Happiest Holidays!(?) Retailers Must Hope for Best but Prepare for Worst

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#1 Secure – Data, Infra, Network, PoS

Security is of course paramount – securing your web, mobile and in store point of sale systems and also the network. It cannot be a last minute checkpoint. Your initiatives should have started pretty much a year back and if you are thinking about introducing new ideas/ tools right now, sorry to say, it’s a bit too late!

Nevertheless, start using the time to ensure your own employees and partners are aligned to jump into action at the slightest hint of an alarm. Customer Data cannot be up for grabs!

One can only hope not to

#2 Test – performance, new features, new payments and new integrations

Expect that your site will go down, expect that a couple of PoS terminals will crash. How soon can you get back on your feet? Simulate and test your entire ecosystem not just with high volume transactions and load on your systems, but also on how soon issues can be resolved when things break. It then about people availability, communication mechanisms, leadership visibility to on the ground issues.

And with respect to new features, new fancy payments methods and wallets, make sure they are not holiday release. Test new integrations especially around payments at least a month ahead. You don’t want to choke customer transactions at the crucial moment.

#3 Stock and Streamline – for seasonal trends, last minute shoppers rush, for long tail

Holiday shoppers come in all shapes and forms. Holiday early birds (NRF’s holiday spending survey found that approximately 40 percent of holiday shoppers say they begin their holiday shopping before Halloween), Late bloomers, Last minute rushers. And their shopping preferences differ too – some are happy with new arrivals for this season, some have an eye for the unique and there are the long tail buyers who turn to online. Ensure that your assortment and stocking strategies cater to all these buyers. Have an assortment lined up just for your last minute shoppers with 30 minute and next day delivery promises that you can be sure to fulfill with these product orders, be sure to line up your vendors for this group as well.

And streamline and simplify – supply chain bottlenecks, 3PL SLAs and commitments to cater to hopefully a perpetual inventory that can satisfy most of your customers.

#4 Wow – create unique holiday experiences (selfie with Santa?)

Enough of the serious talk. Now Online only players, sorry to say, but there’s only so much you can do in terms of creating those Holiday Selfie moments. But brick and mortar retailers, don’t get bogged down with the operational specifics. What are you doing to make sure your retail stores are destinations that would create enchanting experiences? It is going to be mad rush at times, but to keep employee morale high and customers walking in for not just your price-drops, go beyond having a Store Staff dressed as Santa. You could organize private shopping events, family shopping zones, leverage mobile to create some unique and fun experiences and also promote the joy of giving by joining hands with a charity. Target attempted some in-store digital experiences in collaboration with Google last year.

#5 Motivate and prepare

Long hours for your partners, associates and call center staff should be without lack of cheer. Don’t hesitate to motivate – not just monetary, but plan events and in-store cheer huddles to keep the adrenaline going. Urban Outfitters seems to have cracked the motivation challenge with employees willing to sign up for extra hours without extra pay!

Secondly, prepare your staff to make customer interactions very simple and straightforward. Gift guidance is key, and equip your staff with tools on assisting customers. Customers are going to be in a rush with time and budget constraints and they need quick and simple options on what to pick from your store staff.

#6 Monitor and Act

Have tools and dashboards in place to have live streaming commentary on on-the-floor information – rush hour, heat-maps, competitor offers, and customer dwell times at specific zones / product lanes. With mobile, beacons and analytics it is possible today to get such great insights in real-time. Very handy for your merchandisers, marketers and CXOs.

Here’s to some merry times ahead!

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