The general public might protest that it’s too early to be stocking the shelves with merry treats, but more consumers than you might realize have already been hit with festive fever.

Last year, 4 in 10 people had made at least one holiday purchase by the end of October, while in the US, more than 30 million people have already started buying gifts this year.

An early wave of Christmas shopping is music to retailers’ ears, however it’s a precarious time for customer loyalty. Consumers may have an affinity to a particular brand all year round, but the time and budget pressures of holiday retail can influence their behavior – leading to usually loyal customers becoming a lot more fickle.

Retailers are reinforcing this behavior in the way seasonal purchases are marketed. Go back a few years, and the festive shopping period tended to be a slow build towards mid-December. Now, early promotions such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday are pushing consumers to make snap decisions, making seasonal shopping more bottom line driven.

And even though customers expect a bargain, and will vote with their feet if they find a better deal elsewhere, they still crave the same service they enjoy from their favorite brands all year round. However, this is much harder to achieve when organizations are under much greater pressure.

Online, for example, retailers will experience huge spikes in shopper traffic, particularly on days when there are flash promotions running. They need an ecommerce solution that not only makes it easy for customers to browse and buy, but that gives them the transparency to track shipment of that order, until it arrives safely with them.

There are also unique holiday trading challenges within the bricks-and-mortar environment. Customer service is one of these; more people are coming into the store, often searching for a specific item or shopping for someone other than themselves, and as a result require greater levels of assistance. Many leading retailers are tackling this issue by rolling out mobile POS devices, so that sales associates can inform and sell to customers from multiple locations around the store.

Of course, technology alone isn’t the only solution available to tackle customer disloyalty during the holiday season; ultimately, what shoppers require is an efficient and effective experience, and this relies on upskilling key personnel throughout the business to use digital solutions, and to learn from the data they generate, to build closer, stronger consumer links.

To thoroughly optimize the customer experience during holiday trading, retailers must analyze the efficiency of their people, processes and solutions, to see where improvements can be made. They may find new capabilities in commerce solutions that can enhance the user experience – on the other hand, it might be changes to workforce deployment that makes all the difference.

The important thing is that this analysis continues throughout the build-up to Christmas, and lessons are learned from every peak in seasonal trading. Not only will this determine whether customers walk away with a smile on their face and a bag in their hand – coming through for them when they are particularly stressed and busy will pay loyalty dividends well into the New Year.

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