- Ryan Ori
Omnichannel Retail Holiday Readiness
In traditional brick-and-mortar (B&M) retail, holiday readiness meant months-long preparation of forecasting and ordering with vendors the products you were going to sell. Add in pricing and sales strategies, adjusting store hours, staffing stores, and hoping the right customers show up in the right locations. It was always essential to have the right products to keep customers from seeking out alternative options. While technology has empowered brands with better insights to predict and opportunities to meet their customer demands, it has also added a layer of complexity to preparation for the holiday shopping season.
Welcome to Omni Channel Retail Holiday Readiness
So, how does Omni Channel Holiday Readiness differ from the traditional preparation of B&M retail?
There are four strategic areas of focus that retail brands need to consider in the new era of the modern selling environment. Customers have grown accustomed to the comfort of shopping wherever and whenever they want. To meet these expectations, brands must ensure they implement flexible strategies for the new retail landscape. Brands should be prepared to leverage their competitive advantage of a robust retail store presence to facilitate sales from social media, marketplaces, subscriptions, eCommerce, and pop-up shops, while simultaneously meeting the needs of shoppers in-store. These strategies are increasingly important during the busiest shopping season when your brand has more opportunities to capture the sale and keep the customer for life.
Treat Channels as One
The days of internal battles between online and store channels should be forgotten. The most successful brands are those that meet and maintain a positive experience for their customers at every touchpoint. The concept of Buy Anywhere, Return Anywhere has become the norm for consumers of today. Brands that do this best weave their retail stores into the consumer journey from discovery to post-sale support while developing brand enthusiasts along the way.
Brands should develop sales goals & revenue recognition policies that motivate stores to enhance the customer experience at every point of the sales process. This will drive brand loyalty across all channels, internally and externally, especially during the busiest traffic time of the year. A cross-channel sales goal strategy aids store morale so that when associates are taking the time to fulfill web orders they can be assured that those orders will not detract from reaching their personal or store goals.
Another key factor to consider is staffing your stores with dedicated resources responsible for fulfilling orders from other channels. Utilizing these resources to ensure in-store inventory is accurate will create a better experience as you go deeper into the season for both in-store and online customers.
Modernize Inventory & Fulfillment Strategies
When you look to unite channels into one single strategy and determine the resources to support them, you need to consider how to compete in fulfilling customer demand most efficiently. With fast delivery competition from Amazon, Walmart, and others online, retailers must lean on modern inventory distribution and fulfillment strategies.
Using stores as fulfillment hubs in regions or cities to both reduce the cost to ship but also meet the demands of customers for next-day or two-day standards set by other brands in the marketplace. Innovative brands are maximizing how they can leverage stores close to their customers by implementing last-mile delivery services, BOPIS integrations, smart routing, and fulfillment prioritization. These strategies allow retailers to offer customers more ways to procure gifts so that they can cross off items on their holiday lists. Empowering stores to be the center of the distribution strategy, in conjunction with allowing vendors and DCs to replenish stores directly, enables stores to increase their inventory levels to power through bursts of traffic, especially during the 5 busy weekends between US Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2022.
Cross-channel inventory visibility is also vital for creating the best online and in-store experiences, especially in inventory crunch times. Being able to close the sale of a last-minute gift for a customer’s shopping list, even with a different local store’s inventory, increases overall conversion rates and gross margins. Too often the out-of-stock experience will result in customers having to choose their backup option for the gift, and this is not always from the same brand. Having visibility into other locations’ inventory on hand is critical, and operating an endless aisle option with same-day courier delivery or in-store pickup is going to set brand leaders apart and build their customer loyalty.
Expand Your Stores’ Outreach
Customers are always on the go and the holidays only amplify this. Brands need to capture that moment they have their customers’ attention wherever that might be. Leading brands have leveraged platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and others to start to tell their brand story. Having a cutting-edge marketing strategy is great but how brands build on that brand discovery experience into something more robust can be better achieved with a good store plan to complement and enhance the customer experience. Make your customer experience unique by incorporating all of your digital and physical assets into the customer journey pre, during, and post-sale.
The holidays offer a great opportunity to consider pop-up events to reach customers. Stores should look to network across community events early in the holiday season to showcase seasonal offerings and establish that connection with shoppers for when they are ready to buy. This will also enable you to capture earlier cycle buyers and expand your holiday season calendar with a few extra events. Leveraging these events to tie into personalization or clienteling at a later point will give your brand more recognition with customers. Promote products you have that are ideal for gift-giving and play to the strengths of being a local business to appeal to those looking to shop with a more personal, community-driven brand.
Client characteristics, online shopping history, and wishlists through modern POS combined with outreach and personalized curation go a long way. Having that direct line of communication to a customer that an item they have been eyeing is back in stock at the local store and being able to sell it remotely via a remote pay link, fulfilling it to handover in-store or via courier delivery will create an everlasting positive impression of the store’s role with the customer to promote future traffic.
Expand the reason for a store.
Stores need to adapt how their square footage is leveraged to customers. We have talked about how you can look to leverage other strategies and optimize where your customers are by leveraging the stores, but you also need to look at ways to drive customers into the retail location. The traditional BOPIS and BORIS are proven ways to drive traffic, as data shows that each of those has a high chance to convert customers into additional spending while in-store. With the return season right after the busy sales season, it is important to ensure that you are encouraging the store to promote exchanges and make lasting positive experiences with your brand. Preparing the proper messages in your communication and ensuring it is modified with holiday call-outs like extended hours or return windows will reduce confusion and provide peace of mind that customers can get into your store whenever it fits into their hectic holiday schedules. Utilizing modern delivery architecture for your marketing communications will give your team the right insights to best serve the customer while highlighting the benefits of each channel along the way.
The best-in-class brands are offering experiential buying experiences by offering events or limited-time dual-purposed branding of the retail space. Introduce focused events in your stores in the months of October and November to target your desired customers. These events can be anything from a fall product reveal to a nonprofit sip & shop, to family-friendly events that bring multiple types of shoppers together under your brand.
Planning for the busy season can take focus away from how to most efficiently work with the assets you have at your disposal and cause a loss of sales across the business. Focus on bringing your channels into one cohesive team to unlock the omnichannel experience that your customers desire. Modernizing how you fulfill a high-demand season will allow you to be more flexible and carry products where you can meet the needs of all channels. Look for opportunities to build the brand experience and become a thought leader with your customers. More importantly, take a personal approach that allows your stores to understand and communicate with your customers in a more meaningful way. Implementing an omni-focused strategy to your holidays will continue to drive relevancy to the retail channel while building trust with your customers that they can buy from your brand anywhere and return anywhere. Following these strategies will lead to growth this holiday season and set your brand up to be successful wherever your customer shops.