While wish lists are as old as the North Pole’s top executive, their popularity continues to endure. Gift givers rely on them to make the task of finding just the right items more exact. And recipients love them because they are more likely to receive the items they’ve been dreaming of. And they’re a win-win-win for retailers as well, reducing the dreaded post-holiday onslaught of returns.
But what are retailers wishing for their stores this holiday season? We talk to a lot of them, so here are five “sugar plums” dancing in their heads.
Wish #1: Bring shoppers into the store.
Since shoppers spend 90 percent more time visiting a bricks-and-mortar store than they do on a vendor’s website, and the average in-store purchase is higher than online, retailers want to lure more foot traffic this holiday season. Plus, an in-store experience offers the best opportunity to leverage face-to-face engagement and stellar service to wow shoppers and garner their loyalty.
Wish Granted: Unique in-store experiences attract shoppers like children drawn to the aroma of cookies in the oven. Creating a variety of experiences for specific shopper segments with respect to lifestyle and demographics can help retailers not only bring shoppers to the store but effectively manage volume. Another strategy is creating limited time, in-store only promotions early in the season with back-end rewards for revisiting the store in time for holiday gift giving. According to last year’s IBM survey of consumers’ top criteria for choosing where to shop, free in-store pickup is a huge advantage for beckoning shoppers to the store. Shipping costs influenced 83 percent of respondents not to complete an online purchase.
Wish #2: Keep checkout queues short and moving.
The last thing retailers want to do is aggravate in-store shoppers whose baskets are brimming with merchandise by making them wait in long queues. Yet retail reports indicate that getting stuck in a checkout line is one of the biggest frustrations. For time-starved consumers, it’s a huge motivator for shopping online.
Wish Granted: The obvious solution is to schedule ample help to staff additional registers during peak days and times and special events and promotions. However, this can be a challenge due to a shortage of workforce resources. Placing mobile POS devices in the hands of every associate can keep checkout lines moving steadily and wait times to a minimum during unforeseen periods of high-volume traffic. Another solution is unmanned kiosks that shoppers can use to bypass lines altogether.
Wish #3: Have the products shoppers want in stock.
It seems like every year a dearth of the most popular gift items turns congenial shoppers into wrestlers, making for somewhat amusing, and at times disturbing, news. Nothing sends shoppers out the door (and online to Amazon) faster than “out of stock.” In fact, at least two-thirds of in-store shoppers who experience stock-outs take their business elsewhere or do not buy at all. Inventory management is about as challenging as guiding a sleigh full of toys on a foggy night.
Wish Granted: With visibility into a real-time inventory management system that tracks movement across the entire supply chain, store associates can offer shoppers convenient alternatives to walking out the door due to stock-outs. Stores become virtual distribution centers as associates orchestrate product delivery or arrange for store pickup at other locations. For 80 percent of surveyed consumers, it was important to be able to view in-store product availability before making a trip to the store. An automated system also helps prevent out of stocks, generating replenishment when certain thresholds are reached.
Wish #4: Make staff more efficient and effective.
Finding holiday help seems to be more and more difficult as the Boomer workforce continues to melt. And adding temporary staff means extra costs that eat into holiday profits. It’s easy to think that those extra bodies are the only way to offer nice service that prevents shoppers from becoming naughty. Making staff more efficient is a more cost-effective solution than taking on additional personnel.
Wish Granted: Mobile devices enable current staff to assist customers in a variety of ways, anywhere in the store—providing concierge-level assistance for shoppers in the dressing room, helping shoppers locate products in the aisles, or rescuing them from long wait times in checkout queues. Bonus: in-store use of mobile devices more easily attracts tech-savvy Millennials to augment the holiday workforce.
Wish #5: Reduce post-holiday returns madness.
The joy of successful holiday sales is tempered by the anticipation of the in-store pandemonium sure to follow. In a perfect word, if retailers have maintained optimum inventory and have motivated shoppers to purchase gifts in the physical store, it stands to reason that better in-person buying decisions will lead to fewer returns. However, many will visit the store with unwanted gifts purchased online. Standers in long, snaking lines simply want their transactions over and done. It’s all about providing great service to keep those customers coming back to the store.
Wish Granted: Mobile devices that enable more associates to process returns quickly will boost good will and help convert store visitors into loyal customers. Plus, trained associates have an opportunity to engage in a discussion about what products they’re looking for and where to find them in the store.