sure. Consumers across the world are diligently working on their holiday gifts list and according to recent research, their in-store customer experience leaves a lot to be desired.

The above chart is from a recently-released research paper entitled Holiday Research 2014 Part 1: Unwrapping Shopper Plans, co-produced by Oracle Marketing Cloud and Edison Research, the former being my employer.

As noted this is Part 1 as there will be a part 2 released in January, 2015. The two parts are essentially broken down by shopper intent vs. actual behavior. Over 1,000 respondents were/will be queried about how they plan to shop (Part 1), and how they will actually shop (Part 2) this holiday season.

And from the result shown above it appears that the in-store customer experience right before the holiday season pales in comparison to the same in-store customer experience during the other parts of the year with nearly 60% of respondents indicating it is either somewhat worse or significantly worse.

The Impact

As a follow up question to the nearly 60% who said their in-store experience was worse right before the holiday season, researchers asked how, if at all, that experience will affect their behavior this year. As you can see from the chart below, the impact is significant with only 15% indicating it would have no effect while over half stating it would drive them to shop online vs. going in store.

As to why this is the case, why so many respondents indicated having a bad customer experience right before the holidays my personal theory is a great number of retailers get tunnel-visioned this time of year. They focus squarely on getting their brick and mortar locations stocked and rocked with plenty of merchandise and yes decorating their stores themselves, that they lose sight of albeit temporarily on providing the same level of experience they do the rest of the year.

Retailers may even lose sight of something as obvious as keeping a store clean and tidy this time of year, again due to having their collective heads down and focused on the holidays and all that comes with it.

And don’t let the benefit of decorating for the holidays fool you – it is very important as many respondents, when asked what they liked shopping during the holiday season indicated they liked “feeling the spirit of the season or decorations, or the people and the energy.” 

As the report goes onto state “These are all emotional reasons that influence shopping behavior — something less quantifiable, but, still very strong drivers.”

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