The holiday shopping season is definitely in full swing, with just weeks to go before Christmas day. And while some early bird shoppers are probably taking it easy by now, a big chunk of consumers will still flock to retail stores. In fact, you can expect your foot traffic (and hopefully) sales to pick up in the coming weeks and continue til the days leading up to 25th.
Speaking of which, last minute holiday shoppers can be a godsend to retailers because they give you plenty of opportunities for sales and engagement.
And that’s exactly what we’ll be talking about today. In this post, we’re offering some practical tips to help attract—and convert—last-minute holiday shoppers.
Check them out below:
Recognize that speed can make or break sales
Speed is critical to converting last-minute customers. Remember, these shoppers are pressed for time and need to complete their purchases ASAP. They want to browse, shop, and pay with ease. That’s why you should remove any friction points that are slowing down the shopping experience and ensure that shoppers can get their hands on products in the most convenient way possible.
Here are some things you could look into:
Store navigation and staff
Set up the necessary signage, and arrange fixtures in a way that makes it simple to navigate your store. You want shoppers to quickly and easily find what they’re looking for when they’re in the shop.
Clearly point out where people can find gifts for men, women, kids, etc. Train your employees to know where everything is. That way, they’re prepared to help shoppers who need assistance.
Another creative way to quickly direct shoppers to gift ideas is to set up displays based on certain price points. Have a look a this display from Sephora which showcases holiday gift sets under $25.
Also, instruct your staff to be more diligent with cleaning and organizing your store. Have them move about the shop and be on the lookout for disorganized products or items that aren’t in their proper shelves, so they can tidy up immediately.
Store navigation improvements can also be applied to your ecommerce shop. When you’re selling online, create banners or even special navigation links for the season.
For example, why not have a collection or page filled with your top holiday products or gift items? Then for best results, put up a link in your navigation bar to direct people to the page. You should also have holiday-themed banners up on your front page so visitors can get to your offers or products in as few clicks as possible.
Look at what Dormify is doing. The homeware retailer has a special “Gifts” link on its navigation bar to make it easy for people to access the merchandise. Dormify even changed the font color of the link so users don’t miss it. And to make things even more convenient, Dormify grouped gifts by price (i.e. Under $25, Under 50), by recipient (i.e For Her, For Him), and by category (i.e. Stocking Stuffers, For the Home, Travel).
When customers have already decided that they want to buy from you, the last thing you want is to lose them at checkout. Unfortunately, many retailers seem to be dropping the ball when it comes to ringing up sales. Between long lines and associates having trouble with the POS, the checkout experience can be frustrating and could lead to shoppers abandoning their purchase.
Prevent this by improving the checkout experience. Depending on your store, there are a number of ways to go about this. Some stores are replacing their slow cash registers with mobile POS systems that not only work faster, but can also speed up checkout through functions like email receipts and mobile payments.
Other retailers are taking things a step further by untethering their POS system altogether. This lets associates ring up purchases on the sales floor, rather than from behind a cash wrap.
Consider what Magic Memories is doing. The tourism photography company replaced their old POS system with an iPad-based one. This, according to Chief Operating Officer Steve Taitoko, gave the Magic Memories staff the mobility to better interact with customers.
“Since we’re able to use tablets to process payments, our staff can actually go out to where the customers are, as opposed to just sitting behind the register waiting for people to come up,” he said.
Vend is the #1 point of sale system that lets you sell more and run your business right from your iPad. Sell more and look great while you’re at it. Vend’s sleek and modern design fits perfectly in any retail environment. You can also turn your iPad into a powerful retail tool. Connect Vend with various apps and platforms so you can do everything from one system.
Speed is obviously critical for online retailers. Studies have found that “40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.” This means that a few seconds delay in your site’s load time could result in you losing about half of potential customers.
That’s a big chunk, especially during the holidays, so make sure you address all your site speed issues (and prevent them from turning up) before the season’s shopping rush.
Some of the things you can do are:
- Optimizing your images
- Reducing the size of above-the-fold content
- Getting rid of unnecessary plugins
- Minifying resources
To check your site speed and to see the things slowing you down, you can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool here.
Also be sure to check out our post on addressing high ecommerce bounce rates for more insights on optimizing your online store.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Efficient order fulfillment is important all year round, but during the holidays, it becomes a make-or-break factor.
See to it that you’re able to get products to your customers as quickly (and reliably) as possible. If you’re shipping merchandise, be sure to inform (and continuously remind) your customers of your cut-off dates so they know when to place their orders.
ESSIO, a store that sells aromatherapy shower diffusers, does this quite well. “We focus on consistently reminding customers when our cut-off deadlines are,” says founder and CEO Peter Friis. “There’s last day to order economy shipping, last day to order expedited and last day to order overnight. For each, we have a site stripe at the top of our site explaining the deadlines. Then we also send out an email to customers on the last day to remind them.”
You may also want to create an easy to read shipping chart, such as the one by Snapfish below. This gives people an at-a-glance guide for when they should place their orders.
The holidays are also the perfect time to provide in-store pickup and same day delivery services. Last-minute holiday shoppers are always in a hurry (for obvious reasons) so they would appreciate the option to pick up their purchases on their own time or have it delivered on the same day.
Send out holiday gift guides
Your last-minute customers could use a bit of help and inspiration finding presents. Give them a leg up using gift guides filled with ideas and product recommendations.
Go through your product catalog, pick out the ones that would make for great presents, and include them in your holiday guide. Bonus points if your guide can add real value (instead of just plugging your business). On top of gift recommendations, why not throw in recipes, party ideas, or tips for enjoying the season?
Check out what Starbucks did. In 2014, the coffee company sent out a holiday gift guide to their email subscribers to entice people to check out their brews and merchandise. And in addition to their holiday picks, Starbucks also added a link to their “Holiday Pinspiration” board on Pinterest that’s filled with recipes and gift ideas.
Consider changing up your merchandising mix
Depending on your store, you could consider spicing up your product mix during the holidays by selling items you don’t usually carry. If your main products don’t normally make for great holiday presents, it would make sense to branch out a bit.
Take for example, Lucky Brand, a retailer that specializes in denim. As Forbes puts it, since “jeans are a tough gift for people to give to someone else,” the retailer shifts its merchandising mix by adding shoes and accessories to their catalog.
You may want to do the same if you find yourself in the same holiday dilemma.
Personalize the shopping experience
At a time when customers are getting more marketing messages and emails in their inbox, how can you stand out and get them to notice your offers? One word: personalization.
Be more targeted with your offers. If you’re sending out emails, tailor your messages to the buying history and preferences of your customers. Touch base with people who bought from you in the past and remind them of the reasons why they love shopping with you. Tell them their favorite brand is back in stock and you’re giving them a special discount just for being a regular customer.
Offer gift cards
Gift cards may get a bit of flack for being impersonal, but they’ve proven to rake in sales, especially during the holiday season. Data from Statista found that gift cards are the most popular gift option for consumers in 2020, with 48% of shoppers intending to buy them (more than any other retail category).
Gift cards are a godsend for last-minute shoppers who don’t have time to cook up gift ideas, so see to it that you stock up on them in the coming weeks. Help your customers out by displaying them at checkout and other prominent parts of your store. Have your associates remind them that you have gift cards in stock.
Some businesses, such as the tea subscription service Sips by, gives customes the ability to give physical gift cards, send them as e-gifts, or print them out at home.
Sips by promotes its gift card options on its website and via email, and the company has done a great job in positioning its gift cards as an excellent option for last-minute presents.
Set up gift-centric displays
Determine your top-selling and most gifted items during the holidays, then put the spotlight on those products by placing them in a special display or shelf. Make sure people see it (and know what it is) by putting signage along the lines of “Holiday top sellers” or “Gifts for him/her”.
Nordstrom did just that by putting together the following display highligting products for beauty buffs:
For best results, bundle these items to increase value and incentivize sales. Depending on the products, there are a number of bundling strategies you could implement, including:
Complementary products – Group a product with a relevant accessory or complementary items (e.g. A doll and her accessories.)
Multiple item grouping – Bundle a number of units of the same products then sell them as a package. (e.g. Items that come in multiple colors.)
Slow-moving items with top sellers – Pair slow-moving products with your more popular items. (e.g. Top-selling pairs of shoes with slow-moving socks.)
Offer gift-wrapping services
If you have the space and staffing resources for it (and if it makes sense for your business), why not offer gift-wrapping services? Your last-minute shoppers will thank you for it.
Depending on your business, you can structure your gift-wrapping services in a number of ways. You can offer it as complementary service to add value to purchases and give people another reason to buy.
Another option you can add certain conditions such as “Free gift wrapping with every $50 purchase.” You could also offer gift wrapping as an upsell to increase order values.
Run attractive (but still profitable) promotions
Sales are rampant during this season, and while they’re undoubtedly effective in generating sales, you shouldn’t be tempted to offer discounts that eat up your profits.
This holiday season, strive to be more strategic with your discounts. You can start by personalizing your promotions. Segment your customers based on their price sensitivity and shopping habits, then offer discounts accordingly.
The following table is an example of what you can do:
Vend tip – are you a Vend user? Our customer management software makes it easy to build and manage customer lists, so you can view, sort, and group shoppers according to factors like purchase history, balance, and location.
As we mentioned in our article about discounting in retail, carrying out creative pricing or sale strategies will allow you to entice customers without killing your profits or hurting your brand.
You can, for instance, set spending thresholds on your promotions. Rather than just giving away free shipping, why not offer it once the customer spends a certain dollar amount?
Another tactic would be to have exclusive sales reserved for your most loyal customers or top spenders.
In some cases, you may not even have to “push” your discounts to customers. Have a look at what Express, an apparel retail chain did, when it revamped its promotional strategy.
In late 2014 (and continuing to 2015), Express decided to hold fewer promotional events. It also relocated its sale items from the front of the store to the back. This move encouraged shoppers to check out their top-notch items first, and allowed the retailer to get more people paying full price without alienating those looking for deals.
Bonus resource: Need additional tips and examples to help with your promotions? The following video discusses the most popular techniques for merchandising your products during a sale and discuss their nuances.
Consider extending your store hours
For some retailers, opening a little early and closing later than usual can make a big difference this season. That’s why plenty of shops extend their operating hours during the holidays.
Last year, for example, Macy’s kept its doors open for 24 hours on December 22 and 23, and remained open from 12 am to 6 pm on Christmas Eve. Similarly, Toys ‘R’ Us also extended their hours and stayed open for 24 hours on the 22nd and 23rd, and until 10pm on the 24th.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should automatically follow suit. Some businesses won’t actually benefit from pulling these holiday all-nighters.
The best way to figure out if extending your holiday hours would make sense for you is to pay attention to holiday foot traffic trends. Are people coming in earlier or later during the holidays? For example, do you usually have more people waiting for you when you open your doors or do you have customers coming in when you’re about to close?
Next, look at your sales data and determine if the sales you make during your extended hours would offset the costs of staying open. Naturally, if the answer is yes, then you should probably extend your store hours this season.
Raise the bar on customer service
Last-minute shoppers don’t just want to be served quickly, they want to be taken care of. They want you to help relieve their holiday stress so they can get what they need and enjoy the festivities. The best way to do this is to engage your employees.
As Joe Cecere, president at Little said, “to help last-minute holiday shoppers now—or any time of the year—retailers have to go beyond price and selection. What they need to do is leverage their most under-utilized assets—their employee base.
“Passionate, engaged employees can deliver personal customer experiences that create customer loyalty and help dial down the panic mode of the annual holiday procrastinator.”
This holiday season, recognize that taking care of your customers starts with taking care of your staff. There are plenty of ways to do this. You can start by determining your store’s peak holiday hours and scheduling shifts so that there’s a healthy associate to customer ratio and none of your employees are overworked. You may also want to hire additional associates, just in case.
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.
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Are you a retailer ( or retail sales associate ) who’s struggling with how to approach shoppers ? Worried that you lack the magic touch, or that you’ll come off as an annoying salesperson ? Would you rather be awkwardly staring at your store’s point of sale software screen than actually talking to the customer in front of you ?
You should keep reading because, after years of being one of the strongest sellers at my store, I can garantit you : anyone can sell. That’s not to say it’s not going to take a lot of practice. But over the years, I’ve found that a customer will tell you verbally and/or physically how to sell to them. If you’re listening properly and looking for the right cues, you can always tell if a customer is interested in what you have to say, what approach to take with them, and what exactly they’re looking for.
Check out the tips below, put them into marche, and you should find yourself successfully closing sales : Practice Active ListeningActive listening isn’t just about standing in front a customer silently. There are a few important things you should be doing to engage in this practice :
The most important part of active listening is to not form a response while the customer is speaking. This is really to do, and is going to take a lot of practice. It’s very natural to latch on to one part of a comment and form a response to it, and then shut out the rest of the comment. tera become a good listener, a sales person must resist doing this. Active listening should engage your whole body. Things like nodding and having an open stance show the customer that you are listening to what they have to say. Once it’s time for you to speak, give the customer a quick summary of what they said. This has a few purposes. First, it allows you to come up with a response post-comment without things being awkwardly silent. Second, showing the customer that you heard everything they had to say will often open them up to providing you with more information than they initially supplied.
Practicing active listening means that you are fully engaged with learning what the customer wants. This engagement makes a huge difference. Not only will you understand what the customer wants in a deeper way, but you also gain their trust easier.
Next : Pay Attention to Body LanguageAlong with réactive listening, you should be practicing ‘active looking. ’ ( Yes, I just made that term up. ) People will betray a lot of what they’re thinking in the things that they do with their body. A lot of body language experts will tell you some odd things to look for, like watching if someone scratches their nose, but I don’t think that level of depth is necessary. In fact, I think that if you’re watching for a customer to scratch their nose, you’re probably not practicing réactive listening.
However, there is still plenty of body language you should be paying attention to while you’re actively listening. Let me give you a short list of tells you can easily pick up on during a conversation with a customer. 1. Eye ContactWhere a person’s eyes are looking is one of the easiest ways to tell what they’re focusing on. If the customer is looking at you, or the products you’re working with, that’s a good sign. It means they’re engaged with you and are interested in what you have to say and sell.
If they’re looking around, at someone else, out the door… anywhere that’s not where you are – that’s not a great sign. Usually if this is the case you should say something like, “Let me know if you need anything else, ” and let them do their own thing. No eye contact doesn’t mean you won’t be able to close the sale – but it could spell trouble if you don’t pay attention.
Hands/ArmsAnother important thing to pay attention to is what people do with their hands and arms. Typically, if someone’s arms are crossed, they are uncomfortable and probably not interested in what you have to say. You should tread gently : let this customer know you are there to help. If you’re talking with a customer who is clearly shy and uncomfortable with talking to you, I recommend acting in a more reserved manner and avoiding things like answering questions the customer has yet to ask. In addition, because this position reflects a closed off mind, I mostly suggest avoiding suggestive selling. Suggestive selling does not work well on someone who is not interested.
Open arms and palms facing towards you, however, are an génial sign. If your customer has taken this sort of forme in your conversation, you’re doing well. In fact, I would definitely recommend going for it with suggestive selling. ( Of course, make sure you’re showing them items that are actually related to what they want, not just some pre-placed item that your manager wants to get rid of. )
Facial Expression—Particularly the Curve of Their MouthLastly, you should be paying attention to the termes you customer is making. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s important to pay close attention to your customer’s facial termes. Even if a customer is pulling a straight face at you, most people’s mouths are fairly expressive in small ways. Often, the corners of the mouth will be curving slightly up or slightly down. Down is not good for you – it indicates frustration or annoyance. Curving up, though, is an super sign. Additionally, you should pay attention to how tightly the lips are held. If they’re pressed tightly together, it can mean the same thing as crossed arms.
That’s the three major areas of body language you should be paying attention to while actively listening to your customer. Keep in mind that while the customer’s body can give you an indication about how they feel towards you and your product, it’s the listening that is going to yield you the important information about what they want. Now that we’ve established good customer reading techniques, let’s talk about what to do with the information you pick up :
Respond With Similar Body LanguageOne of the easiest ways to set someone at ease is to “mirror” their body language. You don’t want to go overboard on this – that can seem creepy or just mean. But little things are really important. Start with pace and timing. Is the customer in a hurry ? Or do they want to take things slow and steady ? Speak and act at the same pace as the customer. If she’s in a hurry, speaking quickly and speed walking across the store, then you should speak quickly and speed walk across the store as well. If she’s speaking slowly and moves slowly, your speed talking and walking will only come across as aggressive to her.
In addition, you can do subtle things like adopt a similar positionnement, or use similar hand gestures. With the hand gestures, be careful. You don’t want to come across as mocking your customer. Don’t make exact replicas of hand gestures, keep it general. Determine if someone is ready to buy ( or not ) based on non-verbal cuesHere are a few more tips to help you differentiate shoppers who are ready to buy versus those who aren’t interested.
According to SCORE contributor Lee Perlitz, signals that shoppers are interested in a product include : Spending time looking at or discussing one product type – When a customer spends time focusing on just one product, there’s a good chance they’ve already set their sights on that one and are interested in purchasing it. Looking around for somebody to help them – Catch the shopper’s gaze when you see them looking around. According to Perlitz, you can approach them “if they sustain the glance or raise their eyebrows. ”Body language – A shift in body language signals “a change in esprit state that may well indicate readiness to buy. ” For example, if the shopper suddenly looks relaxed after you’ve answered their questions, that could be an indication that they’re ready to buy.
Be sure to approach customers once you see them exhibiting these signals. Failing to spot these signs or not acting in time could result in you missing out on the sale. On the flip side, here are the non-verbal signals indicating that someone isn’t ready to buy. Avoiding eye contact – If a customer doesn’t hold your gaze when you look at them, it likely means they’re not ready to make a purchase yet. Making ‘not now’ excuses – Statements like “just looking” or “not now” are clear signals that they aren’t ready to buy. Perlitz recommends that retailers “make an encouraging remark to keep them looking and back off. ”Looking at many different products – Not being focused on just one product is another indication that shoppers should be given space.
When you see or hear people exhibiting the signals above, then it’s best to hold off on the hard sell. Figure out the type of customer that you’re dealing with and respond accordinglyAs you know, there are several genres of customers who walk through your doors, and you need to tailor your approach accordingly. tera help you do that, we’ve put together a quick slideshow summarizing the most common variétés of customers in retail. Check it out below :
More tips ? Those are our tips and tricks to help anyone become a good sales person. It’s important to remember that truly good sales people work on creating trusting relationships with their clients before they sell them anything. If you are capable of creating a trusting relationship, you are capable of selling. These tips are intended to help you create that relationship.
What tricks to reading customers do you employ ? Let us know in the comments below ! Author Bio : Cara Wood is a digital administrative assistant at Capterra, a company that puts software buyers in touch with software vendors ! When she’s not hard at work at Capterra, she can be found horse-back riding, reading and just generally having a good time at life.