Christmas is many consumers’ favourite time of year. For retailers, the run-up to Christmas is their biggest sales period, with £77.56bn expected to be spent this year.
Peak trading season, beginning the week of Black Friday and continuing through December, offers retailers the chance to generate additional sales and win new customers for the coming months.
To give retailers a bit of guidance on how they can manage the Christmas hustle and bustle while maintaining the excellent customer experience on which retailers depend, here are my top tips:
Planning for the present and future
Retailers must plan for peak trading times well in advance. They have to ensure they have the right programs in place to enhance their environment and that they’re resilient and stable enough for the Christmas forecast.
Retailers should be working to survive peak times of that year, but also looking ahead – some investments can take longer to put in place.
Balancing the scales between online and in-store
Previously stores were a retailers’ prime focus for peak trading. They would prepare by ensuring they had enough staff in-store, and back up point-of-sale systems to manage the influx of people.
Now however, things are much more complex, and many more elements need to be taken into account.
Most retailers need to ensure their store environment is exactly right, being the physical front of their brand. But they also need to make sure the back-end systems supporting online and mobile channels are working simultaneously.
The systems in place to deliver appropriate stock to each store, as well as the distribution channels for services such as home delivery and click and collect, need to be aligned.
Moreover, retailers need to prepare their online and mobile platforms for the high volumes of traffic expected during this period.
With the increasing amount of channels consumers now use, it is essential that retailers take an integrated approach and deliver the same experience for customers, regardless of whether they will be making purchases on a device or in-store.
The analytical crystal ball
When preparing for the Christmas mayhem, the more retailers that can predict their customers’ behaviour, the smoother experience for all those concerned will be.
The foresight that their data analytics can provide will enable retailers to analyse trends, and forecast how many people will be in-store and when.
If retailers applied analytics and factored in shopping patterns – customer footfall, weather, and other such elements that help them predict when customers will be in store – they would know when to plan for these peak points.
Retailers can also utilise analytics to map out where best to allocate their products in-store for the best customer journey.
Ensure this Christmas is a cyber-secure Christmas
Retailers work in a fast-paced environment. And so they need to remain agile to cope with the change in consumer demands and trends and meet customers’ expectations.
However, retailers can hold an enormous amount of information about their customers, from personal information to payment data, and with the increase in online services retailers are becoming prime victims to cyber-attacks.
Over the Christmas peak, usual traffic may appear to be confused with DDoS (Denial of Service) traffic due to excessive volumes. Implementing a strong security education programme underpinned by a robust security framework will allow retailers to get on the front foot in combating these types of threats.
The cost of the fallout of cyberattacks can be detrimental to a brand’s finances, not to mention their reputation.
Preparation is everything
Preparing for the Christmas period is essential, as it will largely be retailers’ busiest time of the year.
To ensure a smooth customer experience throughout this time of heightened activity, retailers need to look at how the different channels – both online and in store – can play their part in ensuring success and delivering an excellent customer experience.
They also need to utilise their data to predict when and where their largest footfalls will be.
If retailers are to make this Christmas a success, they must ensure their customer experience is maintained to the highest standard. In doing so, retailers will reap the rewards throughout the year and for many Christmases to come.
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