The last few years have presented unique challenges on an unprecedented scale for many retail companies. As retailers face staffing shortages, supply chain holdups and post-pandemic financial recovery, it’s crucial to optimize practices during the busiest time of year. A successful end-of-year season is key to meeting financial goals and building strong relationships with customers in-person and online.
Here’s how retailers can make the most of the holiday season.
Get started early & embrace omnichannel experiences
In the past couple of years, COVID-19 was the biggest worry on shoppers’ minds, keeping them out of stores and shopping at home. In 2022, more holiday shoppers are worried about inflation, supply chain issues, and general financial strain than catching COVID. This means two things for the 2022 holiday season: people have become very comfortable shopping online and expect omnichannel shopping experiences, and are starting to shop for the holidays early to make the most of all seasonal sales and pace out their spending.
Because the pandemic boosted online shopping habits, it’s essential to optimize your e-commerce and m-commerce platforms (AKA mobile e-commerce, which accounted for roughly 45.9% of holiday online sales in 2021) and polish your social media marketing and shopping channels to prepare for the busiest season of the year. Blend the benefits of online and in-store shopping, like same-day delivery or in-store pickup, and honor in-store and online coupons interchangeably to embrace an omnichannel customer experience. Learn more about closing experience gaps between physical and digital experiences at our blog here.
Start planning promotions as soon as you can so customers choose you when they start shopping. Shoppers worried about spending too much all at once or not having their gifts arrive on time due to supply chain issues will have started placing orders as early as September. Retailers hoping to get the most out of the holiday season should also start pushing out deals and discounts as soon as possible to attract all the early birds on the hunt for a deal. A successful holiday season is crucial for most retailers. The earlier you start holiday marketing and promotions, the better chance you’ll have to hit your 2022 revenue goals.
Optimize all systems & operations in anticipation of traffic surges
Losing a customer is sometimes as easy as a slow-loading checkout page, or a counter-intuitive store layout. Because so much of 2022’s holiday shopping will be done online, it’s essential that your company’s digital presence is taking advantage of holiday traffic surges. Make sure deals are prominently placed on your website and social media accounts, and coupon codes are clearly displayed and functional. In brick-and-mortar stores, create a plan to extend your checkout areas to accommodate long lines, and optimize shopping flow by putting related products nearby (like socks next to shoes), or placing products you want to sell in areas customers will pass by frequently (like a rack full of add-on purchases to consider while they wait in line).
Inventory decision-making is more challenging than ever, due to today’s rapid trend-cycle and delays caused by supply chain issues throwing a wrench in the standard supply-and-demand process. By the time retailers finally stock up on a trending item, it’s not uncommon that it’s already fallen out of trend and shoppers are looking for the next hot new thing…leaving retailers stuck with excess inventory of products their customers don’t want anymore. Take advantage of the holiday-sale-season by putting big discounts on products that just won’t move to clear out room for what they’ll want next.
Marketing all your goods, not just the trendiest, is essential for moving product and hitting revenue goals, especially during the holiday season. Everyone’s pulling out all the stops to bring in as many customers as they can, and it’s important to stay competitive with your marketing strategy:
Revamp your store layout to attract shoppers toward featured seasonal products
Run paid social media ad campaigns to promote holiday discounts and specials
Offer seasonal price matching early (check out Target’s great example)
Create holiday bundles to increase basket size
Run holiday giveaways on social media accounts
Reward email list subscribers with exclusive coupons
Write up and promote a gift guide to inspire your customers and help them plan their holiday gifts.
Get creative with how you can really stand out from the crowd when your competition is trying to do the same.
Employees are everything
Physical stores should also start hiring and training for the holiday season as soon as they can to get new employees up to speed and invested in your team’s success in time for the impending winter rush. Hiring more seasonal employees than you think you need will make sure no one gets spread too thin, and gives wiggle room in case someone calls out. Staffing shortages are rampant in 2022, but asking current team members for referrals and broadcasting openings on your social media accounts can bring in new employees that have or feel a personal connection to your company.
Training new staff on customer service protocols and damage control procedures will help make sure that even when things aren’t always going smoothly, your customers will walk away with a smile. Run through hypothetical scenarios with your team: What if a customer breaks a product on the floor? What do they do if someone tries to steal from your establishment? Does every team member know how to handle returns? Having consistent protocols will make sure every team member is self-sufficient in the face of the holiday season’s many inevitable challenges.
Your front-facing employees are usually the first and only human touchpoint customers have with your brand, so keeping them happy reflects well on the entire company: stock break rooms with water and snacks, consider a holiday party or raffle, and keep morale high with encouraging words and acknowledgement of efforts. When it comes to ensuring a satisfied and well-cared-for team at all levels, the little things add up. Utilize customer service chatbots on your website to make the most of your team’s bandwidth, so they can spend less time answering easy questions and more time making meaningful connections with shoppers.
Review holiday seasons past
There are few better ways to learn and grow than self-reflection, so take some time in your 2022 preparations to reflect on past holiday seasons. Ask what did and didn’t work, tap into the inventory strategies that proved successful (and the ones that didn’t), and set revenue goals for this year based on previous end-of-year profits. There’s a lot of pressure on the holiday season to bring in the most business and make the highest sales, but the only business you can ever compare yours to is your own.
Ready to optimize your retail experience with EBG? Connect with us today!