Becoming Retail-ready for the Holiday Season: How Target is Improving Retail Customer Experience

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This holiday shopping season promises to feature plenty of ‘firsts’ for the retail industry. During the 2017 season, for the first time ever, brands will see holiday shoppers spending more money shopping online than in physical, brick-and-mortar stores. Additionally, it is projected that these online holiday sales will grow to over $107 billion and top the $100 billion mark for the first time ever. If that wasn’t enough to convince you, it is also projected that over half of all retail website visits (56%) will be from smartphones or tablets for, you guessed it, the first time ever.

When compiled together, these predictions easily illustrate just how groundbreaking this holiday shopping season can be in contrast to those of the past. As these predictions provide a great opportunity for leading retailers to leverage their digital channels to improve holiday sales, brands also need to be prudent in providing an outstanding customer experience. In fact, 89% of customers stop doing business with a brand after a bad experience (source). Working with enterprise-level brands on their marketing and media strategy, it is all too easy to see how the brand experience can either propel a brand to success or ultimately lead them to disaster.

Luckily, there are a number of steps a brand can take to ensure their customer experience is a positive, engaging, and successful. One retail industry leader that is taking those steps and providing a strong holiday shopping experience to both their online and in-store shoppers, is Target. Utilizing insights from their successful “Target-Run and Done” campaign earlier this year, Target is looking to optimize their efforts in order to end with a successful holiday shopping season. Here are some of the steps retailers can replicate to ensure a successful holiday season.

  1. Listen to your customers.

As consumers, we’ve all seen it – the phenomenon known as “Christmas creep,” the practice of bringing out holiday displays earlier and earlier every year. The tactic by retailers to kickstart the holiday shopping season has all but backfired and started to annoy customers to the point that they are voicing their displeasure. In response to this customer feedback, Target is placing an increased in-store emphasis on Thanksgiving, and the tools needed in the kitchen for it, while holding off until after the traditional feast is completed before bringing out the major holiday displays.

In this ad featuring chef, author, and TV personality, Ayesha Curry, and her new collection of cookware, Target manages to both promote the holiday season while not skipping over Thanksgiving. As we’ll see later on, Curry won’t be the last celebrity endorser seen in promotions this holiday season as Target continues with their emphasis of brand influencers.

  1. Enlist Brand Influencers

While Target is placing an increased effort on not rushing past Thanksgiving, don’t confuse that with a decreased marketing focus on the holiday season. In addition to spending $7 billion in revamping their in-store design to improve the customer experience, Target is adding excitement to their holiday offerings by launching eight new Target-exclusive brand collections of apparel and home decorating lines. This includes new offerings such as Hearth & Hand with Magnolia (featuring Chip and Joanna Gaines from the HGTV hit show, Fixer Upper), Project 62, A New Day, Goodfellow & Co, and JoyLab. As we saw earlier with Curry, Target is again leveraging the value of celebrity with their Hearth & Hand line of products. Additionally, Target will be utilizing special holiday-themed surprises that will certainly be social media photo-worthy for in-store shoppers; including celebrity visitors, giveaways, and toy demonstrations.

  1. Combine Digital Tech with your Physical Presence

To help make shopping more fun and spontaneous, Target is adding kiosks in-store that focus on providing impulse buy gifts, mostly priced under $15 and exclusive to Target, to assist customers in finding fun and unique gifts that they might not have thought of otherwise.

Finally, new Weekend Deals, beginning this weekend, offer timely deals on merchandise right when most people are shopping for them. When you add all of these promotions together, Target is hoping to entice shoppers to visit the store during the holiday shopping season not only to buy gifts, but have a great time doing it.

  1. Leverage Mobile

Of course, the in-store holiday shopping season experience isn’t for everyone and it is far from the only focus of Target this holiday season. To help engage with holiday shoppers on mobile, Target has teamed up with Pinterest to harness the power of their visual search tool, Pinterest Lens.

For consumers who are using Lens through the Target app, they can simply take a picture of a product they want and the app will then search Target’s product database and suggest possible matches. Not only will this be hugely beneficial to the consumer experience in the short term, but with the data collected through this process, Target will also receive instant feedback on the trends and design styles that are resonating with their shoppers.

  1. Emphasize Shopping Convenience

With the emphasis on customer convenience being prominently featured this holiday season, Target is also updating how customers can pick up and receive the products they have purchased. Target Restock, a next-day essentials delivery service that expanded to many major U.S. markets recently, offers an effortless way to stock up on everyday essential goods. Up to 45lbs of items, including everything from personal care products to laundry detergent and cleaning supplies to breakfast cereal, can be delivered to your door next-day for one low delivery cost.

If you need your everyday items sooner, but still don’t want to leave the comfort of your pyjamas, Target has a solution for that as well with their recently debuted new curbside pickup service called Drive Up. While it is currently only available throughout the Minneapolis area, it is designed so that online shoppers can pick up their orders without ever having to get out of their car. As a final convenience to online shoppers, Target is also offering free shipping, with no minimum purchase, from Nov 1st through Dec 23rd of this year.

Be Retail-ready for the Holidays

By utilizing new advertising techniques and media, responding to customer feedback, and providing new features that cater to their customer’s evolving demands, Target is taking all the right steps to ensuring holiday season success. Will the results follow? It’s too soon to tell. For any retailer that has spent the last 6+ months gathering data and intel, start optimizing for the customer experience now and reap the rewards that come from happy, engaged customers.

About Author

Jennifer Gaag is an Analyst, Senior Account Manager in Ebiquity’s Advertising Intelligence group located in North America, and has been tracking global brand advertising campaigns for major CPG companies for more than 20 years. Jennifer studied Urban Planning at the University of Cincinnati School of Design, Art, Architecture, & Planning.

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