This is part one in a two-part series. You can read part two here.
Although it’s barely fall and pumpkin spice is just starting to invade everything, it’s not too early to be thinking about this year’s holiday shopping season.
In fact, according to the United States Census Bureau, holiday sales continue to grow at an incredible pace, especially for retailers with an online presence. eCommerce retailers saw a 14.8 percent increase in year over year sales in Q4 2015, but even their brick and mortar competitors gained 1.7 percent in that same period. Sales are expected to continue to rise, but unless you’re getting ready long before the season starts, you may not get your share of those profits.
Here are four ways you can get a jump start on the holiday season right now:
- Start hiring and training your seasonal staff. It might feel like a big investment to hire and train your seasonal sales staff more than a week or two before Black Friday, but remember that today’s shoppers are more educated than ever before. They’ll know if your salespeople don’t know their products, and worse, they may be seriously turned off. Start preparing training materials and even making early hires now so these employees are fully educated and ready when the holiday season starts.
- Look for opportunities for pop-up stores. Retailers that are online-only have seen huge success with pop-up shops that allow them to demo their products in the real world, but even retailers can run a small pop-up shop in a high traffic area. Think about adding a mall kiosk or a pop-up shop to your seasonal plan this year to increase your reach, whether or not you’re strictly eCommerce.
- Build marketing partnerships with complementary businesses. Maybe it seems a little nerve-wracking to create relationships with other businesses. After all, your customers were hard-earned and you’ve got a lot invested. Still, choosing to work with a company that complements your own can be a huge boon to you both, as well as your customers. For example, a company that sells custom totes could partner with a small bookstore to create themed bundles available only through the holiday season. Your customers will love the promo and you’ll both benefit from the additional exposure.
- Review your inventory. You should be doing a regular inventory review, but if you haven’t been, now is really the time. Get rid of products no one buys, move in products related to products your customers enjoy and consider how you order inventory. Keeping inventory in stock is going to be vital this holiday season, studying past seasons’ sales records can help you decide what items need to be kept in extra supply. If your store has an app or website, make sure your customers can see how many of an item is left in inventory and easily locate it; 41 percent of online shoppers told UPS that they’ve abandoned carts when they learned a product was out of stock during the checkout process. Another 43 percent say viewing store inventory in a retailer’s app is important to them.
Holiday season order fulfillment can be a serious challenge for retailers, but if you start today your holidays will be much brighter. We’ve got even more tips for gearing up for the holiday season ahead in part two of this two part series.