It’s been another tumultuous time for the UK in the lead up to Christmas. Predicted delivery delays, staff, shortages, and last-minute tightening of covid restrictions have all played their part in driving a change to how we have shopped this year. But what has that meant for the businesses trying to deliver this Christmas?
The changes to consumer behaviour haven’t been as vast as you might expect given the media predictions of Christmas chaos. In fact, in a recent poll I launched on LinkedIn, 58% of respondents said they wouldn’t be changing their shopping habits at all this year, believing that everything would work out.
Only 24% of people indicated that they were starting their Christmas shopping earlier, and just 10% said they would be doing their Christmas shopping in person.
What have businesses found?
Customers want flexibility and choice
I spoke to Brian Flesk, Head of retail at Hitachi Capital Consumer Finance who said:
“Retailers are gearing up for a surge in consumer spending, both in-store and across e-commerce platforms during the ‘golden quarter’ and need to ensure they have the right end to end offers available.”
Speaking of what Hitachi had witnessed of their own customer base, Brian commented:
“Point of sale finance solutions for high-value items, with simple and straightforward payment terms can play a huge role in converting browsers into buyers which is why we have seen a significant uptake of retailers integrating flexible POS solutions over the last 12 months to make the most of consumer demand post lockdown.”
Insights like this show us that our customers are more than ready to start shopping with us again. However, providing them with options to personalise their shopping experience, and make shopping easier.
Customers are more impulsive and crave stability
Recent NatWest Everywoman award winner, Ellen Wakelam has seen some interesting consumer behaviour in the past year too. Her gin distillery, In the Welsh Wind, had its plans to open the first customer-facing store in March 2020 delayed by the pandemic. They took an unexpected pivot and adapted within 24 hours to produce hand sanitiser alongside their usual production of gin. Their adaptability paid off, and business was able to return fully to gin production again in time to have a record summer this year.
Ellen explained that consumers have been keen to get back out there and enjoy their holidays. They have wanted to support local businesses more than before. Their goal was not to just buy a product but to buy into the distillery story too.
“All our visitors love the fact that they are part of our story, as well as getting to know and trust our brand. It’s been so nice to finally get to meet our customers, chat to them about what they love about our gin range and explain our plans for the future.”
The summer saw a huge uplift in people buying experience days with In The Welsh Wind as the country opened back up again. However, as consumers have been shaken by another round of covid measures, Ellen has seen the usually roaring Christmas trade-in gift vouchers for experience days tail off in favour of physical products, and their online gin making experience.
Consumer confidence has been understandably shaken, and people are now relying on more spontaneous and impulsive purchases, rather than making future plans that might have to be postponed. Ellen isn’t concerned though, and why should she be, when online bottle sales of their award-winning gins have been increasing steadily.
Customers are relying more on local brands
Whilst there’s been an uplift in ordering online to collect in person (proximity is now a leading factor in some people’s decisions on where to shop), the main driver for those shopping locally is to support small businesses. Reiterating what Ellen and In The Welsh Wind has seen, people want to help smaller businesses and spend their money more consciously.
Of those I surveyed through a leading business platform there was a surprising split with 37% of people still shopping online, and 53% saying they’d shop locally to support small businesses. Interestingly, despite the media coverage of HGV driver shortages and Brexit issues, only 8% of people said they would shop locally to avoid delivery delays.
One thing is clear this Christmas season, consumers are still being impacted by the ever-changing environment around us. The only way to know for certain that you have catered to their needs is to ask them. If you haven’t already, take steps to make sure that your customers are able to easily provide feedback on their experience with you and get them involved wherever you can in helping to create the best customer experience possible. Give them the gift of Great CX this CX-mas!