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For retail brands, the stakes for getting digital experiences and personalization right have never been higher than this year’s holiday shopping season. With economic pressure and a looming recession, companies are scrutinizing their marketing and digital spending while consumers are tightening their wallets, making for a high-stakes environment.

To better understand what consumers’ preferences and points of frustration are during a unique holiday shopping season, Optimizely surveyed 1,000 consumers across the U.S. The data revealed five areas of opportunity for improving CX this holiday season to drive both sales and brand loyalty.

1. When you can’t compete on price, you must compete on CX

With inflation and uncertain financial outlooks dictating price increases, consumers unsurprisingly cited high costs as the main cause of holiday shopping fatigue (52%). But the impact of prices didn’t end there. 49% said advertisements that note cost savings or discounts are the most important type of holiday ads.

But due to economic pressures, some brands have had no choice but to raise prices to ensure they don’t find themselves in the red come year end. To set themselves up for success, brands must compete on CX when major discounts aren’t in the cards. This is because a positive shopping experience can help win over new consumers and retain existing ones despite increased prices. On top of that, a better CX includes amazing personalization, which in the end could cause a customer to be willing to pay a higher price because they found the perfect product. Implementing a digital experience platform that includes functions focused on content, commerce and experimentation will be the winning CX solution.

2. Navigate supply issues with transparent communication + recommendations

As supply chain disruptions continue, brands need to be transparent as 84% of consumers said clear communication on product stock, shipping times and expectations were important. Coming across out-of-stock notices is a major frustration for shoppers when shopping on a brands’ website (60%) and on a mobile app (48%). For retailers, the need to communicate delays or product availability clearly in order to avoid surprises on the customers’ end provides another key opportunity to get CX right this year.

While depleting stock levels cannot always be avoided (and can sometimes be a good problem to have), brands need a platform that gives them control over their inventory and provides a holistic understanding of performance so the brands can best determine what customers want as well as what to promote and when. By leveraging analytics, retailers can better predict how the shopping season will unfold to address supply issues, act on customer demand as well as provide product recommendations and alternatives to improve CX and avoid losing interested buyers./p>

3. Perfect your campaigns – Timing and personalization (or the lack of it) won’t go unnoticed

Supply issues have also impacted marketing campaign execution and its success. Most retailers began their holiday campaigns extra early to reduce the chances of major out-of-stock issues spoiling shoppers’ experiences. While we will have to wait and see how this bet paid off financially, it may have hurt brand sentiment as many shoppers weren’t ready for an early start to the season. Respondents cited holiday advertisements (46%) and holiday decorations (40%) starting too early as their biggest pet peeves, followed by recurring targeted ads, irrelevant advertisements and too many communications from a brand (38%). To make matters worse, 1 in 3 shoppers say they have received irrelevant advertisements a few times a week this holiday season.

While capturing consumer dollars is key for many brands survival this holiday season, a “spray and pray” approach will only lead to negative experiences. It is so important to know your customer and their expectations because if you mismanage an interaction, it can have a long-lasting impact. Segmenting buyers accurately and personalizing messaging to these targets is the only way to perfect CX and create customers for life. This segmentation must be driven by data and customer behaviors to ensure customer messaging is timely and comes across as helpful instead of pushy or irrelevant

4. Content strategy remains important – Implement the right tools

When it comes to the holiday shopping experience, 76% cited content or images pertaining to cost were an important factor in purchasing decisions. Additionally, 49% of respondents said advertisements, images and content focused on cost savings were most important to them overall – compared to product quality (23%) and holiday imagery (18%). Beyond the intense focus on cost-focused content, 80% of consumers also noted that well-written content on a brands’ website was important.

This indicates that a comprehensive content strategy focused on attracting and engaging target audiences may be the factor between a successful holiday season for retailers and a lousy one. To do this right, marketers need a tool to manage the content cycle all in one place so they can easily collaborate to plan, create, publish and deliver exceptional digital experiences. By removing friction points and speeding up time-to-market, marketers can more easily produce content that addresses customers wants, needs and concerns.

5. Ensure seamless digital experiences across all channels

Today, customers have higher expectations for brands – not just about content or marketing imagery, but also about the tangible experience of shopping on websites and mobile apps. It’s important, then, for brands to ensure seamless digital experiences from the time consumers first visit a website or app, to the time they check out.

The survey found:

  • When shopping on mobile apps, 32% said poor search functions and 31% said malfunctions were their biggest frustrations. For brands’ websites, poor search functions (31%) and website malfunctions/discount codes not working (30%) were the biggest pain points.
  • 84% said user-friendly website layout and search functions were important to their overall shopping experience.

Companies must test and optimize all aspects of their website and mobile app experiences to ensure the customer experience is easy and intuitive for all shoppers. By taking the time to experiment and learn, brands can reduce pain points and increase positive touchpoints to drive more sales.

Ultimately, the holiday shopping experience provides a unique opportunity for brands to test their customer experience. If retailers struggle when the stakes are high, they may have to wait a whole nother year to get things right with a customer – if they are lucky. That is why it’s imperative for brands to get CX right by creating content that resonates with the right audiences, running experiments at scale, and providing a digital brand experience customers will love.

Learn more about creating seamless digital experiences for customers with Optimizely DXP.