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Revealed: Customers’ biggest Christmas shopping fears this year

(Source: Bigstock.)

It’s been a rough two years for many of us and to cap it off, this year’s festive season has its own unique challenges, thanks to delivery delays due to Covid and the emotional toll of being apart from family and loved ones after an extended period of time.

In a new report from Emarsys, All I Want for Christmas, 1000 Australian consumers shared their concerns about shopping for gifts this year.  

“With the busiest shopping period of the year almost upon us, it’s vital marketers and retailers understand what consumers want, how they shop for Christmas and their frustrations. Our research revealed consumers are looking for more ideas from retailers, so to create more enjoyable experiences for customers, retailers must have the right tools in place to target them with the right incentive, at the right time, and on the right channel,” advised Adam Ioakim, MD APAC at Emarsys.

Here’s what’s on customers’ minds right now – and how retailers can help guide them this festive season:

  1. Delivery issues

Perhaps the biggest concern many consumers have right now is that their presents won’t arrive in time for Christmas. According to the report, 30 per cent are worried their gifts will be delayed.

“The media have put the fear of God into people that if they buy something online, it might not actually arrive in time and my loved one or my partner might not have something to open under the tree,” said Ioakim. 

  1. Choosing the wrong gift

Perhaps because we’ve spent so much time apart from family and friends this year, many consumers are worried about choosing the wrong gift for loved ones during the festive season. 

According to the report, almost half of respondents (40 per cent) are having trouble finding inspiration and personalised ideas (37 per cent), while 11 per cent are worried that their present will fall short of expectations. Notably, 38 per cent hate guessing what people want and on the flipside, 28 per cent hate pretending to like presents they’re given at Christmas time.

“Normally, you’d be able to walk around the shops with your family and get an idea of what they’d feel like. You can’t really replicate that experience on a website. People also often pick up their ideas from being in and around locations,” noted Ioakim.

And given many still won’t be able to spend time with those we love yet again this Christmas, the stakes are even higher and the pressure is on.

  1. Not enough time to shop

Consumers are being more careful around their Christmas shopping this year and taking longer to make buying decisions, noted Ioakim. Forty-five per cent wish they had more time to shop, but given the significant disruption of the global supply chain caused by Covid, consumers can’t afford the luxury of time and 14 per cent are worried they will end up panic buying.

Here’s how retailers can help

  1. An easy returns process

“I still find it surprising that there are retailers that make it difficult to return items, it can make it impossible to buy online. Honestly, you almost need military precision to get something sent back to the retailer if there’s a change of mind, if it’s a wrong fit, or if they simply want to return,” said Ioakim, citing research that has found that free delivery and returns are a top-rated motivation for 64 per cent of shoppers. 

Meanwhile, that research found that 16 per cent of respondents said that not having a free returns option would be enough to turn them off from making a purchase.

“People are more inclined to purchase from you online if you offer a free, seamless approach to returns. I think that’s really important for customer experience.” 

Offer personalised services 

To help customers navigate their way through the festive season, savvy retailers like Cue offer personalised services like on- and off-line wishlists, which can appeal to the online customer journey and keep them engaged in the gift-buying process, said Ioakim. This way, customers can share their wishlists with their family and loved ones as a gentle nudge this Christmas. 

After all, Emarsys research has also found that 32 per cent of consumers prefer to be told what gift to buy and 31 per cent want to be more thoughtful with their gift choices this year. 

Excellent customer experiences – from beginning to end

For consumers, the reality is that the online shopping experience doesn’t end for them until they receive the product – and they’re happy with it. While the speed of delivery is not always in a retailer’s control, the bottom line is that the customer will not blame the specific carrier for a delay – they will associate it with the retailer’s brand, unfortunately. 

“It’s a really difficult position for retailers to be in because the customer journey has become elongated, more than it ever has been, given the rise in e-commerce,” said Ioakim. 

“We are seeing some retailers actually navigate this really well. Booktopia opened another distribution centre in the inner west of Sydney, which doubles their capacity for online orders to ensure that orders can get to customers in time for Christmas. These are the kinds of initiatives that I think retailers should be looking to implement.”

Get it right when it goes wrong

Unfortunately, delays and mistakes happen, but there’s still a chance of turning a negative customer experience around if retailers can get ahead of the problem, said Ioakim. If it’s not looking like an item will be delivered to someone on time, then perhaps offer click-and-collect or a complimentary accelerated delivery timeframe. 

“We do know that the pandemic has made people care more about customer service online and that drives customer loyalty as well,” he said. Ioakim added that retailers need to make it easy for shoppers to contact them and the more customer service options – phone, chatbot, email or social media – the better.

To find out how you can market to your customers this festive season, visit: