As the holiday shopping season kicks itself into full gear, you’re probably increasing the number of hours you’re putting into staying functional while maximizing your potential for revenue growth.
At times like this, it can be a challenge to think of ways to improve your current processes; you likely feel like you’re just trying to keep things together most of the time.
But, this is the precise time you should be thinking about a few changes and tweaks that could lead to huge process enhancements going forward.
Your Typical Customer Has Changed
This year, Black Friday was a big deal like it is every year. Thanksgiving wrapped up quickly and those who were interested in deals headed out to wherever they needed to go to wait in long lines while crossing their fingers that their most wanted items would be there when they made it over the threshold.
Only…battling the crowds wasn’t the only option. In fact, many shoppers scored their best purchases without leaving the comfort of their homes. This has been possible in past years as well – in fact, Cyber Monday was created as a potential option for avoiding the madness and has been a massive success for a few years running. But, this year, not everyone had to wait for that iconic Monday…sales were available online on Black Friday or even earlier.
Technology has changed, like it has in years before. And this year, it revolutionized the typical holiday shopping rush for most customers.
The change in the balance of shopping powers started to change last year, when 103 million Americans did their Black Friday shopping online, versus the 102 million who stayed online. This year was no different, retailers stepped up by offering deals online and in stores, often simultaneously.
Today’s customers expected the change. They want to make their purchases without waiting in line for hours. They expect rapid shipping at a low cost, to make the experience even more worthwhile. They expect an expedited online shopping process with no load times and no unexpected hiccups on whatever device was most available.
It’s interesting to note that omni-channel shoppers – those who shop in store and online, have a 30% higher value than those who shop from a single channel.
What Does it Mean to You?
For business owners in the retail industry, the change in customer expectations has been forthcoming for some time; it isn’t exactly a surprise.
However, reacting to the change has proven to be a more challenging situation.
Inventory is a challenge. How can a store maintain inventory when customers are coming from hundreds of sites and stores with various expectations – picking up orders in store, shipping in various formats or completing the transactions in stores? How can the process be a seamless, every day situation, rather than a retail nightmare?
The Answer Starts with Data Management
Integration is often the most important ingredient for seamless retail management.
It starts with manufacturers and retailers working together on a large scale to manage operations from large-scale needs to minute details.
In a recent Forbes article, major retailer Best Buy outlined their rise to competition with online retail giant Amazon. In the past, Best Buy faced a dilemma – products available online were listed as “unavailable,” even if they were actually available in store. If the product could not be found in a warehouse, it wasn’t available for online shoppers – even those looking for “pick up in store” options.
They went back to the drawing board. They set up an integrated data tracking system that allowed stores to serve as warehouses from an e-commerce perspective and saw huge gains, operating margins rebounded and processes improved greatly.
When data is used properly, with instant insight and tracking options available, manufacturers, warehouses and brick and mortar stores can operate as a single unit, without the overlap or gaps that can occur when too many processes are at work concurrently.
Data allows for more seamless sales and processing, it keeps supply chains running smoothly, it allows for precise inventory management that has only been a dream in the past. It also improves customer experiences by creating live, up-to-date customer personas that not only enhance shopping experiences, but also allow for more successful marketing campaigns and more.
Where does it start? It starts with a change, and with the openness to explore new options.
This year’s shopping season is well underway…but now is the time to start thinking about 2017.
Ready for a change? Unsure of where to begin? Check out the options available with Zerion’s integrated suite of platforms and products, then give us a call today.