The NRF forecasts that holiday sales will hit as much as $720.89 billion this year, which promises retailers a merry holiday season. A healthy job market and buoyant economic conditions will likely contribute to record-high consumer spending. Preparing for the holiday season and achieving flawless retail execution, however, requires a tremendous amount of work. Retailers need to stack the cards in their favor to ensure that they get their piece of the holiday spending pie. If they don’t put in the effort, the competition will reap all the benefits. The holiday season is often a “make it or break it” time for retailers, so it’s important to seize the opportunity that comes with this time of year. This article explores four different ways that retailers can prepare for a profitable and successful holiday season.

1.    Use Historical Data to Plan More Successful Promotions

Identifying the best products to promote and forecast the outcomes of promotions based on historical data is the key to running more successful promotions. What’s more, bargain-hungry shoppers crave unique holiday-themed promotions and there are different ways you can satisfy them. For example, for the stocking stuffers that sold like hotcakes last year, why not offer a “buy 3 get 1 free” promotion to win even more sales? Promotions can also be a great way to sell more gift cards during the holiday season. Not only do customers appreciate the gift giving convenience of gift cards, but they can also be an excellent way to acquire new customers who would not have otherwise shopped in your stores, with the added bonus that customers nearly always spend more when they use the gift card than its face value.

2.    Faster Checkouts, Happier Customers

Retail TouchPoints found that 88 percent of U.S. consumers would like a faster checkout experience. Never-ending checkout lines ­can quickly turn a fun trip to the mall into a nightmare. While modern shoppers expect a frictionless customer experience all year round, they often have even higher expectations – and less patience – around the holidays. Between all of their holiday commitments and responsibilities, customers don’t need to add items to the list of things they should worry about. Equipping sales associates with mobile point-of-sale devices enables them to serve more customers anywhere in the store, which can help reduce holiday lines and keep customers satisfied. What’s more, a modern MPOS system can also help your click-and-collect customers get in and out of the store quickly and efficiently, preventing the dreaded line-ups. You might even consider adding extra temporary counters for click-and-collect, customer orders, returns, gift wrapping, gift card sales, or other value-added services that tend to be popular during the holiday season.

Slow checkout is equally frustrating to online shoppers. A slow checkout page, for instance, can make them wonder whether their order was successful or not. If they don’t receive an email confirmation, does that mean they should try again? In case they do, will they get charged twice if their first order was in fact successful? A robust e-commerce platform will prevent any unnecessary headaches for both you and your customers.

3.    Testing Your Website is a Must

Setting clear business goals and running sufficient performance tests prior to the holiday shopping frenzy will ensure you’re kicking off the holiday season on the right foot. Today’s fickle customers expect your website to load within milliseconds, making website speed optimization a necessity. Running numerous tests is a great way to know whether your website will handle peak in traffic.

What’s more, eMarketer found that “mobile continues to be a driving force for ecommerce growth”, and expects total US retail mcommerce sales to grow 32.7 percent in 2018. It has thus become critical for retailers to test the responsiveness of their websites, and there are now multiple sites that will let them know where they stand, so they can ensure their website will adapt to multiple screen sizes and that it will perform equally well on any device.

4.    Remember that Seasonal Staff Matters

Hiring temporary employees doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest in them and encourage them to be excited to work for you. For instance, why not let your staff know when they’re performing well and reward the top performing sales associates on a regular basis? Rewarding your employees does not necessarily mean spending a fortune on costly gifts or big bonuses. Posting your top performers’ names on a board each week is an easy way to motivate your employees (and some of their competitive colleagues will want to outperform them!) Making your temporary employees feel appreciated is a great way to make them spread the holiday cheer. What’s more, equipping temporary employees with the right technology, like an in-store Look Book for product information, or an easy-to-learn POS system, helps every sales associate to perform like your most seasoned veterans and deliver the informed, helpful service your busy holiday shoppers demand.

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