Amazon’s free holiday shipping for everyone may come as a shock to many retailers.
Normally, non-Prime members would have to spend $25 or more to receive free shipping, but from now until the days leading up to Christmas, everyone will get free shipping from Amazon, member or not.
As to not make Prime members wonder why they’re paying for membership, Amazon announced that in addition to free shipping, members will receive free same-day delivery on millions of items.
What’s more, Prime members in 60 cities can get delivery within an hour from Whole Foods stores through Prime Now.
This has many major retailers worried, but now is a prime time for retailers to show their customers that holiday shopping is about more than free shipping.
Here’s what retailers need to consider.
Most Retail Still Occurs In-store
Despite the ease and convenience of online shopping, the reality is that most retail transactions still occur in a physical store. In fact, a staggering 90 percent of retail transactions happen in a brick-and-mortar store.
Most customers still prefer the in-store experience. This means retailers can leverage physical locations to their advantage.
This translates to a huge opportunity for retailers to surprise and delight their customers through engaging and memorable in-store experiences. This means many things, including training store associates to not only be knowledgeable of all the products consumers might buy, but also to help store associates know how to effectively engage with customers.
The trick, though, is retailers need to also have a top-notch online experience because 90 percent of in-store shoppers use their mobile devices to search for coupons and check product descriptions and specifications, reviews, and pricing before visiting a physical store.
Retailers need to ensure that any mobile apps they offer are fully functional and provide a simplified experience.
Even though Amazon will offer free shipping, consumers still don’t want to wait for shipping. They want instant gratification.
An Awesome In-store Experience is a Must
Holiday shoppers, in particular, are focused on value and experience. Fast, free shipping is no longer a point of differentiation, but an expectation.
The in-store experience must be awesome and convenient.
Tailor 1-to-1, personalized engagement outreach based on what they browse and purchase. With that personalization, retailers can continually create more meaningful loyalty benefits for them while maintaining a high level of service.
A key element of the customer experience occurs behind the scenes with the post-purchase experience and returns. Customers expect that to be as seamless as the shopping experience and when it is, they appreciate and value that.
It’s no longer just about the transaction. Retailers must find new ways to delight the customer. That might come in the form of providing relevant content, offers, and services that matter for each customer and within the shopping channel that’s most meaningful to them.
Make it easier to shop with click and collect. Make people aware of an easier returns policy. Provide in-store events for kids and offer free gift wrapping. These are all types of in-store engagement tools that will serve you well this holiday season.
Retailers must maintain a relentless focus on the customer. Customers demand immediate and responsive interactions when they shop, especially given the fact that they have an abundance of resources available to them at their fingertips.
Retailers must continue to evolve to meet and exceed consumer expectations.
Play Up Your Loyalty Program
If you have a loyalty program, the holiday season presents a massive opportunity.
Take advantage of the increased holiday foot traffic and offer special perks like express lanes for loyalty members. Make sure in-store associates are properly trained and excited about your program and understand all its benefits.
The holiday season is a special time of year where retailers can show their thanks and appreciation to their most loyal customers. Take the time to show them how much you care and value them, offer special holiday perks, and it could go a long way toward retaining your best customers and gaining new members of your loyalty program.
It’s also a great time to get new member signed up. The NRF 2018 Holiday spending survey reports that consumers will spend 4.1 percent more than last year which means that more people will be excited to shop this year. Just don’t forget about them after the holidays. Plant the seeds now and start nurturing engaging relationships that go beyond the holidays.
It Isn’t All About Amazon This Holiday Season
Sure, Amazon is offering free shipping on all U.S. orders during the holiday season. But traditional brick and mortar retailers have an advantage over Amazon and that’s their physical spaces.
Make the best of this holiday season and accentuate your points of strength. Make your in-store experience a focal point, showcase your loyalty program and add extra perks for members, train your store associates around all your promotions, and do what you do best.
Customer experience is a key point of differentiation today among all retailers. Don’t you want to highlight this to stand out even more during the holiday season?