How on earth is 2019 flying by so fast? When I saw this meme, it hit a little too close to home. The reality is, it really IS time to start planning for the holiday season and getting prepared for 2020…especially if you’re a retailer.
Why? Because the stakes are high if you don’t:
- Black Friday and Christmas are the most profitable time of the year for most retailers. According to NRF, for some retailers, the holiday season (November and December) can represent as much as 30%-40% of their annual sales. And shopper money spent over the holidays continues to increase year over year.
- While the in-store experience is still the most profitable one, the opportunity to have the same promotions and sell more online is becoming increasingly important. On Black Friday, 70% of customers plan to shop in stores and 50% online, according to Deloitte. Their study also states that 73% of customers plan to shop online for Cyber Monday.
As with every game where the stakes are high, there are always winners and losers of the holiday season. The retailers who lose typically do so because of a fail in their retail technology. While the loss of revenue in these circumstances is usually easy to calculate, the damage to their reputation isn’t.
There are a number of things that can cause these technology failures or a miss in customer expectations:
- High-volume traffic overloading payment processing services turning retailers into cash-only businesses.
- Point-of-sale software or website services crashing because of capacity issues.
- In-store internet lagging or failing altogether.
- Slow speed in which retailers can serve in-store customers causing some to walk out empty-handed.
- Advertising an item or promotion beforehand that’s low in stock.
There are also a number of ways you can overcome or prevent these issues:
- Use an integrated payment processor that’s credible, secure, and provides guarantees. By working with a major provider or bank you’re far less likely to have to worry about traffic issues or payment failures.
- Ensure your software also has guaranteed up-times and service level agreements. While no software system is invincible, this will help mitigate the risk. You don’t have to be an enterprise retailer to use enterprise-grade technology.
- Check that your internet exceeds the minimum requirements recommended by your software provider. On a day like Black Friday, it’s also good to have as many terminals on hard-wired ethernet as possible so you can rely on your WiFi less. You should also always have separate networks for your retail technology and your guest WiFi.
- Serve customers faster with line-busting technology such as tap to pay devices that allow contactless, NFC payments, or equipping sales associates with a mobile point-of-sale for quick checkouts where customers are paying with credit cards.
- A marketing team should always align with the inventory management team before determining which promotions make the most sense and check that you have appropriate stock levels. But even if stock does run out, you should be operating your retail business from one inventory system that provides transparency across all of your channels. This allows for:
- Proper, real-time stock levels online and in-store.
- Inventory visibility from one store to another or from a call center.
- Sales associates to easily offer to order items for in-store customers when stock does run out through solutions such as Dropship.
As a bonus, use a system that:
- Provides your sales associates with suggestive selling tips. When stores get crazy, it’s hard for sales associates to remember to upsell so, make it simple for them.
- Auto-tracks commissions and is customizable based on your business needs and that allows for holiday sales contests or bonuses.
- Allows you to pre-schedule coupons or promotions with automatic discounts based on certain criteria. This prevents both you from having to stay up the night before making adjustments and your team from having to remember sale codes.
- Provides you with powerful reporting so you know how well your business and your team are performing, enables you to make real-time decisions, and sets you up to be even better prepared for next year!
In summary, you can overcome all of these challenges with a strong POS and IT infrastructure. While changing your POS may seem overwhelming, the great news is that there is still time to prepare, ensuring you’re winning this holiday season and for many holiday seasons for years to come.
“We attribute a large part of our most successful day in the history of our company to RQ and how fast our staff could process sales” – JT Thome, COO of Cellular Sales when talking about Black Friday
Rather than having to stress about where to begin, we’ve prepared the steps for you. Check out our path to changing your technology just in time for your holidays to ensure you maximize your profits this year.