How retailers can prepare for the 2018 holiday season

Here are six ways online retailers can prepare for black friday cyber monday and christmas

The National Retail Federation (NRF) reported that holiday sales during November and December increased 5.5% over the same period in 2016. With the economy in good shape, all signs point to year-over-year growth this 2018 holiday season.

With a string of shopping opportunities around like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas and the New Year, consumerism makes the holidays even more important for retailers. Businesses count on Q4 to boost their profits and finish the year strong.

Before you deck the halls with boughs of holly, check out six ways retailers can prepare for the 2018 holiday season.

Catch the early shopper

Thanksgiving shopping holidays are beginning to account for a larger share of total holiday spend. According to ComScore, Thanksgiving through Cyber Tuesday saw 21% year-over-year growth and accounted for nearly 18% of holiday sales. The numbers imply consumers are shifting their spend to earlier in the season. Sales could reflect a serious loss if retailers miss capturing the shoppers during the November and early December window.

The more dollars that are spent between Black Friday and Cyber Tuesday, mean the fewer dollars that are spent closer to Christmas. Have a clear plan on how to capitalize on the early shopping trend.

Be mobile ready

Consumers are gradually gravitating toward shopping online using their mobile device instead of a desktop or tablet. Mobile growth was 40% year-over-year while desktop growth was only 15%. Your entire website should be optimized for the mobile shopper.

If they aren’t shopping directly from their phone, shoppers are definitely using their phones to check store hours or to search Google for a store near them (e.g. “Best Buy near me”). These are shoppers who are searching for specific retailers and locations that are open. Keep your store hours updated and have a strategy for ensuring consumers find your store when they are looking for specific retailers and hours of operation.

Get festive

There’s a certain level of joy that emerges around the holiday season. Tap into the happiness of the holidays by decorating your brick-and-mortar store with festive decorations and Christmas music. For most shoppers, the holidays are nostalgic and bring back fond memories.

If you run an online business, you can still engage in the holidays too. Some e-commerce businesses focus on a holiday color palette, add a splash of sparkle and show family and friends full of holiday cheer.

Use Amazon to your advantage

Amazon experienced explosive growth during the holidays last year. In the earnings report, Amazon shared that net sales increased 38% to $60.5 billion in Q4 2017 while sales for Q4 in 2016 were $43.7 billion.

Earlier this year Jeff Bezos announced there are more than 100 million Prime members. Brands that sell on Amazon should maximize that relationship in order to benefit from the continued growth.

Focus on the customer experience

Customers need a seamless return and exchange process during the holiday season. If the website is glitchy, shipping is expensive or the return process isn’t clear, customers are likely to abandon their cart and go elsewhere.

If you are an online retailer, personalize the experience as much as possible and focus on email marketing that the customer will find relatable. If you are a brick-and-mortar store, you have the advantage by offering a smile or helping hand. Going the extra mile always pays off here.

Related: Brace yourself for the impending e-commerce returns

Find areas to save cash

Business owners are always looking for ways to lower costs and makes processes more efficient. That’s where shipment audit and recovery comes in. Not only are shipping companies like FedEx and UPS delivering 1 in 10 packages late, but they are also making frequent errors and expecting shippers to foot the bill. If you are a high-volume shipper, most likely a significant amount of money is being wasted daily due to carrier inaccuracies.

The advantage of shipment auditing is it eliminates any time or resource requirements on your part. Automated parcel audits open up space in your business to grow. At the end of the day, you can focus on your holiday business strategy without getting in the weeds of lost, damaged or late packages. Consider incorporating shipment auditing and recovery into your supply chain strategy.

Now that you have a few ideas to make the holiday season shine, it’s time to have the best sales quarter possible.

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