t’s almost here – anticipation is growing as 2016’s holiday shopping season gets underway. The question of whether a retailer will be successful this year depends on more than whether stores offer the right merchandise. Businesses must also be prepared to offer the connected retail experience shoppers demand.
With so much riding on the season — the National Retail Federation reports holiday sales account for 20% to 40% of a company’s annual sales — retailers need to do more than hope they have it right. Here are three major omnichannel trends and suggestions for making sure you are ready to address them this season:
Buy online pick up in store. From Thanksgiving Day (or even earlier) be ready for an onslaught of orders online requesting in-store pickup. Prepare to meet customer expectations for these omnichannel trends by ensuring orders are accurately and quickly fulfilled and merchandise is ready for pickup, at the right location, when the customer expects it to be.
Ensuring customers they will be notified by text message when items are ready for pickup can help reduce the number of inquiries about orders, as well as minimize lines of customers waiting for information in physical stores.
Turning to social media for gift ideas. According to Google News, seven out of ten shoppers are undecided about what they are going to buy for their friends and family at the start of the holiday shopping season. Last year, shoppers turned to social media for inspiration, such as the YouTube gift guide. These videos feature popular personalities talking about must-have gifts for the season. Google data reports the amount of time people spent watching these gift guides (usually on their mobile device) last year, added up to enough time to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” 300,000 times.
There is still time to enhance your 2016 holiday social media strategy. Highlight popular holiday gift items and special offers and engage customers on social media to create a sense of community and to foster loyalty.
Easy gift giving and returns. Customers will be buying gifts from computers, on smartphones, in-store, in apps, etc. You need to make the process as easy as possible for them to make gift purchases on the channels of their choice, as well as easy for recipients to make returns. Refine your strategy for issuing gift receipts on all channels, your holiday return policy, and restocking processes that quickly recognize the items as available for resale in the store — or on any channel if you manage inventory with a single stock pool.
If you issue gift cards as store credit on returns, consider digital credits that shoppers can store in their shopping apps or in mobile wallets. This will help them reduce the number of cards they carry as well as ensure the next time they visit the store, the credits are with them to use on their next purchase.
Institute processes and policies that accommodate holiday shoppers who browse, shop, purchase, and make returns on multiple channels. A plan that manages connected retail smoothly and efficiently is the best bet for a holiday shopping season that’s merry and bright for your customers as well as your business.