A Retailer's Checklist for a Successful Holiday Season

To help retailers prepare for the 2017 holiday season, we have outlined key ingredients for a successful holiday season. The holidays are starting earlier this year. According to NRF, more than half of holiday shoppers started to research and plan their gifts in October or earlier.

As a retailer, this is undoubtedly your busiest time of the year, so keeping your game on point can have some real rewards. Failing to prepare appropriately, however, can have long term consequences, whether it’s disappointed customers or missed revenue. Here is the essential retail checklist to ensure you’re ready for a successful holiday season (and beyond).

Put Your Best Foot Forward, but Plan for Backup
This should be a no brainer, but in order to have a successful holiday shopping season, you have to a shop full of fantastic inventory. While you’ve likely already planned and ordered what you hope and expect to sell through the season, it’s important to have a backup plan.

Say this year’s hot item sells out within the first week of the holiday shopping season. That’s great news, but what’s your game plan for the rest of the season? Do customers still have the same incentive to shop at your establishment once that’s gone? Ensuring that you have alternatives ready to draw continuous traffic and help your business make a lasting impression through the season is necessary for success.

| See Also: Revel POS 101: Your Essential Inventory Toolkit |

Hire Your Seasonal Staff ASAP
More than likely, you’ll need to hire up for the holiday season. Depending on your the size of your regular staff and your industry, this could be anywhere from 50-100% more staff than usual. If you haven’t already started hiring for the holidays—do it now. Yesterday would be ideal, but you can’t go back and change the past, so just get on it.

With one of the earliest Thanksgiving dates possible this year, Black Friday will be here before you know it. In order to ensure that your [seasonal] staff is fully trained and ready to deliver excellent customer service, you should have your team in place one month before Thanksgiving.

Remember that your sales probably won’t pick up until after the fall feast, so you’ll have extra resources for training, but not necessarily the revenue stream to support it fully. Allow enough time to get all of your new hires sufficient experience on the sales floor where they actually get to be productive and know their way around. Waiting for the rushes to finish your new hire training is a guaranteed way to frustrate your team and gamble with subpar customer service, despite positive intent.

So if you haven’t finished this yet, put it at the top of your list. Like, now.

| See Also: Hiring a Stellar Staff for Your Business |

Merchandise Effectively
Whether you’re targeting shoppers buying for others or for themselves, good merchandising is the key to building baskets. Add-ons and incremental sales are the true secret to having a winning holiday season. If you ever need examples of great merchandising, look no further than your local grocery store. Whether it’s all the ingredients for pumpkin pie in one place or basters and twine within eyeshot of the turkeys, grocery stores stay one step ahead of shoppers in identifying what else the shopper will need to execute a fantastic holiday meal.

As a retailer, you should be thinking along the same lines. Too often, merchandising displays are built highlighting an outfit made of all the most expensive components with the hopes to draw attention to all of items. Instead, shoppers might be put off by sticker shock. For successful merchandising, choose a focus item and play it up with lower priced add-ons.

By leveraging your reporting tools to identify the average transaction spend, you can build displays that target this average and push it higher. Like the grocery store example, remember to pair it with items that your customers are most likely to buy in tandem. You’d probably have a hard time convincing a customer to purchase a watch to go along with those pants in their cart.

| See Also: Stay Smart with Intelligent Reporting |

Differentiate Your Customer Service
What’s the most common pain point for shoppers during the holiday season every year? Lines. All the time. Everywhere. From long lines of cars waiting to get into the parking lot to long lines at the counter, it’s no wonder that consumers have holiday burn out long before the actual holidays arrive. As a retailer, you can help break up the frustration that shoppers feel by providing them a service that is remarkably different than what they’ve come to expect.

One of the key observations made by Psychology Today is that when people are occupied, waiting feels less like waiting. For retailers, there’s two easy ways to help solve this problem. The first is to provide alternatives to the standard line. By leveraging mobile registers, you can provide your guests with a unique shopping experience to meet them on the sales floor. This gives the customer the opportunity to browse while they’re waiting and check out when they’re ready. When mobile registers are used in addition to stationary ones, you can reduce wait times by half.

The second way to help keep customers occupied while waiting is by providing digital displays. This is an awesome way to cycle through lookbook images and call out any sales. When utilized wisely, digital displays are a great way to build sales as they draw attention in ways that traditional displays can fall flat.

Entice Your Existing Customers
By now, you should know the importance of Customer Relationship Management (CRM). If you’ve already developed your customer database, it’s the perfect time to start planning your outreach to get them in the door at the beginning of the season.

Holiday promotion can be a little tricky as timing is everything. Do it too early, and you’ll be forgotten; do it too late, and you risk customers having already allocated their planned spending. Try to hit your customers’ inboxes the Sunday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving. They’ll likely be getting final preparation together for the Thanksgiving meal, but holiday planning isn’t far from their minds.

Don’t rely on a single email to get them in the door. With the barrage of marketing promotion—from both a Thanksgiving standpoint as well as holiday shopping—a single attempt isn’t going to cut through the noise. Ideally, developing a teaser email or two, as well as an actual promotional email, can help you stay top of mind when your existing customers are developing a shopping plan.

| See Also: Building Business with CRM |

Grow Relationships with New Customers
Your existing customers are your lifeblood. They’re the ones who you’ve already delighted enough to shop with you and hopefully keep coming back. Wouldn’t it be great if there were more of them?

The holiday season is likely to bring plenty of traffic that you haven’t already developed an LTR (long term relationship) with. This is the perfect opportunity to leverage your CRM (especially if you haven’t started yet) and establish relationships, keeping traffic returning to your store long after the holiday shopping season is over.

Increase Revenue by 20% with Gift Card Sales
Succeeding during the holiday season is no small feat, but it’s not enough to succeed only during this month-long window. Any successful retailer will tell you that driving business back to your establishment post holidays is the best way to ensure continual growth. While CRM is a fantastic way to grow relationships with the customers that made it into your store, gift cards can help bring in new business into the new year.

If you’re not already using gift cards for your business, consider these facts. According to GiftCards.com, over $100 billion is spent annually on gift cards. 72% of consumers will spend more than the amount on the card, and they’ll do so by an average of 20%.

So let’s say you sell one hundred $50 gift cards. Seventy two of those gift card shoppers will likely spend closer to $60, meaning $5000 in revenue initially can actually be more than $5700. That’s a substantial boost for revenue in the new year.

| See Also: Build Your Own Gift Card Program |

Post Holiday Promos
If the message hasn’t sunk in already, building lasting relationships is vital to your success as a business. Bounce back promotions are another great way to get customers coming back again and again. Setting target spends—either in a single transaction or over the course of the season—that are rewarded with a dollars off coupon in January is one of the easiest loyalty programs to deploy.

Once again, this is a great opportunity to drive up the average transaction amount. Ideally, setting a target 20-30% higher than your current average transaction size will not push your customers too far out of their comfort zone, especially for a reward.

| See Also: How Loyalty Programs Engage Your Most Valuable Customers |

When you’re ready for the final post holiday push to clear out any excess stock to make room for the upcoming spring season, leverage your CRM to create email campaigns that alert customers of deep end-of-season discounts.

By taking the time to ensure that you’re utilizing all of the essential tools available to retailers to have a successful holiday season, you’ll be better prepared to create a lasting, positive impression.