10 Top Tips to Get the Most from Holiday 2016

Ray Hartjen
Ray Hartjen
Guest Contributor

The holiday shopping season is officially in full swing, and with the placement of holidays on the calendar suggesting late shopping pushes, opportunities exist for retailers to attract store traffic, serve shoppers, and make the most of retail's most important season.

According to a CreditCards.com survey earlier this year, 34 million consumers, or 14 percent of Americans, had started their holiday shopping by the end of September, and one million claimed they were already finished. In September! 

However, that same survey showed the majority of shoppers wouldn’t finish until December, with 30 percent of shoppers planning to finish up at the last possible moment, Christmas Eve, December 24. So, the opportunity exists for you and your brand to prosper this holiday season. Below are 10 tips to help make the most out of Holiday 2016:

Tip #1:  Ensure your store’s website is mobile-friendly. The mobile channel is the key engager with shoppers, particularly those shopper generations who are “digital natives.” However, shoppers aren’t the only ones paying close attention. Websites that aren’t mobile-friendly are pushed down in search results by Google, and your store simply can’t afford that. Test your site’s mobile responsiveness with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.

Tip #2:  Optimize your store’s listing for local search. Local search accounts for over 75 percent of online activities, and browsers are dependent on search for identifying local stores that can fulfill their shopping needs. Best practices for optimizing local search include: 1) Completing store listings with address, phone number, website and store hours, 2) Ensuring store locations are accurate on Google Maps, and 3) Actively soliciting multiple positive reviews.

Tip #3:  Plan around this year’s specific Holiday calendar. Christmas Day, December 25, falls on a Sunday, so the really big Saturday shopping day won’t be the Saturday in front of it – December 24 – but rather the Saturday before the Saturday before – December 17. Also because of the calendar, expect shopping crowds to swell on Friday December 23. Lastly, take note:  Hanukkah starts on the evening of December 24 and runs to the evening of Sunday, January 1, running parallel to other major holidays and providing several super-sized retail opportunities [see RetailNext’s forecast of the busiest and biggest days of the holiday season].

Tip #4:  Staff optimally for peak hours.  Don’t leave the service of your shoppers to sheer luck. Based on historical traffic trends, identify your peak hours for the season’s biggest days and ensure staffing is adequate across the entire floor for those times. Be sure to adjust meals and other breaks to guarantee proper coverage over peak hours. Delivering optimal coverage can increase sales 6-8 percent.

Tip #5:  Put the focus on products and shoppers. Lean staffing often requires managers to step behind the counter to ring up sales, the one place in the store where they add the absolute least value. Hire for the till as necessary to get managers back on the floor engaging with staff and shoppers. And, while you’re rounding out staff, build a training plan for newly hired associates and stick to it. Start with the foundational basics and build it out from there, keeping things simple with “do’s” and “don’t’s” and taking out as much interpretation as possible from policies, procedures and processes. Ensure trainers are adequately prepared; resist the temptation to surprise a tenured associated with a training responsibility at the beginning of a shift.

Tip #6:  Neglect average transaction value at your own peril. In the busy holiday season, there’s sometime a tendency to focus attention primarily on store traffic and conversion. Those are important considerations, certainly, but don’t forget average transaction value. Prepare your staff to upsell and add accessories and other complementary SKUs to items already sold. Take a cue from Amazon and others’ tactics and offer additional value – free shipping, gift wrapping, gift cards or a promotional discount – but only after a certain price threshold has been met. Remember, you have two primary store operations levers to affect sales per shopper – conversion and ATV.

Tip #7:  Make certain you’re ready for December 26. The day after Christmas falls on a Monday, so prepare now to optimize the opportunity to attract store traffic and capture sales. Update your Facebook page and other social media accounts on Saturday night, December 24, and consider simultaneously tying an email campaign together with it. Train staff to greet shoppers returning merchandise with a simple, “How can I best help you find an exchange?” and make sure all returned merchandise is immediately retagged and put on the floor, and not stacked high to get to at the end of the day when shoppers are finished with their shopping and back at home.

Tip #8:  Remind gift givers they deserve gifts too. A great way to increase average transaction value (ATV) and units per transaction (UPT) is to entice gift-giving shoppers to purchase well-deserved gifts for themselves. Try promotions like buy one, get one, or add on gift cards for customers to use as they see fit. Try signage that explicitly reminds shoppers to remember themselves during this most wonderful time of the year.

Tip #9:  ‘Tis the season, for it’s better to give than to receive. The holidays are an opportunity to bring out the best, both from shoppers and your very own business. Highlight the needs of a local community non-profit organization and hold an in-store event that promotes the cause, including the donation of a percentage of proceeds. It’s a great feel-good way of promoting both the non-profit and your store to the broader community, and it attracts new traffic to your storefront, raising recognition and awareness, and fostering long-term relationships with shoppers.

Tip #10:  Smile, and don’t forget to have little fun! The holiday season is a huge source of stress for retailers and a great number of their customers as well. It’s important to keep your sense of humor and deliver a surprisingly delightful, magical and memorable shopping experience – after all, it’s likely what attracted you to retail in the first place. The holiday season tends to draw new traffic into stores, and it’s a once-a-year opportunity to make the sort of grand impression that pays off in return visits throughout the rest of the year. Happy holidays, and good luck!

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