4 preparation steps for the 2022 holiday retail season

There are countless unpredictable variables at play in what this year’s holiday shopping season will have in store for retailers. Retailers that focus on both program profitability and great customer experiences will be best equipped to navigate the corner balls of a challenging economy.

Solid preparation for the holiday season is the key to success. Below is a list of actionable steps retailers can take now to prepare for dynamic market conditions and improve their customers’ shopping experience this year.

Customer communication :
• Are there ways to personalize digital experiences to help customers shop the way they want?
• How do you plan to manage customer expectations through your pre- and post-sales interactions?
• Does your social media plan include segmented customer lists and dynamic, personalized content to increase engagement?

All customers have different shopping habits according to their needs and convenience. Offering a variety of digital purchasing options, including home shipping, same-day home delivery and in-store pickup, in addition to payment options like “buy now, pay later” will encourage buybacks and improve customer loyalty. Enhanced customer experiences in terms of product fit and size can also have a positive impact on sales and customer loyalty.

The holidays are often a stressful time for people. Transparency and excessive communication regarding return policies and online orders can only help you. Customers want to know what’s happening with their order and when it will arrive. Communicating possible order issues as quickly as possible via email, SMS or Facebook Messenger will maintain future customer loyalty and prevent the number of customer service inquiries from skyrocketing. Additionally, you can add exclusive products or promotions to these transactional communications to increase repeat orders during the holiday season.

Different customer segments may use different social media platforms. Schedule your social media content and all exclusive promotions to specific, segmented customer lists. This will help increase engagement and provide a more personalized shopping experience.

Your website :
• Is your website prepared to handle the surge in traffic and orders you plan to have this holiday season?
• Is your website optimized for great customer experiences on mobile?

A positive customer experience on your website is a key component to the success of your brand. Set traffic and order goals for the holiday season and work with your development team to stress test your site during the upcoming promotional periods leading up to the fourth quarter shopping season. Through the testing process, you should be able to answer questions such as the following:

How many visitors can the site have before the page load speed slows down?
• How does your website perform on tablets and mobile devices?
• Where do shoppers typically fall out of the shopping cart funnel?

With answers to these questions, you can monitor your website metrics during the holiday season to know when a problem might arise. Prepare plans for potential problems to ensure you never risk an opportunity to close a sale or keep a loyal customer with a positive shopping experience.

The details :
• Have you quantified and forecast product demand for new and existing customers to provide information on each product’s inventory levels?
• As shipping costs increase, are your free shipping thresholds and paid shipping tiers priced in a way that helps maintain order profitability?

The earliest possible identification of possible inventory and availability risks gives time to create alternative plans. This planning ensures you have enough depth and variety of products for each of your customer segments to maximize sales during the holiday sales season.

Calculate whether changes to the free shipping thresholds and paid shipping tiers are needed to meet customer expectations while maintaining order profitability. If changes are required, test those changes during a summer or early fall promotion to see how customers respond. Analyze the results and if sales are negatively impacted, be sure to check the profitability of the trial before going back to your previous shipping offerings, as profitability can paint a different picture. The goal is to ensure maximum orders, maximum profitability and maximum customer satisfaction this holiday season.

Marketing and advertising plan :

• Which promotions and advertising campaigns have generated the highest profitability and customer value over the past holiday season and other key promotional periods?
• Have you identified and prioritized different marketing campaigns for different target buyer profiles?
• Have you identified the top performing customer segments by ad type and/or marketing channel?

Take the time to conduct a thorough analysis of past promotions and seasonal offers to find out what drives success and what doesn’t. Use data from past successful promotions as a basis to drive new strategies for what we know will be challenging given the current economic climate. Identify exactly which promotions you should and shouldn’t repeat. Likewise, review top-performing promotions by customer segment to prioritize which customer segments to focus on for different types of promotions and indifferent marketing channels.

Plan new promotion ideas and test them in summer and early fall – for example, does an exclusive offer result in higher customer lifetime value compared to a short-lived flash discount? If you’re an omnichannel retailer, you should test your promotions both in-store and online, as you may get different results for different customer experiences and transaction types. For example, are your top-performing customers the ones who shop online or in-store first? You can also consider offering different product offerings for different customer segments. Preparing ahead of time will ensure you have enough inventory for products you plan to promote and market during the holiday season.

Taking the time this summer to prepare for the 2022 holiday season will set you apart from your competition and ensure you are in the best possible position to have a superior customer experience, record sales and the most successful holiday shopping season yet.

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