Christmas 2019 was widely expected to be tough for UK retailers, with sales in November down, and heavy discounting being used to boost sales in the run-up to the holiday season. But there is some hope as retailers start this week to report their Christmas figures. Reports say that sales from M&S suffered a fall in sales over the Christmas period, and Next reported higher-than-expected sales, boosting shares by 6%.
The Centre for Retail Research predicted that UK consumers would spend £1bn on Christmas Day 2018, and 1 in 4 adults were expected to do some internet shopping on the big day.
But the holidays are also a time of mass returns and delivery queries. They are a time for technical questions about new gadgets and demand for extra support as people open their presents and can’t work them (hello, Alexa).
So much time, effort and money go into creating the perfect Christmas campaigns. Maintaining an excellent customer experience over the holiday, when staffing is stretched and customers are stressed, is tough, but critical to deliver on the campaign promise of those pre-Christmas ads.
Next was one of the top retailers for engagement over Christmas according to research by Greenlight (the top five were Primark, Converse, Superdrug, Next and Boots). We looked at what the best retailers do right, and what brands can learn from them for the next holiday season.
- Respond quickly and publicly. Festive engagement needs to be even more creative and fast than normal, with an extra layer of understanding and empathy to counter the frantic holiday period. The top retailers kept up their usual standard of engaging and responding, even when the stores were closed for Christmas Day. That included scheduling and monitoring social media promotions, chatting with people about their holiday experiences, sharing in the excitement of present-giving, and responding quickly to customers with product queries or issues.
- Go beyond scheduled content. If you’re going to schedule posts for Christmas Day, make sure you monitor your feeds and can reply to people who engage with you. By having a post appearing in your feed, you’re creating an expectation that you’re available.
- Set expectations. Posting your holiday hours is essential. Let people know when they can expect to reach you – and when they can’t. Most people are reasonable, and understand that service may be slower over the holidays. But be there for those who really need it.
- Stand out from the crowd with visually appealing content. Tell stories with your festive-themed posts, beyond the usual sales messages. This is a time of community, family, goodwill, parties and fun – and, above all, human stories.
The holidays are a great chance for brands to show a more human side. Social media teams may have to deal with emotive posts or time-sensitive issues. They will have to draw on their full range of customer communications skills to deal with those issues and to make fast decisions, as well as keeping up the festive spirit, sharing in customers’ excitement and maintaining their usual high standards of engagement. This is a time when you need your best people on your social media feeds, not just your skeleton team.