Believe it or not, the 2022 holiday shopping season is here. And this year is unlike any other.
With their wallets strapped and emotions running high, customers during the 2022 holiday shopping season are looking for brands that can provide personalized, convenient solutions to make their lives easier and better. They are also not purely looking to buy a product – but to have an experience around the product. If we thought the experience economy was here before, COVID expedited it even more so. Customers experienced that life is short, we don’t know what’s coming next. When faced with a decision to have an experience versus purchase a product, the customer will choose the experience.
Customer demands are always changing, and knowing what’s coming and staying ahead of those changes helps brands succeed. As companies prepare for the 2022 holiday shopping season, understanding changing customer trends and demands is vital.
Here are four trends as we enter the 2022 holiday season and what they mean for CX.
Spending is down.
Tough economic times mean people won’t be spending as much. In the U.S., holiday gift spending is expected to drop by $30 billion as 58% of consumers cut back on non-food spending during the holidays. The biggest drops could come in clothing and footwear, with 25% of people expected to cut back in those areas.
However, despite these less-than-stellar predictions, many retailers are still optimistic that customers will be back and ready to spend this holiday season. And while some projections show overall sales holding steady or slightly increasing from last year, it could also be due to rising inflation.
Brands need to be flexible to change their approach to match customers’ needs. This year is less about high-ticket, flashy items and more about providing a great experience on the essentials and turning everyday items special. In the growing experience economy, it’s about creating an experience around the product, not necessarily the product itself. Brands like Nike, which creates an immersive, technology-driven shopping experience, or Foxtrot, which curates food and drink for pickup or 30-minute delivery, build a complete experience instead of simply selling commodities.
The holiday shopping season is expanding.
To get ahead of tight wallets and spread the financial strain across more paychecks, customers are starting their holiday shopping earlier in 2022.
Many retailers, faced with record stockpiles of inventory and cautious shoppers, are slashing prices to get rid of merchandise, which means the holiday shopping season has already begun. To go with that, major retailers are also pushing early sales. Amazon launched a second Prime Day, and stores like Target and Walmart followed suit with early fall holiday savings.
Brands need to be understanding and empathetic during the drawn-out holiday season so they don’t overwhelm customers. That means personalized service and experiences to make customers’ lives easier, no matter if they shop in October or late December.
Internet sales are up.
In a surprise to no one, online sales are expected to reign supreme in 2022, with Adobe predicting 2.5% growth in online sales November 1-December 31. Early discounting and economic uncertainty have caused e-commerce to stall, so even though online is still crucial, it lags behind growth in previous years.
Creating an intuitive, convenient, and personal online and mobile experience is crucial for brands. Even for in-person purchases, customers start their research online, which means the customer experience starts when they first search for your brand online. The online experience, including a customer’s initial search results and reviews, have never been more important.
Around half of customers post online reviews after a customer service experience—either positive or negative. That means every interaction your brand has with customers is magnified and likely shared with the masses online.
Customers want a human touch.
Many brands look to scale customer service during the busy holiday season with chatbots and other technology, but customers want humans. When given the choice of how to communicate with a brand, a TCN consumer survey found the majority of customers chose speaking to a live agent, followed closely by online chatting with a live agent. Technology is still important in 2022 but is only part of the solution. Human interaction still sets brands apart.
Delivering a great customer experience during the busy holiday season means balancing technology and human interaction while preparing agents with appropriate staffing and resources to serve customers.
The holiday season is when customer service is put to the test, and 2022 is no exception. Understanding your customers, establishing and strengthening a customer-centric mindset and preparing early can set your team up for success.
Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist and the bestselling author of The Customer of the Future. For regular updates on customer experience, sign up for her weekly newsletter here.