15 Nov Holiday Hailstorm: 12 Ways to Survive Retail
Holidays are a double-edged ‘blessing’ for those in eCommerce. It’s known for being one of the busiest trading periods of the year, but also one of the most harrowing. This is what a holiday hailstorm looks like: aggressive competitors coming in from all angles, many anxious shoppers needing help all at once within a short, concentrated timeframe, missing packages and delivery delays for last-minute orders, an ever-increasing workload of fulfilling orders, and possibly emotionally fraught team members. So much for ‘happy holidays’.
We know that retail is no longer an easily defined industry as what it was many decades ago—where the biggest event on the calendar may be the opening of the Christmas windows. Two conflicting stories emerging from last Christmas’ retail sales performance indicate the complexity of the industry today: the first one praised the 13.4% growth of eCommerce, while the second lamented the dearth of overall retail sales which grew at the Depression-era rate of 1.7%.
While eCommerce merchants may take this data at face value, and celebrate the growth, and hence prowess of online retailing, it was not so long ago that its predecessors—the brick-and-mortar stores—sat back and enjoyed their golden era before innovation swept over them. To prepare for the retail cold front, retailers need to assess their holiday strategies and take into account the changing expectations of consumers. Here are two emerging retail trends that retailers ought to take into account when planning for the holidays:
The Right Here, Right Now Consumer
Rather than just a millennial generation of ‘I-Want-It-Now’ consumers, what we’re seeing today is that a majority of consumers will simply not tolerate delays in their shopping experiences. Call it the ‘post-Amazon’ world if you may, consumers now are simply accustomed to having almost anything they want within their reach in the shortest amount of time. With companies losing about $14 billion due to poor service, retailers cannot afford to disappoint customers especially when it comes to the punctuality of their deliveries over the holidays.
Personalization is the Key to Conversion
Forbes singled out the growing savviness of today’s customer as one out of four key trends in 2016, making it all the more important for retailers to invest in best-in-class, personalized customer experiences:
- 73% of consumers prefer to do business with brands that personalize shopping experiences
- conversion rate increases by 5.5 times for customers who clicked on a personalized product recommendation
- 64% of people think that customer experience is more important than price in their choice of a brand.
The questions you need to ask yourself at this point is, what are you currently doing that is disappointing your customers, and how can you enrich the shopping experience with personalization? One way to approach this is by tackling the post-purchase experience – a stage in a customer’s journey that can make or break a loyal customer.
In a shipping and fulfillment survey, we wanted to find out how ready retailers are with handling the post-purchase demands of the holiday season. We found that only a fifth of retailers across the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and France were confident of their abilities to cope with holiday demands, while 80% were not entirely confident of their ability to respond to shipping delays and uncertainty, and 77% were not able to fully meet customer expectations with multiple shipping options.
Before retailers hit an iceberg, here’s a little preview of ‘12 Ways of Retail’, comprising of top tips that we’ve gathered from industry experts to help you glow during the holidays:
1.Get personal: Curating your shopper’s online experience based on what they like with a data-driven strategy can be the difference between ‘buy’ or ‘bye’, according to Marketing Land.
2.Give choices: Provide shoppers with a great fulfillment experience with delivery choices, such as the ones singled out by Bain & Company: free shipping, express shipping, crowdsourced last-mile deliveries and ship to store.
3.Simplify processes: Walmart’s founder, Sam Walton once said, “loosen up, and everybody around you will loosen up.” Make fulfillment easy to execute in an efficient manner, and see how this impacts your team’s attitude towards your customers.
4.Track progress: Shoppers have a limited timeframe for how long they’re willing to wait for purchases to arrive, according to UPS, so over-communicate any delivery updates and changes to customers to manage their expectations and avoid disappointments.
5.Stay calm: Emotional intelligence expert and co-founder of TalentSmart, Dr. Travis Bradberry suggests that successful people reframe their perspective to stay calm. This advice can be adapted to retailers who are stressed during the holidays, remember: every problem is an opportunity to be better.