Hold onto your hat — Black Friday, and its companion shopping day extension, Cyber Monday, are here again. We begin our official rush to the stores and internet to secure the best possible present for each person on our lists. But along with that come the inevitable headaches of shopping, long lines and crowds.
The dynamics have changed through the years, and I now do the vast majority of my shopping online. My kids are a bit older and I don’t need to tell them that those stacks of boxes that arrive regularly from our friendly UPS delivery man – yes, he knows us by name – are just gifts for others. They know that somewhere tucked away in the stacks are many presents for them, too. But even though I spend more time online and less in stores, the challenges remain: making sure I can find the things I want, dealing with long lines to get assistance and making sure everything is ready and working come gift giving day. Then there’s the other side – dealing with returns and exchanges when that lovely sweater is just a bit too small for Dad.
It’s exhausting. And every year, I find myself looking for shortcuts and ways to outsmart the system.
Luckily, I work in the customer care industry and for a company that understands what consumers are looking for help with in all seasons. So I asked our data analysts: “Just what are shoppers doing on Black Friday and Cyber Monday?” And, “Is there anything I can learn that will help me to be a smarter shopper?”
What emerged were some great tips we can all use for a less stressful holiday season.
Take to the internet!
We all know that it’s easier and more enjoyable to shop from your sofa, but sometimes you just want to go to the store and see the item in hand before you purchase. You want to be part of the holiday rush and nab that great deal. You want to make sure you get this year’s top toy before they are all gone.
Avoid that impulse.
Data shows that come the weekend leading into Black Friday and Cyber Monday, shoppers still flock to the brick and mortar stores. Nearly triple the volume of customers are looking for their closest retail outlet on weekends compared to weekdays, and this increases in the days leading into the holiday. Savvy shoppers are calling ahead to find the closest store that stocks the items they want and then strategically planning their outings. But this is where the couch shopper can come out ahead. Save that valuable time and order online. There is plenty of time before the holiday to make sure your items arrive safely on time.
Which brings me to my next favorite tip.
This is the kind of advice our parents give us every year – and every year most of us ignore it. Instead, we find ourselves in a frenzy doing last minute shopping. But here’s why it’s actually important to make those purchases early: things don’t always show up.
And here’s where it gets worse: the holiday season can be the most difficult time to track things down. Calls to retail companies spike in the days leading to the holidays, so your ability to connect with a customer service representative and get the information you need is more difficult. Barring the availability of an automated system like Interactions Virtual Assistant technology, consumers frequently have to wait in long queues just to get the information they need. And who has time for that?
If you have to place an order last minute, keep on top of your tracking information. Call early to verify delivery dates to avoid the rush, and track expected delivery dates as soon as you order. That way, you can call as soon as you notice a delay to avoid headaches.
Shift your shopping and questions to weekdays
I know. It’s nearly impossible to sneak more things in on weekdays with all that is going on. But this is where you can really save time. Data shows a dramatic increase in calls from shoppers looking for assistance on weekends, particularly from those looking for Sales support, help with their online shopping carts and technical support questions. So weekends are just trickier to get help, for both online and in store shoppers. Weekday inquiry volumes and corresponding wait times – as well as in-store lines – are shorter, and you’re more likely to get a speedy answer to your questions.
Set up that tech device before wrapping it up
When I was a kid, I ran for the largest presents first. But today, kids run for the smallest gifts, knowing that those little boxes usually hold their tech item of choice. The issue usually occurs, however, when you first go to use it. Case in point, last year, I received a fitness tracker. Being excited to get it up and running, I rushed online to set it up, but the website was down. I called in to the customer service number and was told there was an excessive wait to speak with someone. So I put my new toy down and waited two days before attempting to set it up again.
But here’s the best tip I learned from our data scientists. Set it up early — everyone will thank you. Calls to retailers for technical support and product questions spike nearly 75% on Christmas day and extend past the holiday, making it tricky to get the information you need.
So if you’re giving a tech gift to a friend or loved one this year, consider setting up the product for them ahead of time. That way, instead of waiting for tech support on the holiday they can start enjoying their new gift right away.
Try to keep tempers down
We’re all in a rush this time of year. Know that the customer service representative you’re speaking to is just as busy as you during this season. We see calls that escalate to managers – generally as tempers flare – decrease by nearly 85% as the holiday cheer sets in. Try to start that holiday good mood a little earlier – it may not get your issue resolved faster, but it will make for a more pleasant experience for everyone. And if you do have an unusually tricky problem to deal with, call on a weekday when volumes are lower and you can avoid longer wait times that add to anxiety.
We all know that the holiday season – despite the delicious food and downtime with friends and family it brings – can be one of the most stressful and frustrating times of the year. But a little strategic planning can go a long way towards making holiday shopping easier (and maybe even enjoyable).