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The 2018 holiday season is officially here, and you can bet your bottom dollar that consumers everywhere are preparing for it.

The question is: are you?

Whether you're in the business of customer loyalty, employee engagement, or member retention, the holidays represent a major opportunity to strengthen the relationships you value most.

Here at Access, we want to help you get ready. After all, 91% of consumers say they plan to "celebrate the season" this year, giving you a chance to fill a stocking with goodwill. Read on to learn more about how (and why) a little extra care and consideration can go a long way during the holidays.

Holiday Spending: Bigger Than Ever

With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, people are feeling pressure to stay on top of their holiday shopping. 18% of U.S. consumers started their yuletide spending as early as September, with another 21% beginning before November and 60% before Thanksgiving.

There's no intention of slowing down the festive spending this year as retail holiday sales in the U.S. are predicted to grow between 4.3% and 4.8% over 2017, with Americans projected to spend up to $720.89 billion this year. Last year, 58 of the 60 shopping days in November and December resulted in over $1 billion sales ALONE.

It's no secret people are spending larger-than-usual sums of money to get ready for the holidays. So what exactly are they spending their hard earned dollars on this time of year?

Consumers plan to spend a total of $1,007 on average for items like decorations, candy and gifts. When buying gifts for others, the most popular purchases are gift cards/certificates (54%), clothing (53%), toys/games (46%), books (43%) and food/liquor (39%). And many consumers, 78% to be exact, are looking simply to shop for themselves. When they do treat themselves, 42% say they'll choose food/liquor, 40% clothing, 26% shoes, 22% books and 21% cosmetics/fragrances/health & beauty.

We’ve been sharing the inner workings of the Access’ discount network for a few weeks now. This week in part 3 of our series about the partnership marketing team, we discuss the current effort to enhance the travel experience for members.

When people hear the term “travel discounts,” they usually imagine discounts on hotel stays, car rentals, etc. You know, expenses associated with getting there and staying there.

Indeed, those things are important. Extremely important. So much so, in fact, that we place a great deal of effort into securing major discounts on them. Alone, however, they don’t account for the entire travel experience.

From family activities to business luncheons, travelers fill their days with shopping, recreation, dining out and more.

Last week we discussed the importance of building strong relationships with merchant partners. This week, in part 2 of our series about the partnership marketing team at Access, we explore the importance of valuable offers and why merchants trust their business with Access. 

When it comes to merchant discounts, most consumers just want to know one thing: how good is the deal?

But for merchants, there’s a lot riding on the type of discount they can (and should) be willing to offer.

How is it then that the Access network consistently has better offers from more merchant providers than any other value added benefit in America? Especially when deep discounts are often associated with marketing gimmicks that only attract coupon addicts – customers who give their loyalty to the best current deal, not to favorite brands?

You may have noticed this blog contains many articles explaining why strong relationships are important in the business world. Organizations need a good rapport with their members, businesses with their customers, companies with their employees, etc.

At Access, we know the value of strong relationships. After all, we manage the nation’s largest network of merchant discounts. This kind of achievement only happens when you’re devoted to forming and forging relationships.

As the ‘silent partner,’ we strive to make the experience beneficial not just for merchants but for organizations and their members, too. Consequently, Access spends a great deal of effort honing strategies for communicating with everyone we deal with.

 Getting free stuff is great, but…

There’s always a little skepticism that comes with a “free” price tag. What’s wrong with it? Does the quality level match the price? How good can it really be if it’s free?

You get the idea – generally, the lower the price the less you expect from the product or service. So, maybe some things really are worth paying for?

The idea of a free price tag has even higher stakes when it comes to businesses. Free stuff can be risky for a business, especially if it’s going in front of customers. At risk is more than just a few dollars - the cost of reputation and customer perception can be enormous.

Our advice? Buyer beware. If it has your brand on it, then it’s worth an investment.

member benefits

Perks, rewards and loyalty programs are becoming increasingly popular these days. It seems like they’re everywhere – coffee shops, restaurants, clothing stores, airports, colleges, theme parks, movie theaters, charities, employers etc.