No matter how loyal online shoppers may be to certain retailers, holiday shopping will test even the most dedicated of brand ambassadors. Those warm and fuzzy feelings shoppers have for favorite stores or designers often evaporate when the dire need for lowest price, fastest shipping, and special sizes outweigh the emotional bond a shopper may have with a particular company.  

Let’s face it: Customer loyalty is always fleeting. And during peak season, it can be doubly easy to lose and much harder to gain.

People tend to shop differently during the holidays. According to the National Retail Federation’s 2017 Holiday Planning Playbook, “When buying holiday gifts, consumers are likely to visit retailers they might otherwise not, offering the retailer an opportunity to impress a new consumer and potentially convert them into a long-term loyal customer.”

Show, Don’t Tell

When it comes to online shopping during the holidays, keeping loyalists or attracting news ones will require differentiation – not just in price and shipping speed but in the delivery experience. Without the ability to entice online customers with festive in-store decorations and sounds of the season, retailers are forced to make the magic happen inside the delivery box.

Imagine if shoppers could see inside that box before they buy.

An innovative way for online shoppers to know how good an unboxing experience will be is to let them view the contents of the package before it’s shipped. At the point of purchase, retailers can include images detailing how a gift-wrapped item will look inside the shipping box or how the protective packaging materials could be personalized to suit the occasion. These inside-the-box photos could take the guesswork out of online deliveries and provide peace of mind to the gift-giver because not all surprises are good ones. For retailers, this type of digital decision-making capability can set companies apart and attract new buyers.

It’s All About Customer Experience

People will talk,so retailers and brands need to make sure those are positive conversations.

“Customer service, staging, fulfillment and the customer experience shouldn’t be seen as a means to boost sales in November and December, but an opportunity to generate loyalty all year long,” the National Retail Federation states in its holiday playbook. “For the brand, the most important power is the word of mouth about your experience. In this super-competitive market, successful retailers know that every customer interaction matters.”

The customer interaction for online shoppers most often takes place inside the home after the package has been delivered. This year the deluge of holiday e-commerce orders is causing more delivery delays than ever before. UPS proactively warned that some of its deliveries could be late by one or two days and pilots for DHL and Amazon Prime Air say they are experiencing the same, according to the Washington Post.  

Delivery delays spell doom for the online customer experience. Folks who are already disgruntled about not getting their package on time may not feel so fabulous while opening it. Research from business consulting firm Capgemini shows that emotions influence loyalty, so the last thing a brand or retailer wants during the holidays is an angry unboxer. Capgemini’s Loyalty Deciphered study reveals eight in 10 emotionally engaged consumers say they promote brands they are loyal to among their family and friends compared to 50 percent of the less engaged.  

According to Capgemini, “building more meaningful, deep-rooted loyalty means thinking less about points and rewards and more about driving deep emotional engagement.” For online shoppers, one of the only ways to make those emotional ties is during unboxing. It’s the last moment of truth for retailers and brands. It’s the last chance a company has to leave a good impression and build loyalty.

Boosting the customer experience inside the box by awakening the senses or adding an element of surprise goes beyond expectation and elevates the brand in the mind of the consumer. It can be something as simple as colorful cushioning materials that spell congratulations or happy birthday or a short note that thanks a shopper for her patronage.

During the holiday shopping season when brand loyalty has a tendency to get pushed aside in the hunt for bargains, providing a lively delivery experience may be one of best ways for retailers to hold on to ardent customers.

Low prices and special promotions might entice customers short-term, but those perks will be distant memories by the time the package is received and opened. There may not be a discount or deal big enough to win them back after a bad unboxing experience.

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