Retail peak season traditionally occurs in the final quarter of each year, taking into account holidays ranging from summer vacations and Black Friday to Christmas and the January sales. However, promotional holidays such as Amazon Prime Day are extending this peak and placing more pressure on retailers than ever before. Last year’s retail peak season started off strong, with both online and brick-and-mortar retailers reporting their most successful sales figures in over a decade. However, as December broke, some began to falter under the pressure. If retailers successfully look back and learn from previous issues, they can take steps towards ensuring they don’t reach the same fate, and conquer the 2019 rush.
Crucial Customer Service
Looking back can remind businesses of the importance of providing the best possible customer experience using the personalisation and flexibility of a seamless omnichannel approach, which is only magnified by seasonal promotions. To be able to offer the service levels required during a peak period, seasonal workers may have to be onboarded. Ensuring that these temporary workers are fully trained and able to work productively in the busiest time of year as quickly as possible is the key to survival for retailers under pressure.
Over peak periods, temporary workers are the backbone of fast delivery, accurate picking and the resolution of customer queries – everything that today’s consumers demand from customer service. Retailers must implement simple but effective warehouse and supply chain technology that allow these workers to hit the ground running and join the team without hindering productivity or spending two weeks in training.
Making Returns History
Retailers can also take learnings from issues including peak periods of returns occurring at unexpected times, such as even before Christmas on the 19th December. Awareness of unexpected trends such as this can allow retailers to prepare and have the resources necessary to process large quantities of returns quickly and efficiently, while simultaneously fulfilling high demands for goods. In fact, more than half of online shoppers revealed that they often buy online in the mindset that they will be returning some products. This is an especially important lesson to learn before periods when items are discounted, such as Amazon Prime Day, as impulse purchases will become more common.
Fortunately, retailers can take steps towards mitigating a returns crisis. The most effective of these is ensuring that their websites contain all the information necessary for a customer to make the most informed decision about a product, such as accurate and detailed sizing information. Alternatively, they can make the best of a bad situation by utilising efficient supply chain processes and systems to ensure they have accurate inventory visibility and can provide up-to-date stock levels. This will allow consumers to purchase products that have recently been returned, instead of these items sitting in a warehouse waiting to be processed.
If businesses heed the lessons learned from previous retail peaks, they will be able to make sure they are on the winning side of the 2019 summer sale season and beyond, as well as any other unexpected spikes in demand. In order to tap into the success that retail peaks can bring, retailers must invest in preparation and forward planning above all else.
By Rob DeStefano, Senior Industry Product Marketing Manager, Ivanti Supply Chain
Robert DeStefano is a Senior Industry Product Marketing Manager at Ivanti Supply Chain. He has more than 18 years of experience helping businesses understand the value of mobile technology solutions when it comes to boosting worker productivity and enforcing mobile security.