Retail isn’t dead, or as studies show, even on life-support. For every Sears — which just announced more store closings as part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing — and now-shuttered Toys R Us, there are chain success stories like Nordstrom and Costco that are winning in the retail trenches day in and day out.
IHL Group’s recent studies show that 2018 will see a net growth of over 2,000 stores. IHL’s data shows that for every retailer closing stores, two are opening stores. If it seems like there’s a Walgreens on every corner, it’s not your imagination.
Still, there’s one stretch of the year that can make or break every retailer, and as sure as you can hear the distant jingle of Santa’s sleigh bells, you can bank on some retailer’s technology not being prepared to deliver when it’s time to deliver.
Every year there are horror stories about holiday cheer turning into Christmas calamity:
- In 2017 department store giant, Macy’s, felt the wrath of consumers as its credit card processing systems crashed on Black Friday.
- In 2016, the websites for Gap and its brands crashed and Williams-Sonoma experienced low page load times. Combined these glitches likely resulted in billions in lost sales.
- In 2015, Target broke holiday hearts when its website crashed on, you guessed, it Cyber Monday.
It’s not too late to prevent such holiday havoc. Here are some steps you can take now to make sure your retail technology is ready for the 2018 holiday season and that you’re providing an optimal shopping experience both online and in-store, one that will keep customers happy and keep you from losing any sales.
Tune Up Your Retail Tech
Enlist a retail field services company like Kinettix to make sure you and your customers have a holly, jolly holiday:
- Temporary/mobile kiosks: Retail giant Kroger uses these during peak payment times, and it’s a real customer convenience. A worker can thin out the lines by going to where the customers are, providing satisfaction and foot traffic relief. Apparel company Old Navy is another retailer that uses mobile kiosks.
- Preventive maintenance tasks: Most crashes can be prevented. By using a variety of tools and diagnostics, Kinettix can implement preventive solutions, like making sure your bandwidth is adequate, POS systems are set, and security cameras are deployed and transmitting. We’ve seen studies showing billions of dollars in direct losses due to theft that occurs in the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Making sure your in-store security apparatus is performing at peak will help your bottom line.
- Last-minute infrastructure upgrades: Make sure connectivity is seamless, server strength is adequate, and inventory and supply chain needs are in place.
- Other tasks: Kinettix can also close out open break-fix items and remedy sites with down wireless access points before the holiday rush.
Still, don’t just take our advice on holiday preparations. IDC Retail Insights recently published a list of last-minute preparations retailers should make before the holidays.
Of course, at this juncture, it’s too late to implement wide-ranging infrastructure upgrades, but it’s not too late to enhance what you have and make sure it is in tip-top shape. Some of IDC’s suggestions:
- Perform a landed cost audit of key product lines, and understand how commodity prices (oil, cotton, metals, food) might impact the season.
- Run your inventory placement models with the latest assumptions.
- Make sure your digital asset delivery systems are working.
Prepare for Holiday Website Traffic
Most retail businesses now are two businesses: brick-and-mortar and online. You want a customer to either go to your store’s website and find out whether you have the new cloud-connected pencil sharpener at your store on 4th Street in Peoria or simply order it online. Both your store and your website must offer a seamless, personalized experience to the customer.
If you haven’t already, take time now to make sure that your website is providing an optimal customer experience. We like Salesforce’s suggestions, including:
- Making sure your web pages are loading quickly. If a site takes more than three seconds to load, 40 percent of consumers will abandon the site altogether.
- Optimizing web page caching (storing online experiences for future visits). Salesforce recommends caching 90 percent of your editorial content, including your home page and product listings, to provide customers with the content they expect.
- Reviewing third-party integrations and embracing artificial intelligence to personalize content. For instance, shoppers who click recommendations spend five times more per visit than other customers. Salesforce says: “They appreciate when you show you understand their preferences based on their behavior with your brand and then make it easy to find what they want with clear links.”
So, if your business could use some preventive medicine and a general pre-holiday infrastructure tuneup, reach out to us for a quote. We can help you get your retail technology wrapped up so you can give your customers the gift of a happy holiday shopping experience.