Although Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day produced small surges in retail activity, the industry’s first major trading spike – Easter – is just around the corner. And if predictions are anything to go by, it’s going to be a big one.
The National Retail Federation has forecast that $17.3 billion will be spent over the Easter weekend in the U.S. alone, the biggest figure since its spending survey began 13 years ago. Meanwhile, rising temperatures in Europe could support a swell in retail activity.
However, an increase in consumer traffic can be a double edged sword for retailers, online and offline. A greater volume of shoppers puts systems, processes and people under pressure, and cracks in the customer experience will begin to show.
For example, Easter is the first major danger period for speed of service. In the store, the potential for long queues is greater, which could lead to higher levels of purchase abandonment. Online, meanwhile, surges in activity can result in slow running websites or out of stocks – particularly as many retailers use the Easter festivities as a hook on which to run promotions. Therefore queue busting technology such as mobile POS (mPOS) will play a significant role in customer satisfactions levels.
Certain sectors will be preparing for a surge above the industry average. Easter has a long association with home improvement projects, which lead to increased traffic at DIY stores and garden centres. One of the challenges these types of businesses face is the need to balance rapid service with personalised support; the majority of people visiting will be embarking on a specific project, and so will have in-depth questions that need to be answered before making a purchase.
But it’s not just home and garden retailers that will need to prepare for an onslaught of shoppers. Easter is a time for new beginnings, which can often take consumers’ minds to other sectors, such as fashion. Particularly if predictions of warmer temperatures come to fruition, the fashion sector will see a marked increase in people shopping for their new season wardrobe. Advising shoppers on the right looks for spring and summer – whether through online style guides or curating merchandise in the store – can upsell a planned purchase of one item to an impromptu decision to get the entire look.
Another thing to bear in mind this Easter holiday is that many households will choose to spend big – on paint and wallpaper to redecorate a room; on an extra-large grocery shop to feed the family coming over for Sunday lunch; on a new pair of summer shoes for the brighter weather.
This presents a huge opportunity to collect loyalty points, and many consumers will shop around to get the best bonus for their buck. Being able to integrate spending online or in-store with previous purchases in other channels in an omnichannel loyalty scheme can enhance the sense of value felt by shoppers, which will continue when they next shop via another channel or touchpoint.
Of course, none of these scenarios are new to retailers, but the reality is that many businesses still lack the technology to scale up customer experiences during peak trading times, and satisfaction levels are compromised as a result. Asides from a robust ecommerce platform, an organisation’s most effective tool is perhaps mobile POS, as it can be flexibly deployed to ‘troubleshoot’ in-store bottlenecks – whether that’s rapidly lengthening queues, customers with difficult questions, or shoppers that want to store points collected through their bricks-and-mortar channels in the same place as their online loyalty rewards.
So while it’s too difficult to make an Easter technology investment now, it’s worth retailers keeping a close eye on how their solutions fare during the Easter trading surge. This could highlight cracks in the customer experience that need fixing before even bigger capability tests later in the year, such as Black Friday and Christmas.