With more than one-third of consumers planning to spend less than $200 on Christmas gifts this year, retailers will have to work harder than ever to attract customers – but a new survey unveils the dos and don’ts for making Christmas great for shoppers and retailers alike.

An American Express survey of 1,000 Australian consumers shows that while 66 per cent of Australians list Christmas crowds as a key deterrent to shopping in-store, bricks and mortar shopping is still a major player – with 78 per cent of people doing at least half of their shopping in-store. This number increases the longer people delay their Christmas shopping, which makes it all the more important for businesses to pay attention to what customers want and don’t want when they walk in the door. 

 CEO and Founder of Retail Doctor Group, Brian Walker, says the survey shows that once again, it’s good customer service that provides a competitive edge for retailers.

“The advice for retailers wanting to maximise their share of wallet this Christmas is pretty simple – give your customers a good experience and they’ll repay you in sales and repeat business.  What’s essential for retailers is that they have enough staff to help customers, are transparent about the full cost of goods and drop point of sale surcharges. This research shows that unexpected charges are a nasty sting in the tail for what should otherwise be a happy shopping experience.”

The survey shows customer service is king this Christmas – during the stress of last-minute shopping, people appreciate the advice and assistance they receive in store (32 per cent), as well as additional services like free gift wrapping (22 per cent). 

Rachel Stocks, American Express Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand says, “Christmas is the busiest trading period of the year and a time when businesses have the opportunity to keep new customers for life.  While increasingly, businesses are going the extra mile at Christmas through services like free gift wrapping, discounting and even complimentary refreshments, our research shows that some are undoing all of that goodwill by applying a payment surcharge – something that 93 per cent of customers want removed.  Businesses have an incredible opportunity this Christmas to build customer loyalty and encourage repeat business by not surcharging. By doing so they’ll reap the long-term financial benefits.”    

But it’s not just surcharging at a bricks and mortar store that’s enough to take the jingle out of one’s bells this Christmas, with 45 per cent of consumers admitting they’ll cancel an online transaction if there are unexpected surcharges on their preferred credit card. 

With half of all Australians use a credit card to pay for at least some of their Christmas shopping, citing convenience (70 per cent) and the ability to collect points (38 per cent) as the primary reasons, people are intentionally shopping at places where they can use their cards without having to endure the added expense of a payment surcharge. 

“The convenience of being able to shop both in-store and online, means it’s now easier for customers to abandon a purchase and go elsewhere. The research shows improving customer service and getting rid of unexpected or hidden fees can keep customers in store – the first step to getting a loyal customer”, said Ms Stocks.

According to American Express, its Card Members also appreciate the shopping protection they receive – not just at Christmas but year round – and it’s another reason they seek out places where they can use their Card.

“Many of our Card Members love the fact they can do their shopping and receive 90 days protection for loss, theft or damage on eligible new purchases or the ability to extend a manufacturer’s warranty by up to 12 months on certain items just by paying with their card,” concludes Ms Stocks 

Key findings include:

Customer service priority #1 this Christmas period

Customers planning to spend modestly

Tips for retailers – ensure you have enough staff to help customers; invest in loyalty, and avoid turnoffs such as point of sale charges.

72 per cent of people go in store to browse and see products in person

68 per cent of people will change their mind on a purchase if staff are rude or unhelpful

56 per cent will not make a purchase if there are long queues at check out

Poor customer service is enough to make 53 per cent of shoppers abandon a purchase 

45 per cent will cancel an online transaction if there are unexpected surcharges on their preferred credit card, while 65 per cent will shop elsewhere if there are unexpected delivery charges 

28 per cent cited credit card surcharges as a chief annoyance online, and 20 per cent in store 

39 per cent of customers will change their mind on an item if the price is different at the check-out, and 25 per cent if they incur unexpected charges to use their preferred credit card