With Black Friday and Cyber Monday out of the way, we are now firmly into peak trading season. But, while this is the most lucrative part of the year for most retailers, it can also prove a dangerous time when it comes to keeping customers happy.
The holiday period can be extremely stressful for many households, as they face time and financial pressures when preparing for Christmas. As a result, their tolerance levels are often much lower – meaning a slight frustration can damage their relationship with brands they would usually trust.
As a result, retailers have to work twice as hard at this time of year to ensure a seamless customer experience; one that offers speed, convenience and value. To help them achieve this, we have identified four areas in which the customer experience can be optimised during peak trading.
This sounds like an obvious place to start, but it’s amazing how many retail stores still have lengthy queues during their busiest trading times. Waiting times can be managed in quite a straightforward manner if retailers invest in mobile Point of Sale (mPOS) technology to ‘queue bust’ during peak periods.The benefit of mobile technology is that it can be deployed flexibly. This means multiple store associates can use the same device during the day according to their availability, and also the tech can be taken to where the queue is – rather than forcing customers to move to a different part of the store in order to reduce their waiting time.
- Customer service
Another benefit of mPOS technology is that it can be used to enhance the customer experience. The service demands placed on store associates are much more strenuous at this time of year – and this is for two main reasons:Firstly, the busier the store is, the greater volume of interactions front-line staff have to manage; and they are dealing with customer enquiries at the same time as many other operational jobs.Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the holiday season attracts new shoppers into stores as they search for presents for friends or family. This is a prime opportunity to introduce them to a new retail brand – but the customer service must be informative to make their initial in-store experience a pleasant one.With mobile store technology, sales associates are automatically connected to rich product information – such as detailed descriptions, video demonstrations and customer reviews. This makes it much easier to answer the many questions new shoppers have about a product, to reassure them and increase their chance of converting.
Another key feature of connected store technologies is their ability to access operational information, which is critical when the store is busy. One of the challenges bricks-and-mortar faces in comparison to online is keeping up with demand; shelf edge stock is always going to be more limited than a warehouse, and there is nothing worse than disappointing customers at Christmas time.With mPOS systems, store associates can check availability of a product when the shelf edge is empty. They can then either go out to the back to retrieve the item, or, if it is out of stock, order it from online inventory for delivery or collection. This saves the customer from having to seek the item elsewhere, and saves a sale that would otherwise have been lost.
The holiday period can be incredibly focussed on short-term sales, and it is easy to forget the impact of seasonal experiences on the rest of the year – as I intimated earlier. One area that is often forgotten is loyalty; it becomes about quick sales and/or heavy discounting for all.Therefore, retailers need to look at how their loyalty schemes can add value for customers that are faithful all year round during peak trading. Incentives such as exclusive late night opening events for loyalty card holders can make a huge difference in a shopper’s perception of a brand, and help to spread retail traffic while also creating an opportunity to focus on high value customers.
For advice and support managing your customer experience during peak trading and beyond, get in touch with iVend Retail.