Each year it seems as though the ramp-up to holiday season starts earlier for merchants, as they truly understand the impact that strong (or poor) seasonal performance can have on their bottom line.
When the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) released its Post-Holiday Shopping survey earlier this year, they reported that 69% of both in-store and online sales during the holidays went to omnichannel retailers. That’s a reminder for all merchants to dedicate time pre-holidays to implement ways to engage with and sell to consumers through physical and digital channels.
While most large retailers have a robust omnichannel strategy in place, which they can fine tune for the holiday shopping season, it’s the mid-sized merchants that have a real opportunity to quickly enhance their approach to capitalize on consumer seasonal spending. Now is also the time to build loyalty with shoppers. While the task might seem daunting as Black Friday is right around the corner, it’s important to first breakdown perceived barriers mid-sized merchants believe could stifle preparation for the holiday season.
A clear correlation can be drawn between the dynamic nature of an industry and the amount of innovation it breeds. Such is the case in retail as dozens of tech companies are developing solutions specific for retailers that can help them harness data, foster consumer engagement and make the path to purchase easier. However I often hear concerns from merchants that technology is too expensive or not right-sized for practical and immediate implementation.
On the contrary, many solutions deliver robust benefits out of the box and can be installed quickly. Another barrier that I’ve seen limit merchants from working to realize their potential during the season is the perception that the holidays are too quickly approaching. Not so! There are several initiatives mid-sized retailers can quickly put into place to make this season their best yet. There’s still plenty of time for mid-sized merchants to consider the following initiatives:
Get Real About Omnichannel Integration
Around the holiday season, various retail industry reports spotlight the shift from in-store shopping to online purchases. While certainly the breakdown in spend among channels is changing, we know brick-and-mortar stores are not going away anytime soon. Instead, the merchants that are seeing the greatest success are those in which physical and online platforms work in conjunction. Smart businesses know they need to offer an easy in-store and online experience, but it’s increasingly necessary to be on top of technology trends that could further improve the experiences.
evo, an omnichannel outdoor gear and apparel retailer, thrives to deliver a customer experience on all channels that is built on high-energy and fun to resonate with customers who are passionate about action sports. Because omnichannel customers are 3x more valuable to evo than single channel customers, Nathan Decker, evo’s director of ecommerce, sought out a way to see their online customers come into their physical store and vice-versa. As such, evo uniquely culled product assortment presented online and in its flagship store in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood.
Fine Tune Your POS
Whether online or in store, the goal is to simultaneously make merchants’ live easier and provide more options to their customers, the wide variety of POS options now available is just waiting to meet those needs. Large merchants invest heavily in POS technologies to streamline the purchase process. And small merchants benefited the most from fintech innovation when systems like Clover and Square made it much easier for virtually any retailer to accept card payments. For the mid-market; though, there are a few ways to quickly improve POS for the holiday shopping season.
With in-store sales associates as ambassadors for the brand, merchants should train seasonal hires on ways to engage the customer at POS. Similarly, make help available online via a chat function, an add-on feature available through many online retail platforms. Additionally, most POS tools these days not only operate on stationary registers, but are also on mobile devices like iPads and Android smartphones. Mobile registers are extremely helpful during slow lines at checkout and useful during the holiday rush as you can ring customers up anywhere in the store.
Make It Easy for Customers to Spend
Countless retail industry reports note that consumers’ average order size increases when credit is offered. For instance, when evo launched a new financing tool, the merchant saw 120% higher transaction values for customers using the financing option. Not only can financing support increased spend, it also provides mid-sized merchants a way to build loyalty among customers by providing a payment option that suits their need. That’s a benefit that will pay off long after the holiday spree subsides.
Our merchant partners are often surprised by how quickly a merchant can implement a financing solution, particularly delivering a consistent experience across channels. Brian Meader oversees sales, business development and marketing at Guitar Sanctuary, a McKinney, TX-based seller of boutique guitars, basses, pedals, amps, accessories, and lessons. The Guitar Sanctuary team looked to quickly enhance its current in-store financing to accommodate customers online and those shopping at events and shows. Again, innovation in fintech enabled the merchant access to a turnkey financing solution that could launch in a single day. The business impact – average order values of financed purchases were 100 percent higher than with other payment options.
Greg Lisiewski, Founder and CEO at Blispay