Ah, the holiday shopping season. On one hand, it’s great for sales – the National Retail Federation reports that 2016 holiday retail sales exceeded forecasts at $658.3 billion, and expects that 2017 sales will be even higher. On the other hand, it can be frustrating for shoppers – trying to find the best deals on a budget, snagging a parking spot that’s not a mile away, or standing in long lines is enough to make anyone want to say “Bah, humbug!”

Fortunately, there are steps you can take before the holiday shopping season to ensure your guests have a stellar experience. These are a few of our favorite ways:

  1. Have enough employees on staff to provide great customer service. Make sure your locations are staffed appropriately for the influx of shoppers. At most places, this means hiring temporary seasonal staff – Target has announced it’s planning to bring on 100,000 seasonal workers for the 2017 holiday season. In contrast, Walmart is hiring … zero. Instead, they’re giving their existing employees more hours. “This is the same approach we took last year, and we heard great feedback from our customers and associates,” said Walmart U.S. Chief Operating Officer Judith McKenna. No matter how you choose to handle increased staffing needs, it’s important to your customers that you’re prepared. Having extra customer service representatives and sales associates available to handle stocking, sales and product questions can make or break the customer experience.
  2. Give your gift cards a holiday makeover.  At this time of year, your standard logo gift cards might not cut it. Gift cards with special, whimsical holiday designs are more appealing to buyers, and more fun to receive. Make your cards more magical by customizing them with beautiful branded holiday artwork. With EML’s gift card program, that level of customization won’t slow down the process – it’s quick and easy. To make gift cards feel even more like little presents, consider offer special packaging, like tiny card boxes or seasonally designed envelopes.
  3. Don’t make shoppers wait in line long lines. Part of your holiday staffing strategy should be to make sure you have as many registers open as possible during high-traffic shopping times. At this time of year, customers are already hurried, stressed and trying to make their budget stretch as far as possible. Make their experience at your registers as quick and easy as possible, so they can be on their way back home to loved ones without a hassle. And customers who just have gift cards to purchase don’t need to wait in long lines at all! When you implement CardSpot® Mobile, your sales associates can complete gift card transactions from any location – in-store or off-site. The CardSpot® Mobile app works on an iPad, and lets you sell gift cards away from the crowds in just a few easy steps.
  4. Make sure your e-commerce site is ready for increased traffic. PwC says almost a third (30%) of consumers plan to do the majority of their Black Friday shopping online, and another 30% will combine online and in-store shopping. When that many holiday shoppers spend time curating their online shopping carts full of gifts, it’s especially important to make sure your site doesn’t crash right when they’re getting ready to check out. To make the gift-giving experience even easier for online shoppers, offer your seasonally-branded gift cards for purchase online, too. EML’s newly-redesigned CardFrontSM e-commerce platform integrates seamlessly into your existing gift card program so shoppers can quickly and easily order gift cards from their computer, tablet or smart phone.
  5. Bring shoppers back after the holidays. And not just to make returns. The holidays are a great time to offer promotional card deals that incentivize shoppers to return in January. For example, you can offer a $10 promo card with the purchase of $50 in gift cards, and set it to be usable throughout the month of January. Then you’re not only making it more likely that holiday customers will buy more gift cards, but they’ll return after the new year to spend their $10 promo card. Once they see all the great markdowns you’re offering next year, that promo card could invite quite a bit of lift. Here are another 15 fun, unique ways to entice shopperswith promotional cards.