Capture Strong Sales During an Unpredictable Holiday Season

 
By Amy DeGeer Roten

This holiday season, there is one thing retailers can rely on: uncertainty will continue to disrupt sales.

To help retailers adjust (again), I spoke with Meegan Holland, Vice President of Communications and Marketing at the Michigan Retailers Association, about how retail can capture holiday sales during an unpredictable holiday season.

End-to-End Changes for Retail.

From procuring stock to upscaling e-commerce websites and implementing new, customized delivery options, retailers are working hard to adjust during these challenging times. As we enter month nine of the pandemic, here are some takeaways and potential solutions to help you ring in the holiday sales.  

The customer always comes first. Regardless of the point-of-contact or the point-of-purchase, your customers are the reason you get up every day. Make sure to stay in touch with them using personalized, targeted messaging on channels they visit. Remember to end your outreach with a call to action – ask your customer to do something: shop, visit, share a post, make a referral, buy a gift card, etc.

Overall, consumer buying habits have changed. This year, online sales are expected to triple. Consumers are making fewer trips to the stores. When they do go, they buy more. These new buying patterns require a re-evaluation of inventory turnover ratios and procurement strategies. Retailers have recognized the potential of running out of stock. “Last quarter, there were record numbers in imports. Retailers are stocking up because it’s unpredictable,” Meegan said.

Additionally, consumers now expect same-day or next-day delivery, regardless of point of purchase and delivery location. For e-commerce fulfillment and retail distribution, the potential solution is on-demand or flexible warehousing.

Change up the supply chain. Two ways to describe supply chain channels this year? “Bottleneck” and “shortage.” Supply chain shortages continue on products such as hand soap or toilet bowl cleaner. “The strange supply chain glitches seem to have no rhyme or reason,” stated Holland. Inevitably, supply chain shortages will continue through the pandemic. It’s a ripple effect channeling down from manufacturing.

What’s the solution for retail? Balance your supply chain by broadening the vendors you use and investing in flexible delivery networks.

Registering on Pure Michigan Business Connect can connect small businesses to new vendors or distributors. Once registered on the platform, a PMBC representative can help you secure one-on-one meetings between purchasers and suppliers and provide a list of companies to meet your procurement needs.

Whether you have 100 vendors or three, vendor relationships are more than just placing an order. Relationships can be key to better payment terms, new product discounts, lower restocking fees, and expedited shipping.

All stocked up? Now deliver. 

With COVID-19 once again shuttering stores as well as people in their homes, retail has become more delivery oriented. Home delivery, same-day delivery, in-store pickup, curbside pickup are all options that most have implemented.

For the holiday season, an omnichannel delivery strategy is vital to meeting customer needs. However, take careful consideration of your brick and mortar or warehouse location as delivery models may not be equally effective.

Pacify cranky customers, or at least stay out of their way.  

Let’s face it. People are stressed. Retail employees can be the unintended target. “Retailers have had to train employees on how to handle cranky customers. Employees are afraid that any customer interaction could end in conflict. They’re afraid to intervene between customers who are arguing,” said Meegan. The best course of action is to remain calm and try to de-escalate. Try to identify and avoid triggers. Many employers are allowing staff to minimize contact with the hopes of lowering confrontations.

Last but not least, encourage people to buy local. More and more, people understand the power of their shopping dollars. Last year, Michigan residents sent $18.5 billion to out-of-state online sellers. Imagine the impact on local businesses if we kept those sales here.

This holiday season is an opportunity to build strong relationships, change up your marketing and sales strategies, and hold on to return customers while capturing new ones. The tips above can help you reach your sales goals through the holidays and well into next year.

For more information on any of the strategies above, visit the Michigan Retailers Association, email mba@mbami.org and visit http://www.mbami.org to keep up on the latest tools to help your business grow.

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