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Creating a Memorable Holiday Experience for Customers: A Lost Art

Creating a Memorable Holiday Experience for Customers: A Lost Art

November 27, 2015

 

Waking from the turkey coma of yesterday’s Thanksgiving feast, we’re now ready for the full on assault of ads.  And who are we kidding those started well before Thanksgiving. Best Buy‘s ill-fated attempt to make #BlackFriday happen two weeks before on a Tuesday via paid Twitter ad is part of what holiday purists despise about advertising. One of the first rules of sales is that people buy from people they like.  This becomes slightly less true when cost-conscious customers are understandably trying to get the best deals on a high-end electronics.    


Here’s an example (a very unscientific sample) using new Twitter Polls to gain some marketing insight.  If your company is using Twitter properly, these types of polls should help reach the target purchasing audience.

For all the amazing benefits the internet’s afforded shoppers there’s one major disservice its done for creating a memorable holiday experience for customers.  This is also a contributing factor to why it’s so much harder to build a strong & loyal customer base, which should be a goal of any company that relies on repeat business to build a solid a revenue stream.

The Hornes Tree is still a Pittsburgh tradition even though Hornes is no longer there.

The Hornes Tree is still a Pittsburgh tradition even though Hornes is no longer there.

I was reminded yesterday first when watching the Macy’s Parade and then during Thanksgiving dinner when the discussion turned to all the old Pittsburgh department stores that shopping in downtown Pittsburgh as a child signified the beginning of something special, for me personally and for the stores professionally.

Kaufmanns, Hornes, Gimbles* and Saks Fifth Avenue, were in downtown Pittsburgh during the 1970’s of my childhood and about 20 minutes from our home in Carnegie which wouldn’t really indicate it was a special trip, but it was.  Winter Pittsburgh weather, road closures, a mother who hated driving downtown, coordinating with a father’s schedule, who worked overtime during the holidays, to get their three daughters the little extras, was never an easy task, and all contributed to the specialness of the trip. Even if we didn’t fully appreciate the significance of why it was truly special at the time, we knew it was special.

Gimbels closed in 1986, Hornes in 1994, Kaufmanns in 2006 & the Saks the Pittsburgh closed in 2012, but stores still remain throughout the country.

*Saks was founded by Horace Saks in New York City. In 1923, Gimbels purchased Saks which became a subsidiary of Gimbel Brothers Incorporated, a publically traded company.  Adam Gimbel, the founder of Gimbels, turned Saks into a national brand, BATUS Inc. acquired Gimbles in 1973, closed Gimbels in 1986 and Saks sold to Investcorp. S.A. in 1990.  An interesting piece of history I didn’t know until yesterday and I worked for Saks (post-1990) during college and after college in Arizona.

Those store windows, decorated with real falling snow, and all the sparkle and shine I didn’t think it could get any better.  As a child, I remember my dad telling me I was a crow in another life because I liked shiny things.  Some things never change.  From 2015 Dior Christmas campaign, quite sure of the 117, 000+ views of this quick video, I’m probably half.

Walking through those heavy department store doors, opened by a doorman during the holidays, exposed a kid from the suburbs to a world of excitement and sounds filled with rich fragrances,  rarely experienced and added to the uniqueness of these family Christmas trips into Pittsburgh.  The narrow old escalator in Kaufmanns with the rich burled wood side rails and steps omitted a unique smell and clanking sound that can still be recalled from memory today.  The huge gilded elevator doors displayed back our own images dressed in our “good clothes,” wearing excitement as an accessory with our parents as eager tour guides.

Old escalator in Kaufmanns downtown Pittsburgh

Escalator in Kaufmanns downtown Pittsburgh

Old Elevator in downtown Kaufmanns Pittsburgh

Elevator doors downtown Kaufmanns Pittsburgh

I might not have known the full impact of those trips until later in adulthood but upon reflection we were taught to work hard, especially if we wanted the little extras in life, to appreciate and recognize special moments, and what may have been viewed as childhood fascination with shiny objects is likely now why I have such a love and appreciation for art-deco and can so easily distinguish the importance of using quality materials or as this site often highlights the differences between image vs substance or branding vs marketing.

Those beautifully designed store-front department store windows  is where Christmas magic started for me but where Kaufmanns, Hornes, Gimbels and Saks learned the importance of building a relationship with their customer.  Even though it’s an era gone by, the translation of the importance of creating an experience a customer remembers positively is still applicable and adapted to today’s sales market. And since Saks was the only remaining of the original department stores from my childhood, I still shopped there during the holidays up until the time I started my business (where no one gets a gift, unless they have need for a free website design, marketing or business development.)

Consumers today want a good deal and stores want to make a quick profit, which are both partly to blame for the lost art of creating a memorable holiday experience which leads to consumer loyalty; but, society’s selective tolerance over the season takes ownership in this loss as well.  Selective tolerance is when one group wants everyone to accept their religion (in this instance) while not recognizing the rights of others to have a differing choice of religion. While the blanketed “Happy Holidays!” offers religious inclusion it excludes the rights of others to express their choice.  Whether someone says Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Kwanzaa  or Happy Festivus that person is not demeaning or insulting another religion nor is it implying anyone is trying to convert another.  Allow customers to bond with the holiday how they most identify, there is no right or wrong, there is only selective tolerance.

Merry Christmas!

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