3 Realities about In-Store Shopping this Christmas
Christmas shopping isn’t quite back to traditional levels, but it’s getting there. For retailers, that’s a much-needed blessing — but it is also a challenge.
In years past, shopping centres, malls, and high streets would be bustling with activity in the weeks and months leading up to Christmas. Shoppers would haul armfuls of colourful, gift-wrapped packages to their cars, and storefronts would be lit up with Christmas cheer.
Then there was a global pandemic.
Last year, the storefronts were lit up as usual, but few shoppers came to see them. This year, however, signs point to a gradual but steady return to in-store shopping. That’s great news for retailers who’ve been battered by lockdowns, mandates, and almost two full years of uncertainty. But unless they understand and plan for changing consumer preferences, inventory disruptions, and other obstacles, they might not be able to capitalise on that returning traffic.
Here are three realities to understand about the season ahead — and how to avoid falling victim to the challenges mentioned above.
- Time and the economy are not on your side
Let’s start with some good news: Global retail sales are expected to climb to $25 trillion by the end of 2021. That’s a healthy increase over last year, and a sign that consumers are spending again.
Now let’s talk bad news: Crushing delays in shipping, as cited by the National Retail Federation (NRF), and a national talent shortage are likely already keeping retailers up at night. Let’s add to that a shopping public that readily embraced Click & Collect options during the pandemic. Taken together, these factors raise the following questions:
- Can retailers have enough inventory on hand to satisfy returning shoppers?
- If they do, can they hire enough associates to move those products to the shopfloor and perform other necessary duties?
- If they can accomplish both points above, have they optimised their locations, platforms, and staffs for peak Click & Collect demand?
That’s a lot to get done in short order. But retailers are resourceful — a fact they proved over and over during the height of the pandemic. But to pull this off, they might consider focusing on the next two realities very carefully.
- You’ll have to rethink how you staff your shifts
Do all shoppers want to shop in stores?
Do all shoppers want to do their shopping online?
Do all shoppers want and expect retailers to deliver a seamless, efficient experience across every channel — no matter where they prefer to shop?
Do they ever.
For that to happen successfully, your staff will need to be agile, and you should consider dedicating a certain percentage of every shift to various focus areas, like point of sale, Click & Collect fulfilment, and even ship-from-store fulfilment. Each dedicated resource will require the tools and training they need in order to perform each task efficiently and not keep customers waiting.
In other words, if your current associates do a bit of everything, they’re likely to be doing a bit of everything very inefficiently on the busiest days of the year.
- Omnichannel effectiveness will make or break your peak season
While in-store traffic is expected to increase this year, so is multichannel shopping. A recent Sensormatic Solutions survey found that UK shoppers are enthusiastic about omnichannel retail — and that many plan to leverage it during their Christmas shopping. 72% of UK shoppers say they will shop in-store this Christmas and 30% said they plan to use Click & Collect. Further, 70% said they plan to have products shipped to their homes.
In other words, this means your omnichannel fulfilment game will need to be on top form if you want to keep all those shoppers happy — or just keep all those shoppers.
This means more than just making sure staff are trained on in-store and Click & Collect fulfilment. For maximum ROI, ensure associates are trained on and can speak knowledgeably about best-selling products and online exclusives, and empower them to create tailored experiences for omnichannel customers by suggesting additional products based on their purchases.
Then, consider leveraging fully connected inventory-intelligence solutions to ensure omnichannel platforms accurately reflect the stock available at each location. This will help customers have confidence that their purchases are in stock and will be waiting for them when they arrive for pick-up.
In summary, your associates need to be prepared for greater in-store traffic — even if the purchases shoppers are collecting were bought via other channels.
We may not be back to “normal” in terms of pre-pandemic Christmas shopping, but we’re definitely going to see more than 2020. That’s great news for everyone involved, but retailers will likely face risks they’ve not seen in years past. If they staff and train accordingly, optimise their omnichannel experiences, and account for changes in the economy and supply disruptions, they may be poised to have a far more “normal” Christmas season than we’ve seen yet during the pandemic.
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