This year’s “Christmas Creep” has already begun, with nearly half of all American parents reportedly starting their holiday shopping before Labor Day. It’s hard to believe, yet the trend of Americans spreading out their holiday shopping is not new. With online and mobile shopping on the rise, consumers have more options than ever this year to shop when, where and how they choose.
By upgrading omnichannel options like in-store pickup or same-day delivery, businesses can help customers customize their shopping experience to fit their personal needs during the rush of the holidays. While becoming an omnichannel retailer can seem like a daunting effort, these tips will better position retailers for growth this holiday season.
Focus on the customer experience
Leading up to the holidays, retailers should look for creative, unconventional ways to make shopping more convenient and enjoyable. With omnichannel options, retailers can offer a more personalized experience that helps build brand loyalty. One example of this is Walmart’s expansion of its curbside pickup program. Following the likes of Nordstrom and the Container Store, Walmart hopes to better serve the needs of their busy shoppers by letting them order online and then grab-and-go.
Developing these customer relationships becomes even more important during the holidays. Your competition will be pulling out all the stops with sales and promotions to potentially pull your customers away. By providing shoppers with customizable and hassle-free options, retailers can foster relationships and build loyalty regardless of holiday sales or promotions from competitors.
While online and mobile shopping are becoming increasingly popular, a recent Mindtree study found that in-store sales associates are still an important part of driving sales. Shoppers who interact with a sales associate are 43 percent more likely to make a purchase than those who don’t. Retailers can still provide this personal touch while leveraging new technology. By giving in-store associates mobile devices, they can efficiently help shoppers find products, search reviews and order out-of-stock items.
Associates can also use mPOS devices, allowing shoppers to check out without the long lines. Stores like Steven Allan are utilizing these mPOS devices in its brick-and-mortar locations. During the holidays, when stressed shoppers are tempted just to order all their gifts online and skip stores altogether, new technology can marry the convenience of online shopping with an enhanced in-person shopping experience.
Walk before you run
Trying to become omnichannel without the necessary infrastructure is like trying to build a skyscraper without a foundation. Before even considering what your strategy might look like, there needs to be company-wide commitment to becoming omnichannel. Every member of the organization, from CEO to sales associate, needs to understand your omnichannel mission in order to properly execute it at all levels of your business. By having a unified, company-wide plan, businesses can minimize disruption while maximizing potential.
Also, don’t feel as though you need to rush to launch your entire strategy immediately. Determine what is the lowest hanging fruit and start from there. Target, for example, is currently growing their buy-online, pick-up in store business. This expansion will increase Target’s space for holding orders and allow team members to retrieve items more quickly, even during peak times. By preparing and upgrading their omnichannel options with incremental improvements, retailers can provide a better customer experience during the craziness of the holidays.
Implementing an omnichannel strategy now will help retailers be prepared come November and December. Although becoming an omnichannel retailer is far from an easy task, by making some incremental changes now and striving to offer the best possible customer experience, you can increase sales and loyalty while taking on another holiday season.
Bobbi Leach is the CEO of FuturePay