Cue the inevitable Game of Thrones reference… Winter is coming! With the holiday season just around the corner, now is the perfect time for retailers to enhance their services and better manage peak traffic.
If you want to see some record-breaking sales figures in Q4, you can start by making sure all your systems are up to date and high performing. After all, having excellent operations is key to retail success.
Keep reading to find out what our retail experts advise enterprise and small business owners do to drive holiday sales in 2022.
Why should retailers prepare for the holiday season?
It’s true that retailers naturally see higher sales during the holiday shopping season without making significant changes to their stores. Yet, what many don’t realize is that they’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. By enhancing their services ahead of the holiday rush, retailers may see dramatically greater returns and record-breaking sales figures.
Here are some more reasons to strategize ahead of peak season:
- Capitalize on event traffic: In the run up to the holidays, shopping malls are abuzz with events like Santa’s Grotto visits. You can take better advantage of the traffic you’ll inadvertently gain because of these events by coming up with a strategy plenty of time in advance.
- Your stores are in danger of becoming chaotic: We all know the pain of entering an overwhelmingly busy store during the holidays. There’s no stock, the queues are overrun, and there’s never a store associate in sight. With the right preparations, you can put the fun back into holiday shopping.
- Preparation can give you a competitive edge: Think about it. If customers see that a competitor’s store is busy and disorganized, they’re much more likely to visit your stores instead.
When does holiday shopping season start?
Typically, the retail holiday shopping season starts in October and ends in January.
However, Christmas really is coming early this year. According to a recent Salesforce survey, 37% of Americans plan to buy gifts earlier this year due to rising inflation.
In fact, 25% of consumers have either already started holiday season shopping or will do so by the end of September. Another 25% will begin shopping in October and 40% will start their peak season shopping in November and December.
Essential Holiday Shopping Statistics for 2022
Here are five key statistics you should know ahead of peak season:
- 51% of consumers are also planning on buying fewer presents this year (Salesforce)
- Amazon generated $11.9 bn during their 2022 Prime Day sale–8.5% higher than in 2021 (Practical Ecommerce)
- Over the holidays, Americans spent $211.42 billion online in 2021, up 10% year on year (Digital Commerce 360)
- By Black Friday, 29% of consumers have completed a significant portion of their holiday shopping (Finical)
- Local stores, pharmacies, bookstores, newspaper retailers, specialist shops selling alcohol and tobacco and telecommunications increased their revenue in 2021 compared with 2020 (Centre for Retail Research)
Essentially, it’s up to retailers to create compelling, engaging experiences that make customers actually want to visit and return to the store.
How to prepare for the holiday shopping season
Here’s how to effectively manage customers this holiday season and hit your Q4 targets:
1. Allow customers to join a virtual queue
Winter is well and truly on its way and retailers need to be realistic about the knock-on effect it will have on footfall figures. Will your customers really be willing to wait outside your stores in the rain or snow? Will the customers that make it past your front doors be in the buying mood after waiting in the wind and rain?
A Virtual Queuing System eliminates the need for physical queues by allowing customers wanting to enter a virtual queue.
How it works
- Customers can join a virtual queue through their mobile phones by simply scanning a QR code or by sending an SMS with a code. They can also do so via a store host with a tablet device, or through a kiosk.
- Once in the queue, customers receive an SMS providing them with their queue position, estimated wait time and a weblink where they can actively track their position.
- When it’s time to enter the store, customers receive an SMS notification letting them know to return to the store entrance.
2. Hire extra staff
To help with the Christmas rush, it’s always wise to hire some seasonal staff. They can help to reduce waiting lines and ensure customers who are looking for staff don’t have to walk far to get the support they need.
Generally, you should start recruiting new staff between September and October to get ready for the holiday influx.
3. Create gift guides
Do you spend hours thinking of a gift for a family member before running out of ideas and picking a different retailer? Your customers do too.
Fortunately, with comprehensive gift guides, you can help consumers to find the perfect gift. You can have gift guides for students, children’s, parents, partners, colleagues and more.
You don’t even have to worry about the costs–post your guide online if you’re close to your peak season budget. Consider reaching out to local business associations to see if they’ll promote your guides for free.
4. Promote your products and services via social media
You might not have time to schedule social media posts during peak season so it’s always best to plan ahead. Draft up posts featuring seasonal products and even peak season services. Don’t forget how popular social media live streams can be for drumming up business.
As a rule of thumb, aim to post at least once a day from November 1st and post even more frequently in the fortnight leading up to Christmas.
5. Build captivating shop window displays
With great, festive window displays, you’ll entice tentative window shoppers to enter your stores–and even fill them with some holiday cheer.
The more fun, bright and eye-catching you make your window displays, the better. Remember, you’re trying to wow passersby and convince them that they should be in your stores.
You can even shout out to your in-store Retail Choreography services so that consumers know they can join a virtual queue or book an appointment.
6. Enable customers to book a time-slot to enter stores
Another approach many retailers are taking is allowing customers to book appointments to enter the store using an Appointment Scheduling app.
How it works
- Customers are directed to a page on your website or app where they can book a time-slot appointment to enter your store.
- They receive a confirmation email and SMS, and they receive reminder messages on the day of their appointment.
- When it’s their time to enter the store, customers go to the store entrance.
7. Set up data analytics
Another essential strategy to ensure you’re improving your holiday shopping season strategy every year is to ensure full data visibility. Invest in a Business Intelligence software that can help you to better understand foot traffic, service outcomes, stock levels and how many of your customers are loyal or new to your brand.
8. Embrace omnichannel customer experiences
The importance of omnichannel retail has been well documented in recent years. Yet, many slow-to-adapt retailers are still lagging behind in the online colosseum.
Bear in mind that shoppers are statistically more likely to recommend your services to friends and family if you have online and physical stores. The greater your customer offering, the better for all those involved.
9. Offer holiday promotions
Inflation is making the US consumer more money-conscious than in previous years. Your customers are planning to start shopping for the holidays earlier and to buy less.
With the right promotions–from discounts to gift wrapping deals–you can make your products irresistible. Perhaps you’ll even make your customers’ holiday wishes come true.
10. Make sure to stock up
Do you know what your most popular products are? Have you got festive gifts that always fly off the shelves?
At risk of stating the obvious, you need to stock up on holiday inventory so that you’re never caught in a pinch and potentially missing sales.
We recently discovered that 43.1% of Americans say unavailable stock is the top cause of their poor retail experience. By stocking up ahead of the peak season rush, you can stop stock issues from spoiling your customers’ experience in-store and online.
11. Focus on SEO
Upping your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy is one of the single greatest things you can do to draw in online traffic. By optimizing your website, you can make sure that you appear higher than your competitors in Google’s ranking. This will make your seasonal products much easier for your customers to find and boost your profitability.
As Megan Krause, Content Manager for Vertical Measures explains, ““Product descriptions are one of the most underrated SEO tactics and have the power to convert buyers and drive targeted traffic to your website through organic search queries.”
How to boost your SEO ranking
Here’s four great ways to increase the SEO ranking for your retail brand:
- Create great content that’s specific to your sector and brand
- Find the keywords that your customers use to visit your website
- Regularly update your website and content
- Take advantage of product descriptions to drive conversion
12. Outcompete other brands with better delivery options
Time is everything, especially when last-minute holiday shoppers are concerned. Some customers can’t afford to wait for several days to receive an order. Consequently, they’ll take their money to a competitor who can deliver similar products faster than you.
That’s why having competitive delivery options (like free shipping and next day delivery) can help you to acquire new business.
If you have more than a few hundred orders per month, it’s worth outsourcing your warehouse and delivery operations to a logistics company. You’ll save money and your customers will get their orders quicker. Everyone’s a winner.
13. Take advantage of chatbots and FAQs
Customers buy more products online every year. This can put strain onto your customer service team as they race to answer all incoming enquiries in a timely manner.
If you have a Chatbot, make sure you’ve given them the answers to routinely asked customer questions. It’s also worth putting some popular questions and answers on a FAQ page to make it easier for customers to get the answers they need.
The more accessible information is on your website, the happier your customers will be and the less strain your customer service team will come under.
14. Don’t forget post-holiday business
Retailers often make the mistake of putting all their efforts on the run up to Christmas. Well, what happens after?
According to the National Retail Federation, underwhelmed Americans returned 17.8% of goods from all retailers last year. This equates to $158 billion worth of merchandise.
Unfortunate as this may be, it presents the perfect opportunity for retailers to keep up the holiday shopping momentum and get the edge on your competitors. Find interesting and unique ways to re-engage with your holiday customers to keep your post-holiday sales up.
Prepare for peak season with Qudini
Qudini has dedicated solutions to help international retailers and banks to manage holiday season traffic, including: In-Store Appointment Booking, Video Appointments, Walk-In Queue Management, Event Booking and Click and Collect Check-in.
Get in touch using the contact form below if you’d like a demo of our peak support solutions.