When it comes to the most romantic of all the international holidays, during Valentine’s Day retailers aim to capitalize on shoppers’ love and affection in order to win sales and enhance the customer experience.
During this emotion-oriented holiday, retailers need to establish their strategies around two key ideas, according to Chip Bell, consultant and author of the book The 9 ½ Principles of Innovative Service. “There are two elements that are central to the whole concept of Valentine’s Day: One is the element of generosity, and the other is the element of surprise,” Bell said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “If you think about the whole essence of what Valentine’s Day really means, those two elements need to be woven through every retailer’s customer engagement strategy.”
Several companies are offering solutions designed to help retailers engage during Valentine’s Day. SmartGift, for one, provides online gifting technology, designed to enable retailers to “mimic the in-store, real-world experience of gifting” all while offering a seamless omnichannel experience, according to Monika Kochhar, Co-Founder and CEO of SmartGift.
“We allow the gift giver to send a greeting card, virtually wrap the present, send a video message or a personalized photo,” said Kochhar in an interview with Retail TouchPoints, “which helps create that feeling that you walked into the store, picked out an item, bought it, wrapped it, attached a card to it and sent it to the recipient.”
For the gift-giver, in-store processes such as selecting a greeting card and choosing gift wrapping paper subconsciously boost the overall experience. For the gift recipient, being able to virtually open a gift provides an element of surprise through a channel that struggles to tap into such emotion.
“The surprise element that comes with gifting — especially on holidays like Valentine’s Day — is really important, and for us as a solutions provider for omnichannel retailers one of the biggest tasks was to transition the element of surprise throughout each of our channels,” Kochhar added. “Having the recipient virtually unwrap and open their gift helps bring in that human reaction of surprise.”
Enhancing Return Experiences
Retailers also can tap into more user-friendly return practices in order to improve the experience for online shoppers. Allowing gift recipients to return and exchange a gift using the same email that the gift came from can ensure satisfaction, even before the initial gift is even shipped.
“When the recipient opens the gift, and much like the traditional sense where you get the gift and bring it back to the store to return it, we show other items to the recipient that might be of interest to them,” Kochhar said. “This helps create that in-store feel.”
Kochar added: “I think that — overtime — this kind of functionality will be what all consumers will demand. It will become a big area of interest among all retailers because consumer preferences shift as paradigm shifts occur, and retailers have to alter their offerings when these paradigm shifts happen. E-Commerce is evolving, and the act of gifting should evolve with it.”
Leveraging The Mobile Experience
With almost 82% of the population owning a mobile device, and 74% actively using their mobile devices while shopping, brands cannot afford to ignore the mobile device as a customer engagement tool during the Valentine’s Day holiday.
Merging in-store experiences with mobile provides retailers with numerous opportunities to engage customers while they shop for their significant other. In one example, BloomSnap, a feature found on the online flower marketplace BloomNation, allows customers to see the bouquet of flowers they purchased in the form of a photo sent directly from the florist before the bouquet is shipped.
“BloomSnap is just another way for customers to get that same feeling they would get when they were walking into the flower shop and looking at the products available,” said Farbod Shoraka, CEO of BloomNation, in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “That is the experience we want to create.”
Forward-thinking retailers are using this type of personalization — while incorporating the elements of Valentine’s Day — to leave consumers not only pleased with their experience, but willing to continue shopping the brand after the holiday has passed.
“Flowers are an emotional gift; you send them either because you are very happy for someone or you want to show respect, sympathy and various other sentiments” Shoraka said. “These flowers hold meaning for the customer, so you want to make sure that the customer’s message is being properly conveyed.”
Make Sure Customers — And Employees — Feel The Love
Superior customer engagement takes more than just an automated CRM system to create the personal and intimate interactions that they expect on Valentine’s Day. Employees are the first physical connection with the customer during the in-store shopping journey, and it is very difficult to leverage the customer’s emotions on Valentine’s Day when employees feel insignificant.
“On Valentine’s Day, you want your employees to push customer engagement towards making the customer feel loved,” Bell said. “The opposite will not be a negative experience, but an indifferent experience. Nothing is worse than having a customer try to give a cashier money, and the cashier shows no signs of caring.”
Bell added that above all, retailers can make employees feel important by including them in the brainstorming and decision-making process. “That feeling of high-value and appreciation is then passed on to the customer, providing highly energized and passionate engagement.”
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