Every holiday season is both a fruitful and stressful time for the retail industry. If all cards are played right, holiday shopping can make a significant difference to their bottom line. According to a recent Sharethrough study, approximately 89% of consumers start their shopping for the season as early as October. Also, 59% of Canadians plan to spend the same or more on holiday shopping this year as opposed to last. To stay competitive and grow their business, retailers will need to distinguish themselves, offering more than just the right products.
Owing to the pandemic-aggravated supply chain issues, consumers are worried that the products they desire will be out of stock. A majority of consumers (51%) expect product shortages to continue for at least the next 6 to 12 months, as per a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey. That, coupled with inflation, puts added pressure on retailers to be mindful of customer satisfaction and provide them with a memorable shopping experience.
As retailers prepare for yet another uncertain time, changing consumer purchase patterns and inconsistent supply will mean they can never be fully prepared. There is a need for retailers, now more than ever, to focus on improving their in-store and online shopping experiences and leveraging technology to create a seamless customer journey. Here is what to expect and prepare for –
- Accurate Inventory:
This has been a topic of conversation for over a year now. Even as bottlenecks ease, it can be a grave mistake for retailers to lighten up on this one. They need to be innovative when strategizing for the holiday season. Working with a single supplier in this scenario can cost them a significant amount of business. Diversifying the supply pool with multiple vendors will put retailers in a better position to keep up with demand throughout the season.
When your shelves are bare and your inventory is scattered across numerous stores and warehouses, it’s imperative to have accurate and quick visibility on inventory so as to sell it online. To have any success at fulfilling and shipping orders from stores, accurate inventory levels are imperative for routing logic to work. It’s also more than likely that no one store can fulfill an entire order. An order management system that can handle order-splitting is incredibly useful in this case.
To summarize, an advanced omnichannel order management system allows retailers to fulfill more orders despite scattered inventories and bare shelves. Real-time access to consolidated inventory quantities can help retailers make real-time decisions and forecasts throughout the season.
- Blending the online and physical retail worlds:
Constantly evolving consumer patterns, influenced by changing macroeconomic conditions, means that retailers need to be prepared to support their customers’ dynamic needs. The commerce experiences that consumers want are no longer linear. In this post-pandemic time, we are in an omnichannel era now more than ever before. The lines between traditional brick-and-mortar stores and online have blurred and the right way to shop is whatever (and wherever) the customer prefers. Retailers need to make the experience easy and serve the customer regardless of the channel the customer chooses to engage with.
Retailers must expect an influx of traffic – both in-store and online. Shopping in stores allows customers to browse, try things on (when applicable), and touch and feel physical items. Shopping online allows for extensive browsing capabilities, but the physical aspect is missing. It would be great for customers to receive the richness of online data while in stores. They must also make it easy for shoppers to alternate between in-store and online.
Let’s imagine a shopper that visited six different stores in search of the perfect sweater. If, ultimately, the shopper decides the sweater from the first store is the one for them, will they go back to the first store to buy in-store, or pull out their phone to buy the article online? It’s probable that the shopper will buy the sweater online; and it must be easy to find there.
Additionally, consumers enjoy being seen by their favorite brands. According to McKinsey 71% customers expect personalization, this is where retailers can make a significant difference in customer experience and earn the loyalty of their shoppers. Banking on a centralized data management system that can support consumer profiles, will be the key to retailer’s success this holiday season.
- Omnichannel optimization:
We’ve established that customers are back in stores and they expect to have the convenience of all channels wherever they go. We’e also established that scattered inventories mean that retailers need to have accurate product and inventory quantities in real-time to be effective at fulfilling from stores. A good omnichannel order management system will allow you to maintain all product and inventory information in sync across all channels, and leverage it to automate and accelerate your operations.
Now that customers are back in stores , they are expecting to receive complementary shopping experiences on both channels. Even if there are more shoppers in store, it does not mean that your website will see significantly less traffic. It’s important to choose an order management system with auto-scaling capabilities that can respond to sudden customer demand. Research shows that over 50 percent of customers engage with three to five channels during each journey they take toward making a purchase, making it easy to have inconsistent information across channels or lack of insight into stock, all of which can put off a consumer. Retailers must adapt and maintain a uniform experience across all channels.
Though an omnichannel order management system will help retailers survive the holiday season, it’s a must-have year-round for any retailer wanting to bridge the gap between online and physical retail worlds. Real-time access to consolidated inventory quantities, cohesive experiences across channels, and a high-performance omnichannel platform are three must-have aspects that you’ll want to look for in an omnichannel order management system.