Gifting the Consumer an Ideal Shopping Experience this Holiday Season.

Each year the holiday season brings new excitement and challenges for merchants. This year is a bit different. This is the start of an era in commerce where we will see the marketer evolve fully into the merchant role and the consumer will be faced with what they have always wanted and seemingly feared: infinite choice. With infinite choice, it is more important than ever for merchants to take control of the experience being delivered to the consumer by their brand. If they don't, the consumer will craft their own assumptions which may or may not lead to a purchase and future brand loyalty.

So what does an "ideal experience" for the consumer look like this holiday season? Discussing with several executives that live and breathe working with brands to craft their experiences, they caution this may vary depending on the industry, market or even geographic location, but effectively the ideal experience will have a few core attributes:

1.It is easy.This can not be stressed enough. Your consumer is getting inundated with advertising on numerous channels. You need to clear and consistent message of your value and your brand on all channels. The more steps the customer has to get from product to purchase will cost you sales, and that includes understanding your brands value and voice. Talking on this topic with Mike Pierce, CTO of eCommerce digital agency Echidna, he says, "E-Commerce can be a real blessing during the holidays. Although it can also be a burden on our busy schedules. As much as we all love the festivities and traditions that this time of year brings, what we want more than anything is to find the perfect gift for friends or loved ones, at a reasonable price, and get it as easily as possible. The brands who best deliver on these desires win in their markets every holiday season. But the brands that create delightful experiences for their customers, win and retain the loyalty of these customers for years to come. Winners are easy to find, easy to shop, and easy to trust."

2. It is personalized. This goes along with being easy. If you know what your customer is looking for and can help them along in their buyers journey, you can assume it is going to an easier purchase for them. Michael Klein, Director of Industry and Retail Strategy for the Adobe Marketing Cloud told me, "According to Adobe Digital Insights, 43% of businesses will increase the amount that they spend on in-store technology this year....Online we'll see an increase in the use of video and chat bots to inspire purchases and increase the number of items in people's shopping carts." You can make the buyers journey as personalized (and easy) as you wish with the right tools in place.

3. It is fun. Everyones idea of fun is a bit different, so let the creative juices flow there from social media campaigns, to in-store designer showcases or text message games. But tapping your analytics, you can identify the source of your most valuable holiday customers and invest marketing dollars into the highest-impact channels and turn that one time buyer into a return shopper. Bob Moore, Head of Magento Analytics explains to me that, "When it comes to data, an unfortunate number of merchants are flying blind during the holiday season. The Magento Holiday Dashboard provides valuable insights on the ROI of holiday campaigns and the customer lifetime value of new buyers acquired during the holidays. This can lead to smarter marketing decisions that turn one-time purchasers into loyal customers and brand advocates."

What do you think your brands biggest strengths are this holiday season? Are you trying any new strategies that fall within the easy, personalized or fun categories?