The holiday retail season might still be a few months away, but America’s retailers should be preparing themselves now to profit from the end-of-the-year shopping season. Last year alone, over 154 million consumers shopped in-store and online just for Black Friday. According to the National Retail Federation, holiday retail sales between November and December increased four percent over 2015 to reach $658.3 billion.
Years ago, the retail model consisted of simply locking down products and promotions by July and pulling the trigger on Black Friday. That was back before the age of e-commerce when retailers had greater influence in directing a consumer’s path to purchase. But we all know the path has changed. The promotional window now stretches through the entire holiday selling season. Knowledgeable, time-conscious consumers are demanding speed and convenience, in addition to competitive prices.
As a result, consumers are disrupting the traditional retail model, and they’re moving from browsing to buying much faster than ever before — and on their own terms. That’s why retailers should always be questioning their methods and processes and looking into what the current sales trends are.
Here are six things smart retailers can do to make the holiday retail season successful.
- Plan as early as possible. You need to look at the current sales trends and take them into account when you decide on your product mix, staffing, advertising, marketing and alignment with suppliers.
- Hire smart, train smart. This needs to start early as well because good help can be hard to find. Figure out what your ideal candidate look like and where to find them. Additionally, you need to invest in training for current and new staff. Get them up to speed on your current strategy and how they can contribute to its success.The goal is for your staff to be familiar with products, promotional strategies, quality customer service practices and for them to understand the lifetime value of a customer.
- Fine-tune your customer segmentation and increase personalization. Did you know that retailers are now faced with five generations of shoppers? If you’re not meeting the needs of individual customers, those shoppers will go elsewhere. And every generation wants something different. For example, 60 percent of younger generations want personalized offers through their mobile devices, compared with 21 percent of older generations, according to a recent report.
- Prepare your website for seasonal omnichannel. You need to get your digital game together with teaser banner ads, order online and pickup in-store features, cloud testing to avoid website crashes during peak traffic times, and customer support chat services. But above all, shoppers want consistency throughout the transaction process. Make sure your physical store is aligned with your online presence — the same prices and selection. If a product sells out at the store, employees should be trained to take people to your website to order it.
- Look into external advertising funds. Many manufacturers have a set amount of cooperative advertising funds available per year, distributed as opportunities for collaboration arise. Did you know that much of this money goes unspent, as relatively few retailers and wholesalers pursue cooperative agreements? You need to talk to manufacturers about negotiating terms and putting those ad dollars to work for your mutual benefit. You can also ask them for in-store demos and sales help.
- Retain good help year-over-year. We already talked about how it’s hard to find good help. Compensation is a motivational factor with employees, especially those who are only temporary. Offering things like end-of-season bonuses can be a great incentive for those seasonal employees to return again.