Holiday Retailer #Fails

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Emily Eldridge
Emily Eldridge



Thanks to an awesome United Way volunteer opportunity, my fiancé and I had the good fortune of shopping for a much longer list than we’re used to this year. About 25 children longer. We were tasked with fulfilling the Christmas wishes for each well-deserving child on a budget of about $40 each. You would think that the budget would have been the challenge, but, although toys ARE outrageously priced, there were many more retailer #fails throughout our shopping experience.

Based on my consumer experiences, here are some areas retail marketers should work to improve in 2012:

In-Store Experience
My most memorable interactions with any given retailer are in-store. However, if this year’s trends continue, I can see myself one day becoming another online-only shopper. Why? Because the in-store experience was awful.

Here are a few ways the in-store experience could be improved:

  • Train your sales associates on the products you sell, where they are located and how they stand out against competitors. Also, explain to them how far a smile goes.
  • Have enough people working so that you have associates on the floor, in addition to those at the registers.
  • Have shelf-talkers, interactive shopping systems, basic maps and more that help shoppers understand where things are and why they should be evaluating them as possible purchases for a given audience segment (i.e. preschoolers).
  • Promote individual products or product categories versus saying the whole store is “40% off for today only.” Lead the customer. The whole-store-on-sale model makes people think your products are worth less.

Nothing, I repeat, nothing is more frustrating than a retailer who hasn’t invested in its mobile strategy. If you don’t, you are leaving me to use ShopSavvy, NexTag, Amazon Price Check and a host of other applications in which you have no control over the information I am viewing and almost everything is price-centric.

I should be able to search for or enter your URL and be brought to something that doesn’t require me to do any of the following:

  • Magnify text to make it legible or buttons to make them big enough for my finger to accurately touch.
  • Read a paragraph in order to find the information I’m seeking.
  • Load four pages to get to the information I’m seeking.
  • Print a coupon from a printer in order to redeem it.
  • Enter my zip code to find information. Most mobile devices have geolocators embedded in them, so integrate the technology and just ask me to access it.
  • Go outside of your site to find customer ratings and reviews. If the product sucks, I’ll find out one way or another.
  • Have Flash. I won’t say who had this, but seriously...
  • Get to a desktop computer to make a purchase. It’s m-Commerce, people, say it with me.

Social Media
I “like” Amazon, Target, Pottery Barn, American Eagle and even Walmart on Facebook, and probably follow ten times as many retailers on Twitter. While I saw several status updates on “deals of the hour,” no one told me why the promoted product was right for a person on my list. They were only focused on telling me the “lowest price of the season” on any given product!

Why not feature products, regardless of their sale price, to discuss why they’re unique, better than the competitor’s and “in demand” this holiday season? Seriously, I really could have used peer-to-peer feedback on whether ZhuZhu pets were more popular than FurReal Cookie or vice versa, much more so than who has Cookie for $24.98 versus $24.94.

In the same vain, why didn’t retailers utilize more psychographic and geographic targeting options in placing Facebook ads? I did not see one sponsored story, which seems like an obvious ad placement for Banana Republic’s newest holiday party dress and a host of other product-specific discussions.

Takeaways For Retail Marketers

Oh, and if you can, get this done before the 2012 holiday season. These rules are not by any means exclusive to the holidays.

Discussion Question

Looking back on the 2011 holiday season, what are other ways you think retailers can improve the customer experience while still turning a profit?

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