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4 ways merchants can drive authentic connections with customers: holiday edition 

4 ways merchants can drive authentic connections with customers: holiday edition 

In 2021, 48% of consumers spent more time shopping online last year compared to the year before, per a Merkle report .

They’re set up to do the same again this year.

What are they looking for? And how can your company be the one they choose when it comes time to spend their holiday dollars?

You need to stand out. And that means going farther than getting your ducks in your row. Yes, your product pages need to load quickly, and your check-out needs to work, and your site needs to have a decent SEO presence. We know you know that. 

If those are table stakes, how do you elevate your customers’ ecomm shopping experience and create a real, authentic connection?

It comes down to one thing: improving the customer experience. 

Here, we look at 4 retailers who are finding authentic ways to improve their connection with their customers this holiday season and the lessons behind their success:

1. Give shoppers (and their gift recipients) peace of mind.

We give gifts for lots of reasons. Per a Harvard Business Review article cheekily titled, “Why Am I So Obsessed with Giving People Gifts? ”, those reasons include big emotional ones like wanting to show love and wanting to feel love.

It makes sense, then, that we’re careful about what we choose, and that we look for high-quality options that will last.

But what about the what-if scenario?

What if your gift gets damaged in transit? What if its end user accidentally breaks it, like by dropping a phone ? What if, despite the seller’s or manufacturer’s careful design and quality control, something goes wrong? 

Then gifting a product protection plan along with the product itself can help give recipients peace of mind.

Example: Movado

Improving the customer experience and providing buyers and recipients alike with peace of mind were two of the reasons Movado partnered with Clyde to offer extended warranties alongside their high-end watches. 

Margot Grinberg, Vice President of E-Commerce & Digital Marketing at Movado, was first interested in extended warranties because they added to customer experience.

“When we started talking to Clyde, we were looking at what can make people have an even better experience, a more holistic experience, when shopping on our website,” she says. “Having protection for your purchases was a really nice added-value thing that we can offer our consumers to buy right on the spot when they're making their watch purchase.”

Offering product protection first helped Movado stand out, adds Grinberg. “Something that improved the customer experience gave them a point of difference for shopping on our websites versus shopping at other retailers or other brands, and allowed them to feel really confident in their purchase long term.”

And now, each June and December — when watch sales tick up in line with major gifting opportunities like Father’s Day, graduation, and Christmas — Grinberg is reaffirmed in her strategic decision. “Being able to give consumers peace of mind that with a little bit of extra spending on that upfront purchase or gift, they're protected for a long time from anything that can happen to their watch — that’s really important in today’s world.”

2. Provide customers an opportunity to shop in line with their values.

It’s no longer an oddity for a brand to have values and to articulate them in a customer-facing way — it’s an oddity for them not to do that.

Per the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer survey , 68% of consumers think they have the power to make corporations change, and 86% of people expect CEOs to speak out on social issues. 

And according to Deloitte’s 2022 research report appropriately titled “Purpose—a beacon for growth,” 57% of global consumers say they are more loyal to brands that commit to addressing social inequities. 

As the report explains, purpose is a differentiator. Brands still need to compete and deliver on price and quality, but when consumers are choosing where to spend their money — including and especially on others during the holiday season — purpose is what lets some brands stand out. 

Customers are looking to authentically connect with brands across the things they care about. That means brands that want to win need to make their values not just a part of their marketing, but a core part of how they do business, from how they develop products, approach DEIB in hiring and retaining employees, and think about their carbon footprint. 

Values look different to different people, and can include things like:

  • Protecting customer data and privacy

  • Stopping or reversing climate change

  • Working towards racial justice

  • Holding truth to power

  • Paying and treating workers fairly 

A values-driven approach is especially important to younger generations, per an eMarketer report :

Example: Cards Against Humanity

Cards Against Humanity is a popular card game and holiday gift.

The company regularly crushes holiday-related marketing pushes, like with their “Ten Days or Whatever of Kwanzaa ,” during which they sent 250,000 people a card with their name on it, set up elaborate group puzzles, and commissioned a holiday zine, amongst other things. 

They did a similar thing for Hanukkah ; one of those actions included buying 150,000 one-year NPR memberships as a “tiny step toward keeping Americans from getting even dumber in a time when public funding for educations, arts, and culture is at a historic low.” In 2020, the company formed a union after allegations of a toxic culture forced out its former co-founder. The company later committed to making its “anti-racist and anti-bigoted values explicitly clear.”

This year, with its latest new product release, Cards Against Humanity has lived out a certain one of those values: the right for people to have autonomy over their bodies.

Customers buying their new card packs who live in one of 22 U.S. states that has restricted abortion rights will see that all profits from their order will go to the National Network of Abortion Funds. 

And if buyers are upset about that and say they don’t “agree with that”?Cards Against Humanity adds $5 more to their order:

It’s a strong — and strongly-worded — example of putting your values front and center and letting customers who share them self-select into your community. 

3. Offer personalized gifting support. 

A quarter of Americans find the last three months of the year the most stressful. 

And according to a January 2022 survey, 43% of people felt more stressed last holiday season than they did the year before. 

There are plenty of reasons for that stress. Strained budgets, inflation, and supply chain woes among them.

Gift giving can lead givers to experience anxious feelings, per a Yahoo! story . It’s hard to know what would-be recipients want, what to choose for them, and how to make sure your gift is something that they’ll enjoy and use.

Some brands are stepping in this holiday season to help.

Ecomm stores can make product consultants or experts available to answer questions about styles, fit, popular gifts, and more. Having a real, actual human helping customers — instead of a dry Q&A page or a stilted AI chatbot — can help you connect authentically with your audience. 

Once again, it’s about putting their needs first and going above and beyond to help them have the best experience possible with your brand.

Example: Lululemon

Lululemon is an athletic brand. They recently rolled out a virtual Product Expert experience, where customers can connect with advisers via one-way video chat along with iMessages, phone calls, and virtual or in-store Personal Shopping appointments.

For customers looking to find the perfect pair of leggings or shoes for a loved one, Lululemon’s personalized support can make all the difference between getting a gift and getting the gift.

Apparel expert –  

4. Listen to what buyers are looking for and give them that (like by providing giftable experiences, even if you’re a product company). 

Per a 2022 Ally survey, nearly two-thirds of consumers say they value time with family and friends more this year than in the past. 

In addition, 61% say they value experiences over things. 

That makes sense, coming off of two pandemic years and a continued series of changing world pressures that put safety and connection high on the list of precious resources.

So what can you as a retailer do to meet your customers’ needs, even if you’re a product-focused company?  

Adding giftable experiences  is a great way to connect authentically with your customers. If you sell tech equipment, you may also offer a pack of virtual lessons on how to set up and maximize that equipment. Or if you sell instruments, maybe you can include the option to meet with a professional musician and jam together.

You can make these experiences paid, and thus draw in an additional line of revenue for your company this holiday season. Or you can opt to do it as a pure community-building play, knowing that investing in your community will pay dividends over time.

Example: Sur la Table

Sur la Table is a kitchen and homeware brand. Along with buying saucepans, Le Creuset baking dishes, fancy knives, and all the whisks your kitchen-loving loved one could dream of, you can also buy — for yourself or for a gift recipient — cooking classes.

There are both virtual and in-person options. You don’t need Sur la Table tools to take or enjoy them, but the instructions do use the company’s own equipment. They cost money (around $90 per person per in-person class). And above all, the classes line up with the company’s mission to connect meaningfully over food. 

(On their website : “Making and sharing food sets a place for talking, listening, and being -- together. What comes from the kitchen is a daily act of generosity, and one worth celebrating.”)

Remember: it’s all about the experience

No retailer is owed a customer’s dollars — they earn them through great products, great service and now more than ever, a great shopper experience.

Offering product protection, speaking out against injustice, helping make gift shopping easier, and giving customers exactly what they’re asking for are 4 ways to create strong, authentic customer relationships that transform the buying experience.

Clyde can help you own the post-purchase experience from the moment of checkout and beyond. Set up a demo today to learn more .