Peak holiday shopping season presents an opportunity for retailers that is simply too important to fail to execute upon. With the surge of winter holiday shoppers promising healthy bottom lines and robust sales figures, smart companies should consider their peak season preparations a yearlong priority.
That’s according to Jacqueline Renfrow at FierceRetail, who spoke with Stefan Weitz, an industry expert in omnichannel commerce operations. Renfrow and Weitz shared several of the most common misconceptions, misunderstandings, and missteps in preparation that prevent businesses from realizing the full value of their peak shopping season.
Here is some of their most valuable advice for retailers tackling the myriad logistical complexities that surround the holiday shopping season.
The Most Common Mistake: Don’t Underestimate the Complexity
According to Weitz, the biggest and most common error retailers can make in preparing for the peak holiday shopping season is underestimating the logistical complexity of coordinating and sourcing all of their physical and in-store marketing materials.
“Many think it’s just their normal business with a little more volume,” Weitz says. But that’s not the case; the issue is that not only does the volume of business increase, but so, too, do the stakes. “The reality is that with peak season, every potential mistake is amplified tenfold,” he explains.
And it’s true: nearly every retailer counts on the peak holiday season to make its target sales numbers, but any logistical miscalculation creates a chain reaction of lost revenue and customer dissatisfaction. Any backup in the sourcing, creation and delivery of promotional products, point-of-sale materials, and in-store displays compounds down the line as your supply chain struggles to catch up. You don’t just miss your first target date, you miss the next one as you’re now behind, and the next one as each vendor is swamped by all of their customers, too. Further, the situation can grow even worse as new partners, products, and technologies you had planned to roll out are added, increasing complexity, delays, and total waste.
The sum total consequence of these consecutive holiday shortcomings is massive. Retailers will suffer reduced revenue, higher costs for rush/emergency fulfillment, greater risk of uncaught errors or mistakes, and perhaps worst of all, a severely damaging effect to their brand’s perception among customers. No company wants to be the “brand that can’t get it together,” and no customer wants to shop there, either.
Transforming the Role of Brick-and-Mortar Retail
As Weitz explains, online channels will continue to gain in market share as more and more customers opt to do their holiday shopping from the comfort of their own homes. But that doesn’t mean that brick-and-mortar retail should take a back seat. It simply means that its role must change.
“Retailers should re-imagine the space, considering the infrastructure as an advantage, transforming them into…showrooms,” Weitz advises. Retailers like Apple have successfully turned their stores into brand showrooms, creating an immersive brand experience that invites and seduces customers with well-executed displays and promotional materials. Customers may still opt to make their final purchase online, but that revenue will have been generated by the experience they had in the retail space.
There is a hangup, though. As Weitz points out, “Many stores are still navigating the technology and training necessary for execution…Many retailers have successfully worked with strategic partners to make this vision a reality.”
Which is precisely why leveraging vendor help in optimizing your marketing supply chain is so critical for peak season success.
When to Start Preparing for Peak Holiday Shopping Season
Peak season is so important, preparing for it should be a yearlong strategic initiative. As soon as one peak season closes, your organization should get right to work reviewing what was successful, what wasn’t, and why.
Then, you should begin getting your logistical house in order for the next season, examining your marketing supply chain and exploring whether your organization could benefit from partnering with a vendor who can streamline and optimize it
As Weitz explains, the value in preparing for peak season well ahead of time is tremendous.
Peak holiday shopping season is a stressful but joyous time for retailers, when revenue should flow like eggnog. But in order to ensure that it does, your marketing supply chain must be healthy and optimized, and successful execution of the holiday season should be made a priority all year round.
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