The festive shopping season represents a significant portion of retailers’ annual revenue, making it a critical component to sustained success. Consumer spending rapidly increases from November through December, with the average British adult estimated to have spent £476 on holiday gifts in 2020. This year, retailers can expect to see a familiar rise in demand. The surge in activity naturally puts a strain on retailers’ resources. But with innovative technologies and processes, they can prepare their supply chains, e-commerce platforms, and brick-and-mortar stores to have the right staff and inventory available at the right time to maximize the rise in demand.
Suresh Menon, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Software Solutions, Zebra Technologies gives an insight into three technology best practices to drive sales, improve staff efficiency and deliver positive customer experiences
Streamlining Supply Chains to Reduce Volatility
Consumers have come to expect an elevated degree of customer service at every retail touchpoint, especially when they’re shopping in a time crunch. Prior to the festive period, customers need fast delivery times and accurate order tracking to help ensure they will receive their orders on time. Retailers must keep their supply chain processes streamlined and efficient to meet these needs. However, volatile demand, inventory theft, delivery driver shortages, shipping inflation, labor shortages, and unpredictable weather can make that exceedingly challenging.
The best way for retailers to counter these issues is to gain deeper visibility into both store and supply chain operations. Using radio frequency identification (RFID) solutions to track stock keeping units (SKUs) in the warehouse and back room can help retailers gauge inventory availability in near-real time and make more strategic merchandising, sourcing and promotions decisions based on current demand and sell-through rates. They can also tap into advanced fleet tracking services and technology solutions to monitor inbound goods status as well as driver performance during deliveries. When combined with prescriptive analytics software, these solutions make it easy for retailers and their supply chain partners to identify potential fulfillment bottlenecks and reallocate staffing or inventory as needed to expedite certain items into shipments and onto shelves.
Preparing E-Commerce Sites for Increased Traffic
The ease and efficiency of e-commerce shopping means busy customers are increasingly completing their festive purchases online. However, the resulting influx in traffic can be disastrous for unprepared retailers, potentially resulting in slow loading times or even offline websites and mobile apps.
E-commerce managers should consistently perform rigorous testing for traffic volume and loading speed throughout peak shopping periods to ensure omnichannel customer experiences are aligned with retailers’ intentions. In addition to preparing technically, brands can prepare creatively by delivering rich, curated content to replicate the in-person shopping experience – in turn driving more impulse purchases and larger average order values. Stores can leverage highly personalized online experiences to deliver customer satisfaction and long-term loyalty. For example, chat bots can take the place of personal shoppers, digital quizzes can help customers make informed product choices, and interactive buying guides help engage shoppers for added time onsite.
For further customized experiences, retailers can execute email and social media marketing campaigns to promote festive shopping. By utilizing advanced retail data analytics solutions, marketing managers can provide shopping inspiration that further drives sales.
Prioritizing In-Store Health and Safety
Retailers must prove customers’ health and safety remains a priority if they want shoppers to proceed with filling their carts, complete purchases, and feel comfortable making return visits.
Buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS), curbside pickup and contactless self-checkout options have enabled consumers to shop at their favorite stores throughout the pandemic without extensive human-to-human interactions. Retailers should extend these offerings to ensure consumers continue to feel comfortable when making purchases in-store and consider using online shopping intelligent robots to monitor shelf stock to further minimize the number of on-floor associates and potential human interactions. In addition, hand sanitizing stations, advanced ventilation solutions, and automated temperature screening solutions can provide further peace of mind to shoppers and employees alike.
Festive shopping is a peak time of year for retailers, especially when margins have already been tightened in the wake of the pandemic. By preparing every retail touchpoint with innovative data-driven solutions, retailers can streamline their supply chains, deliver rich customer experiences, and drive even more sales.
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