During time spent with family and maybe the sight of a snowfall, the holiday season is the perfect point in the year to connect with loyal customers and to reach new ones.
Right now is when you need to finalize your strategy for a successful 2022 holiday season, especially as customers are expected to shop earlier than previous years.
Convenience has continued to be a strong factor in customer expectations. The retail winners in 2022 are those that make the shopping experience effortless. We discuss how retailers can prepare for the 2022 holiday season in this article.
Connect with your customers where they are for the 2022 holiday season.
The modern retailer must be flexible when it comes to selling across a variety of sales channels and be ready to adapt to market changes. A one-channel sales strategy is no longer enough.
Consider the following main selling strategies this holiday season:
Multichannel selling is product-centric, focusing on placing products in front of users where they want to shop rather than relying on customers to find a specific platform to make a purchase.
Omnichannel selling is customer-centric, emphasizing a consistent customer experience across the retailer’s owned channels, regardless of the device the customer wants to use.
The key to selling better? Your product needs to be where your customers are. For retailers, this means selling in multiple sales channels simultaneously.
For example, consider these channels for expanding your reach and increasing sales.
Linnworks research shows that more than 9 in 10 customers regularly start looking for purchases on a marketplace. Are you selling on marketplaces?
Each marketplace serves as an additional contact with customers. Retailers must be on marketplaces to be where people are searching for and buying products. If you already have your marketplace strategy working well, then this holiday season is the perfect opportunity to test out a marketplace and see if that marketplace is worth continuing to invest in the new year.
More people are heading to social platforms to interact with brands and their products. Influencers have become a sensation, and brands are promoting their content and products through partnerships with them.
So social media is another place your business should have a presence. The reason? It’s where customers are shopping and will continue to shop more and more in the future. According to Grand View Research, the social commerce market size will see an annual growth rate of 30% over the next several years to reach $6.2 trillion by 2030. And social commerce sales are predicted to hit $79.64 billion in 2025, according to research from eMarketer.
What’s more, social platforms have ready-made audiences for your business. Instagram and Pinterest, for example, have ready-made audiences for verticals like fashion, beauty and homewares.
Direct to consumer (DTC)
While it’s key to be where your customers are shopping, selling directly to consumers on retailer’s owned sites should be at the core of a modern business’ strategy. Why? Because a branded website gives your business validity and provides brand awareness along with first-party data that you own. On the other hand, on marketplaces and social platforms, you give up some control of your brand presence.
Consumers tend to discover a brand on a marketplace for the first purchase from that brand, then make future purchases on a retailer’s owned ecommerce website.
Sales on your own platforms or in person don’t come with these limitations. You own the customer data and the experience.
But you’ll need to be sure that your DTC channels are connected to provide the convenience customers are looking for. According to research from Linnworks, 76% of online shoppers say convenience is their main priority when it comes to selecting a retailer. For example, customers want to be able to shop across a retailer’s owned channels across whichever device they have in hand. According to Linnworks research, 81% of shoppers are looking for a cross-device, ecommerce experience. You also want to offer buy-online, pick-up in-store service with 43% of customers from the same research saying they favor brands who offer BOPUS options. Curbside pickup is also important for convenience and to better improve the customer experience.
How to set up for success for the holiday season with automation
An automated inventory management system is a necessary tool for ecommerce businesses to effectively manage the entire inventory control process. The automated system lets your organization say goodbye to many manual processes and tasks for a more accurate system that saves your team members tons of time and energy.
Consumers have expectations that commerce be effortless when they go to purchase a product on whichever they choose to shop. To meet customer expectations, retailers must be able to get products to customers within the time frame that is promised at checkout, and have complete oversight of inventory and orders in one place.
For example, if a customer places an order for a shirt from your business on Walmart Marketplace, they’ll expect it to be in stock and ready to ship.
Areas of automation to focus on as you prepare for the peak holiday season include:
Picking, packing and shipping orders is time consuming. The process is also prone to errors when done manually. This is especially true when the pick, pack and ship process takes place across multiple warehouses and fulfillment centers.
Automation software streamlines the shipping management process. For example, you can use an automated system to assign the best way to pack orders and assign the best shipping carrier based on predefined criteria.
Making sure your business is set up with inventory management automation should be a priority during the busy holiday season, especially if you are in a period of growth.
The modern retailer uses automation software to connect orders, sales channels, inventory levels, warehouse locations and analytic reports in one place. This sophisticated automation prevents your ecommerce business from missing out on sales opportunities, saves time and helps you avoid stock outs and overselling. When you have the right stock and at the right time, customer expectations will be met.
Predict supply and demand with inventory forecasting
When you plan inventory correctly, especially during times of peak demand, you’ll have more growth opportunities and a much better time navigating the busy holiday season.
Inventory forecasting, also known as demand planning, is the process of understanding how much inventory you’ll need to meet your customers’ demand based on past sales performance during a specific time period.
This is a good way to plan for inventory. Forecasting can be done manually, but it’s much easier and efficient with an automated system.
When inventory is planned out in the right way, it means products are available to ship to customers. This helps the order and fulfillment process run smoothly, helping to create a positive, world-class customer experience.
Meet and exceed customer expectations
Providing a seamless, connected shopping experience is important, especially as we see 97% of American shoppers saying they have abandoned an online purchase over a lack of convenience, according to research from The National Research Federation.
There are a variety of ways to customer expectations in addition to automating your inventory and order management process, including:
Reduce friction at checkout and delivery. Customers expect to have options at checkout like guest checkout, free, fast or standard delivery and buy online, pick up in store.
Give the customer control over their journey with you. It’s clear that customers want to shop with your brand across different devices and sales channels. They also want to control how much data they share with you. But even though they want to control this data, they want to quickly complete purchases no matter what device they are using to shop.
Consider sustainability. Consumers are becoming more and more aware of how their shopping habits impact the environment. In fact, 64% of businesses who have a sustainability strategy or brand promise that is accessible to the public did so in response to customer demand.
The key to success this holiday season is to offer customers a positive customer experience. The modern retail brands that win this holiday season are the ones that offer a convenient customer journey — where products are easy to find, order, pay for and then easy to get to the customer’s doorstep. We’re in the age of convenience.