There is something magical about the holiday season that goes far beyond comfort food, Christmas carols, and thoughtful gifts: it’s the joyful moments shared in family get-togethers and among treasured friends. This festive occasion also has important economic stakes, too, and the holiday shopping craze is not likely to fade anytime soon. In fact, Deloitte expects holiday sales to increase 4 to 4.5 percent compared to last year, which will likely brighten retailers’ bottom lines. However, if merchants hope to outperform this year, they’ll need more than a Christmas miracle. Instead, they should truly focus on sharpening their strategies before the holiday rush, by mastering the latest retail technologies and using them to their advantage. Here are the top five strategies retailers can use to make their business shine this holiday season.
Use Technology to Improve the In-Store Shopping Experience
During this joyous season, most customers will visit your store in the hopes of feeling that “Holiday Spirit” in the air, regardless of religious beliefs. Some malls can be particularly creative when it comes to displaying their breathtaking decorations. Their efforts encourage further store visits, as customers enjoy the sights and sounds of the holidays — the pine trees, colored lights, and numerous activities. Younger generations enjoy the mall experience as well: they’re likely to take selfies to show off the amazing store they just visited, which is another great way to promote your brand. While encouraging store visits is important, making the in-store experience as enjoyable and convenient as possible is what matters most, as a retailer’s main goal is to build customer loyalty. For instance, reducing checkout lines by offering kiosks, lockers, and special pickup counters (Forbes) can visibly reduce in-store traffic. Equipping all your sales associates with device-agnostic point of sale solutions is also essential, as you’re enabling them to multitask and process transactions anywhere in the store.
Don’t Underestimate the Role Weather Plays on Purchases and Be Prepared for All Scenarios
Constantly keeping track of weather forecasts, planning your inventory far ahead, and managing your stock efficiently are the keys to carrying the products your customers demand. With an integrated order management system, you’ll stay ahead of the curve, by never running out of your fastest-selling products in your biggest sales season. Observing the role temperature plays in purchase decisions, NRF discovered that “compared with relatively warm weather in December 2015, the end of 2016 saw colder conditions that helped drive sales of seasonal apparel such as gloves, jackets and sweaters.” (NRF) The weather, then, clearly seems to trigger specific purchases. It’s not hard to understand why customers who’ve recently suffered through frigid temperatures would likely visit the store that same day, or soon after, to pick up some comfy winter wear.
Supercharge Your SEO Strategy
A modern e-commerce platform can efficiently manage all the technical SEO elements of your website, but you’ll still need to focus on publishing creative content on a timely basis. For instance, although today’s shoppers can easily spend hours searching for that perfect gift online, they’ll also appreciate blog posts that include recommended products that can be purchased with just a few clicks. Not only can content marketing generate much-needed traffic, but it also provides the opportunity to engage with customers. Adding new categories to your site — in which customers can select the age and gender they’re trying to purchase for — can also provide a nice continuity to your articles. Adding price ranges for holiday purchases can also go a long way, as customers generally have a good idea of how much they’re willing to spend. Enabling customer comments on your blog posts or allowing them to write reviews is another smart strategy, as this type of content helps increase your website’s search engine rankings. What’s more, user-generated content can help build a community, representing the perfect opportunity for customers to engage with your brand and each other.
Offer Omni-Channel Experiences at All Touchpoints
It should come as no surprise that today’s customers expect a seamless experience, both online and offline, and the techniques to offer it are endless. NRF, for instance, recommends using data from digital channels to drive product presentation and in-store selection. (NRF) Retailers should also ensure that the gift cards they sell are omni-channel, as their popularity has continuously increased and their convenience makes them particularly appealing. In addition, your customers expect to be able to redeem their gift cards on any channel or device. Mobile wallet apps are also great tools to store gift cards, as customers can redeem them at their convenience in just a few seconds.
Embrace Technology Trends
Retailers who wish to step up their game this holiday season should embrace the newest retail trends. For example, if your e-commerce doesn’t handle social selling, you could already be losing key sales opportunities without even realizing it. Integrated social selling can help increase your online visibility while giving your business a more modern touch. Chatbots are also particularly popular and are a modern way to engage customers with your brand in a cost-effective manner. In fact, according to Jupiter Research, bots will be responsible for cost savings of over $8 billion per year by 2022, up from $20 million this year. (Juniper Research)