While there may be unknowns, one thing we can be certain of is that Christmas is still coming. Holiday shoppers often vary in their approach: some customers start shopping early to avoid a crowded shopping center, while others will leave their shopping spree to the last minute. And while I believe this year will be no different, shoppers have become more focused and many will make plans and decisions based on different factors than in the past.
What is certain this year is that customers do not want to be waiting in long lines or browsing through crowded stores. The key to a successful Holiday season will be convenience, ease of shopping, and quick efficient service. Customers have embraced the new service options presented over the last few months and will respond to retailers who provide them with more seamless experiences.
Retailers must aim for a pleasant and anxiety-free shopping experience across channels where customers are served quickly in a warm and friendly manner and in a safe environment. This includes every aspect of their experience in both online and offline purchases (or a combination of both). Customers don’t want to be making multiple trips or worrying if their gifts will arrive on time. More than ever before, they will be researching online – even if they plan to purchase in store.
What Can Retailers Do to Make the Holiday Season More Pleasant and Anxiety-Free?
1. Rely on recent traffic curves
Traffic patterns throughout the week have flattened, with weekdays playing a more important role than normal in the overall performance of the week. Customers continue to intentionally seek out less busy times to do their shopping and this will be more important through the Holiday season. As you prepare your schedules, rely more on recent traffic curves (such as last 3-4 weeks) instead of historical patterns from a year ago. That said, key shopping days such as Black Friday, Super Saturday, and December 24th should still be given additional attention. These dates will still play critical roles in the overall Holiday season – after all, we are still creatures of habit.
2. Focus on capacity turns
With many jurisdictions having capacity restrictions in store, the number of selling-based staff required to serve the customer has also been capped. Ensure that you are monitoring your Capacity Turns and look for ways to increase the selling efficiency in your store. With less service staff available, it is critical that each clearly understand their role. Also look for opportunities to pre-sell to your customers – working the line to capture needs in advance of the customer entering the store or identifying customers who are waiting for a quick and simple pickup in store.
3. Find the right balance between non-selling and selling activities
Historically, Specialty Retailers might schedule as little as 20% of their total labor as non-selling. With the rise of omnichannel and the increased importance of digital transactions impacting the store’s activities, that ratio is changing and non-selling labor demands are increasing. Monitor your Available Capacity and use those hours to fund increasing volume of in-store digital transactions wherever possible (i.e. digital returns, ship-from-store, curbside or click & collect services).
4. Be creative and try different tactics
Given the current challenges, retailers will need to use a test and learn approach to try new tactics and be nimble in their operational strategy. Advance selling the lineup can reduce the customer’s time in the store. Leaning on your mobile POS to reduce the need for lineups at cash, utilizing appointment bookings during non-peak hours, efficiently executing pickup in store, and ensuring a well-stocked selling floor will contribute to a more efficient and enjoyable shopping experience.
5. Leverage in-store operational strategies
Flattened traffic curve and capacity limitations will most likely reduce the number of seasonal staff required for this Holiday season. On the plus side, this means that retailers will have more tenured employees available with a higher level of product knowledge. Focus them on selling and consider your seasonal hires for less customer-facing roles such as ship from store, re-stocking capacity monitoring and sanitation. In addition, observe customer behavior and utilize service efforts that provide a calming environment that builds customers’ confidence; deliver comfortable interactions with them while maintaining physical distancing and hygiene practices.
6. Embrace a customer loyalty culture
Customers are demonstrating a higher level of brand loyalty than ever before. While product, price, and promotion continue to be key factors, the in-store and online experiences are more critical than ever. Seamless and frictionless shopping builds on customer confidence and in return customer loyalty. Focus on convenience, comfort, and ease of shopping.
While this year may be different, some things remain the same. Customers will shop for their Holiday needs and this is still the most important season of the year. Retailers need to focus on creating a seamless shopping environment that is safe, enjoyable, efficient, and offer the customers options to shop the way they want to shop during Holidays.
StoreForce can help you to achieve your retail goals and labor planning effectiveness. Interested in learning more? Contact us and engage with one of our retail experts as to how we can future proof your overall retail store management.
Chris Matichuk leads the Services and Product teams as the General Manager of StoreForce. With over 30 years in retail, Chris has a vast experience in retail consulting and retail systems. Chris has worked closely with 100+ retailers spanning nearly all formats of retail. She has held positions from field organization to corporate operations in department stores, big-box retail, and Specialty Retail.
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