This is a 3-part blog series to prepare you for the upcoming holiday season.

Think Santa is the only one to make the holidays a success? Think again.

As the final blog of a three-part series with IBM, this article will share with you realistic ways retailers can optimize their holiday season by leveraging data, managing fulfillment, being proactive in shopper care and offering consumers consistent experiences no matter where they prefer to shop. The best part? The holidays won’t be the only time of the year that retailers can appreciate these tips.

#1: Leverage data to help increase multiple units per transaction 

With big data, retailers can be more predictive, more proactive and more profitable in their efforts. This also means that merchants can bulk up each transaction making relevant recommendations to upsell and cross sell. Leaning on historic data generated from past holidays and current trends, identify what inventory has sold the most, what price points are your sweet spots to sell, and what items have historically been easy add-ons to help add more dollars to each transaction. This will vary depending on your overall average price points, but the goal is to increase sales and increase customer retention by gently marketing relevant products that customers either need (such as batteries), or want, (such as an affordable holiday candle), in addition to their main purchase. Aid them in making add-on choices by being fully informed about stock availability, location, and arrival time. Combined with strategic merchandising both online and in physical stores, this is a great way to boost overall holiday sales.

#2: Incorporate a variety of ways for customers to shop and connect with your brand

Consumers want what they want when they want it—with very few exceptions—and that includes how they shop. With COVID still making many consumers wary of shopping in physical stores, and other consumers simply preferring to shop online, having multiple channels for consumers to shop is vital this holiday season. This also means building trust with your customer by sending consistent and honest communication about inventory, fulfillment, shipping, and holiday messaging. Make it convenient for them to reach you if they want. For example, if one customer prefers to phone in holiday orders while another wants to buy online then pick up at a store, it’s important to have clear contact details, shopping options and customer service support across every step of the journey. This should include, but is not limited to, branded websites, social media, email marketing, online review sites such as Yelp and Google, and of course in-store signage and communication. Everything from store hours to return policies to shipping costs to delivery options should be shared consistently across each touchpoint, helping to ensure a seamless and excellent shopping experience for your customers this holiday season.

#3: Manage fulfillment challenges before they arise

With holiday sales predicted to grow 7% to 9%, better than the 5.8% increase it tracked in 2020, retailers need to proactively prepare in order to reward themselves later this holiday season. But let’s face it, fulfillment has been a challenge ever since COVID started and this holiday season will be no exception. Get ahead of the challenges by communicating with vendors what shortages they anticipate, budgeting for last minute orders due to unexpected delays and even consider introducing new vendors that can guarantee on-time deliveries. Additionally, implementing intelligent inventory promising into a store’s inventory management and fulfillment responsibilities confidently positions merchants to maximize their conversions, gain control over immediate and future inventory actions, and prepare stock based on consumer demands throughout the holiday season and beyond. The key takeaway here is simple: Be proactive to remain profitable.

#4: Deliver customer service that Santa would be proud of

Creating a balance between profitability and the best customer experience is not easy. But it needs to be among your top goals this holiday season as consumers have countless options to where they shop. Consumers want convenience, speed, and product availability. With costs increasing on global supplies and demands increasing among consumers, finding the balance between store operations and customer care can be a challenge. Data analytics enables retailers to make recommendations based on their customers purchase history and key touchpoints for communication, creating a more personalized experience. To make every interaction feel personal, take the time now to identify holiday expectations and how you will make sure the customer feels supported by your team. Next, proactively aim to prepare frontline associates working directly with consumers on how they can meet these standards. Schedule trainings, plan for employee reviews, incorporate incentives on customer service experiences that are recognized by consumers and be proactive in encouraging your company to outshine their competition with customer care this holiday season. As a result, your sales and customer retention will increase.

Finally, as the holidays near, there are two ways to approach them. You can take control of them, or they can take control of you. What do you want for your retail business? Give Santa a break this holiday season and gift yourself the gift that keeps on giving. IBM Sterling Intelligent Promising can empower to you create next-generation omnichannel experiences and preserve brand trust by providing shoppers with greater certainty, choice and transparency across their buying journey.

Part 1: 3 ways retailers can gift themselves with enhanced inventory management this holiday season

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