http://optoutside.rei.com

Build Authentic Holiday Experiences

How to live your brand this holiday season

On the busiest day in the American retail calendar, over a million of REI’s most loyal brand advocates are choosing to #optoutside and play in the outdoors instead of shopping on Black Friday. The outdoor retailer has closed every one of its 143 stores on Friday, so that the co-op’s employees can have a paid day off to head outside. This move may cost them millions in lost revenue for the short term, but members will take notice that it put purpose before profit, and that will really resonate with REI’s core customer. While tweaking seasonal campaigns to grab a piece of the holiday spirit, how about adding a dash of your brand’s authentic purpose and personality? What will make the giving season a little warmer and fuzzier, while creating a buzz with your target audience?

Share Authentic Stories

When people put conscious thought into their gift giving, they love to share stories. Does your company have products that are Fair Trade, made by women-owned co-ops or produced by a local artisan? Is there a deep green angle or tree-saving feature to your product line? Selling a special-edition or seasonal item that is locally made? When your company takes time to carefully source products with meaning, make it easy for customers to help tell the story. Think of using point of purchase displays, stickers, holiday packaging, gift receipts, bag inserts, online pop-ups or images on social media to share this unique information. The story behind the gift will also be appreciated by the lucky person getting the present!

Create Community

Imagine the dreaded weekend run to the big box store to get that last item on your list… Is that how you would want to spend your precious holiday time? Instead, think of ways to build a community haven that is a festive, fun and efficient experience for your customers. Partner with the corner grocery store to serve healthy treats at the cash, serve hot cups of tea on the blustery days, invite a local musician to play in store. Online and through social media channels: ask your community to share photos of their special moments over the holiday season. Invite customers to comment and share their ideas of how to create calm through the holidays. Commit to surprising and delighting all customers to create a memorable and easy shopping experience.

Reduce Waste

The holidays create a mountain of waste from excessive packaging and gift wrapping. If your organization tries to tread lightly with a small footprint, make it easy for your customers to do the same. Ask vendors to send holiday shipments in reusable boxes and crates – chances are, it won’t be stored for long! Find packaging that does double-duty and does not need to be pitched. Share creative ways to wrap and reuse gifts, and ask customers for their crafty ideas. Could scraps and remnants be upcycled as one-of-a-kind gift tags or ornaments? Offer a discount to customers who don’t need a bag for their purchase. Invite customers to invest in special-edition packaging that becomes a keepsake for the lucky recipient.

Spread the Love

Already giving back through employee volunteerism or corporate donations? Why not invite customers to join in? Create a feature offer where a dollar amount for each purchase is donated to the charity of choice. Take it a step further by welcoming the charity to set up a retail or online store display. Cross-promote the charity on social channels to build awareness. Encourage partners and vendors to join staff on their volunteer days at the food bank or the toy drive. Build relationships between employees, customers, vendors and charities to spread the giving far and wide.

Acknowledge Employees

While everyone works hard to serve customers during the busiest time of year, don’t forget the employees who make it all happen. Promote staff picks for seasonal merchandise to help customers choose the right gift. Empower employees to make spot decisions and keep client satisfaction a top priority. Find ways to publicly acknowledge these rock stars who go above and beyond to keep things together and keep a stash of small rewards on hand for spontaneous thank you’s. A happy front line always means better service and satisfaction for customers while an efficient back office will make everyone else look good.

The holiday season is a great time to let customers get to know your organization, its purpose and values. It is also a golden opportunity to reach new customers and deepen customer relationships. Don’t forget… these customers may come to you to find something unique to give to the special people in their lives. The impact will be exponentially larger if it’s an authentic and memorable experience.

Seeds Consulting has designed marketing and communications strategies for some of Canada’s best known brands, including that fast-growing retailer that’s now a $7 billion dollar global brand. Contact us today to know more about our approach and our track record.

Image: http://optoutside.rei.com Photo © 2015, VisitTheUSA.com

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