If you're a retail brand and want to have a successful holiday peak retail season, you need to deliver not only great products but also a satisfying shopping experience. Table stakes these days are excellent customer service, timely shipping, efficient and branded packaging, and an easy to navigate website and shopping cart.

Here are four nonnegotiables retailers should follow to ensure you're providing customers with a satisfying holiday shopping experience.

1. Make sure your mobile-first, e-commerce site is optimized.

Mobile-first e-commerce is critical in retail. Our 2019 e-commerce survey of online consumer expectations found that 59 percent of respondents prefer to buy items online over in-store.

Have your tech team test the site speed and make sure your e-commerce site is optimized so you're primed to meet demand. Ensure you've segmented audiences properly so you can present personalized offers in the form of marketing activities with names, product recommendations, or suggestions based on the segment a customer falls in. 

2. Create a free shipping, in-store return policy.

Every retailer needs a fulfillment company that ensures their products are sent on time, every time and with the correct products wrapped beautifully in the proper packaging. I suggest companies take it a step further to make customers feel special by including free samples, stickers, inserts and gift-like packaging with every shipment.

Beyond that, be prepared for returns being the new normal. Offering free returns and exchanges are important factors that will have customers doing repeat business with you. We also found in our 2019 e-commerce consumer study mentioned above that 58 percent of respondents said shipping costs greatly impact their decision when making an online purchase.

Getting customers in your front door allows them to see the latest displays and the hottest seasonal merchandise. If your e-commerce company can't offer in-store returns, have a free return policy. 

3. Develop a buy online, pick up in-store policy.

When shoppers want to secure that perfect gift right away, offer an in-store pickup option. This can save on delivery costs and get customers into your store which can drive incremental purchases.

If you supply to retailers, customers will like having this option because they can reserve the items they want online and get them right away so they're not waiting for a package to arrive. When you ship to retailers, ensure that your partners are receiving your products on time, in the right manner, and in the correct packaging. Expanding your business to sell in different sales and distribution channels by working with retailers is an important part of driving holiday revenue.

4. Build experiential in-store holiday displays.

While we live in an online shopping world that isn't going away, experiential retail is the future. An immersive retail experience customers can only get in-store will set your brand apart and create higher lifetime customer value.

Use holiday displays to educate users on a product or to entertain them with an interactive experience. Last year, Target hosted holiday playtime events where children could test out toys and meet favorite television characters. Use this seasonal shopping opportunity as a time to get creative, experiment and engage with customers in your store.

No matter your retail strategy, put the right partnerships in place with strong fulfillment services so you can meet your growth objectives for the holiday sales season. If there's ever a time when your customers want their products to reach them on time and be correct, it's now. 

Published on: Nov 19, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.