One of the biggest struggles that companies face during the holiday season is streamlining their online and offline channels. At the end of last holiday season, many retailers were talking about how hard it was to handle online returns in stores1. Stock issues and holiday staffing dilemmas can also cause a lot of friction across retail channels.

As competitive as retail is, the most successful retailers know they need to use creative omni-channel strategies and provide a seamless customer experience, from first contact to purchase, across all channels. To seize the full benefit of omni-channel strategies, read on for tips to use during the holidays.

Create Policies That Simplify Operations In-Store

As it gets closer to the holidays, stores and warehouses start feeling the pressure of making online deliveries arrive on-time. When it comes to shipping, much of the process is out of their control and in the hands of delivery companies. Backlogs get full and sometimes a package misses its shipping date and stores are left with unhappy customers.

Corporations like Target have found a solution that loosens its dependence on shipping companies. With thousands of stores across the country, it is working closely with their suppliers to host more products at retail locations for in-store pickups and returns2. Customers with online orders can pick-up their purchases at their local store, reducing the reliance on shipping and easing the exchange process. Although, physical space is limited, products that are in a constant flow in-and-out the door can simulate a nearly endless space.

To better prepare, corporations need to redefine their policies for clarity and ease-of-use for their entire company. Policies must be clear to all levels of management and in-store teams so discrepancies are handled well.

Creating a seamless shopping experience requires staff and operations performing the right tasks at the right time. When processes are synchronized with the information flowing through, retail stores will realize greater returns on their omni-channel strategies.

Coordinate Promotional Strategies with Stores

Major retailers across the country are pulling out all the stops in creating better deals than the competition. In fact, the holiday season alone brought the economy $626.1 billion in retail sales in 2015, making the holiday season the make-or-break time3.

Scaled omni-channel strategies can be effective in letting customers know about promotions and deals. From digital to traditional advertising, many corporations prepare their channels and strategies months in advance to win early shoppers. However, these efforts are ineffective if stores aren’t filled in on the direction and objectives of omni-channel strategies.

Your company needs a clear, succinct strategy for the holidays that make its operation strategically unique from its competitors. AND communication between corporate and retail stores concerning essential details needs to be on point.

For example, in a recent Wall Street Journal article, Toys “R” Us has recently announced it will be reducing the number of promotions during the holidays in an effort to maximize their impression on “impactful promotions” and rewards programs4. To effectively roll out this strategy, Toys “R” Us focused on hiring staff with a high “customer service aptitude” and changed the layout of their store to showcase these key promotions5.

It’s all about having the strategy defined and knowing what needs to be done to implement it.

Beef Up Customer Service with Information

Most stores hire seasonal staff members to help beef up the hands on deck. Seasonal staff members are especially helpful in maintaining hot departments like electronics, apparel, and toys as these areas are hit with the most customers during the holidays.

While seasonal staff members offer a wealth of relief, throwing fresh staff members into the holiday rush will only lead to bad customer experiences. In fact, a study by RSR Research found that 42% of major retailers invest less than 10-hours per-year training the new staff6. Too many retailers see seasonal staff as an expendable resource when in reality they’re there to reinforce customer service.

One area that corporations should emphasize training are soft skills. According to a survey of 500 senior executives by Adecco Staffing, 44% of senior executives in the U.S. cited a lack of soft skills as the biggest proficiency gap in the workforce7. With omni-channel strategies, the products and expectations of customers become even more challenging as communication and promotions grow complex. The less here: Your company needs to know how to handle holiday employment and training. Get on top of it before it’s a problem in the store.

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We work to open the flow of key performance information behind retail strategies between district and store managers, all in real-time. Learn more about how our store relationship management platform, CoEFFICIENT®, can help your retail strategy meet its goals this holiday season.

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References:
1. Jessicer Dickler. “Rise of Online Shopping Adds to Retailers’ Gift Return Headaches.” CNBC.
2. “Here’s Target’s strategy heading into the holiday season”. Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-targets-strategy-heading-into-the-holiday-season-2016-9
3. Kathy A.”Retail Holiday Sales Increase 3 Percent”. National Retail Federation. https://nrf.com/news/retail-holiday-sales-increase-3-percent
4. Adria C. “How Toys ‘R’ Us Plans to Battle Wal-Mart, Amazon this Holiday Season”. The Wall Street Journal. http://blogs.wsj.com/corporate-intelligence/2014/09/10/this-is-how-toys-r-us-plans-to-battle-wal-mart-amazon-this-holiday-season/
5. Ibid.
6. Nikki B and Paula R. “Empowering the Store Employee”. Retail Systems Research. http://www.rsrresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/2015StoreRSR.pdf
7. “Lack of Soft Skills Negatively Impacts Today’s U.S. Workforce”. Adecco. https://www.adeccousa.com/about-adecco-staffing/newsroom/press-releases/lack-of-soft-skills-2013/

Image credit: Christmas Eve Shopping cc by Su–May

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