It’s the most wonderful time of the year! So, is your retail store ready?
Every business day from Tuesday, November 1 through Wednesday, November 23 (the day before Thanksgiving), RetailNext will be counting down to the holidays with a daily retail tip. Come back every day during the holiday countdown, or subscribe today for the daily tip to be sent directly to you email Inbox.
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#17 – 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 peak coverage over peak hours. Delivering optimal coverage can increase sales 6-8 percent!
#16 – “Holiday Creep” extends further and further. Early November weekends are consistently HUGE opportunities for stores, as over recent years traffic has trended up. Unfortunately, for many retailers, their holiday staff is not yet in place. Look at detailed staff by hour for the first few weekends in November to shift hours into peak traffic times.
#15 – Create a training plan for seasonal new hires. 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 an associate with a training responsibility at the beginning of a shift.
#14 – 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 page out of Amazon’s playbook 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.
#13 – The 2016 holiday season calendar is a bit different from recent years, so plan accordingly. 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. Because of the calendar, expect shopping crowds to swell on Friday December 23. Also 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].
#12 – 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 for the day and back at home.
#11 – Schedule an event and advertise it to your target market. An inherent advantage of brick-and-mortar stores is the ability to engage shoppers and deliver a magical shopping experience. Tailor a special event to your store, its products and services and your target customers. Be it a musical act, an expo of artisans handcrafting gifts and other products, a cooking class, a wine and food pairing experience, a custom jewelry designing workshop or whatever, look to rise above the holiday noise and differentiate your store and brand. Don’t schedule on an already projected busy day, but rather look for an opportunity to attract shoppers to your store on a day they ordinarily wouldn’t be out [See RetailNext’s forecast of the busiest days of the holiday season].
#10 – Small Business Saturday is a thing, whether you’re small or not. Small Business Saturday is Saturday, November 26, two days after Thanksgiving and one day after Black Friday. Whether your store is open Thursday and/or Friday or not, an increasingly growing grassroots marketing effort will drive shopper traffic on Saturday. If you’re a small business, plan to participate and prepare in ways that will help you break free from the noise, from displays and promotional signage to email and social media campaigns. If you’re a big business, look for efforts to attract the shoppers who are already out and about – don’t neglect your mobile search and proximity and mobile marketing campaigns and tools.
#9 – Get a head start on your email marketing campaigns. Social media provides the potential upside of “going viral,” but good ol’ fashioned email is a proven top performer for direct-to-consumer marketing messaging. Don’t waste golden opportunities by following these simple guidelines: 1) Write concise subject lines, 2) Use simple layout designs, 3) Attract interest with images and GIFs, and 4) Present a single, clear call-to-action (CTA).
#8 – Ensure your website is mobile-friendly. Mobile is the key engager with shoppers, particularly with those shopper generations who are “digital natives.” However, shoppers aren’t the only ones paying attention. Websites that aren’t mobile-friendly are pushed down in search results by Google, and you simply can’t afford that. Test your site’s mobile responsiveness with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.
#7 – Optimize for local search. Local search accounts for over 75 percent of online activity, and browsers are dependent on search for identifying local stores that can fulfill their needs. Best practices for optimizing local search include: 1) Complete listings with address, phone number, website and store hours, 2) Ensure location is accurate on Google Maps, and 3) Actively solicit multiple positive reviews.
#6 – Don’t make your window display an afterthought. The holiday season attracts shoppers to retail environments, and while some are your “regulars,” most are not, and the holidays afford you an opportunity to get new shoppers into your store. Take advantage of the surge in surrounding foot traffic by designing an eye-catching, holiday-themed window display that “pops” and stops shoppers in their tracks. Incorporate your products if possible, and lure the shoppers who stop into your store any which way you can, including offering hot chocolate and cookies if you have to. Once in your store, it’s up to you and your staff to deliver the magical retail experience you’re so capable of.
#5 – Put the focus on products and shoppers. Lean staffing often requires store and district managers to step behind the counter to ring up sales, the one place in the store where they add the absolute least value. Get managers back on the floor engaging with staff and shoppers. Hire for the register as necessary.
#4 – What’s good for the goose is good for the gander – gift givers 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 free, 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.
#3 – Think ‘mobile’ first, early and often. With each passing holiday season, mobile becomes a bigger and more important touchpoint, and mobile is increasingly becoming the first branded touchpoint in today’s new shopping journeys. Ensure all branded content is mobile-friendly for smaller screens, but stop looking at mobile as a one-way street of “broadcasting.” Mobile isn’t a channel, but a relationship, so employ good relationship skills like listening and observing. Also, consider dropping a comprehensive approach to mobile in favor of delivering one piece of outstanding value through your mobile engagement efforts and gradually growing out your offering from there. For example, you’d never use your favorite airline’s mobile app if it weren’t for easy boarding passes. Find your store’s “boarding pass,” execute flawlessly, and build up and out.
#2 – ‘Tis the season, aka, 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 longer-term relationships.
#1 – Don’t forget to have 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. 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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