By Josh Strutt
Associate Director – Deployment, Retail Doctor Group
“Good retailers know there are reasons other than price for consumers to shop and choose one store over another. Product range and convenience factor just as highly as motivators to shop.”
Christmas seems to come earlier and earlier in retail. As decorations hit the stores in October, the shopper’s emotional countdown is forced to start at the same time and if it’s anything like last year, we are likely to see unprecedented pre-Christmas sales across the retail sector – which is forecasted circa $60billion in the 6 weeks leading to Christmas. As some unfit retailers revert to price-led and discount tactics to bring customers through their doors, there is still time for you to activate an integrated Christmas multi-channel retail strategy that avoids having to give your margin away during this crucial sales period.
However, whilst retailers know there are reasons other than price consumers shop one store over another, only fit businesses understand how to capitalise on these reasons to build significant Christmas sales. To help you get your retail business multi-channel Christmas “fit,” we’ve outlined some key exercises that will benefit your business.
Fitness tip 1. | What do you do differently?
Before you start any Christmas planning, assemble your best strategic and creative heads together to work out what it is you do differently to everyone else. Whether it’s your unique product, how you deliver it or how you service it, find reasons why your customers need to believe in your product this Christmas that you can integrate across your retail channels. This is a fundamental business fitness exercise for any time of year, but if you haven’t done it already there’s no better time to start than now.
Fitness tip 2. | Package up Christmas and integrate across your retail channels
Once you have this unique proposition, work it into a Christmas creative theme and tagline, preferably with a call to action and integrate it across your multiple retail channels. If you start using generic lines such as we’ve got Christmas wrapped up, you could be mistaken for any retail store in the centre or on the internet. By integrating this new theme and tagline creatively across every business touchpoint internally and externally across your multiple retail channels, you can build a bigger Christmas story that becomes recognised and remembered. Theme your store staff, windows, merchandising displays, point of sale, catalogues, e-commerce, shopping bags, gift wrap and don’t forget to add some festive spirit back at corporate HQ.
Fitness tip 3. | Solve your customers’ problems
Every customer who visits both your online or physical store at Christmas has a Christmas problem that needs solving and your job is to help them solve it using exceptional visual merchandising. This applies across your multiple retail channels. Take a look at your products and work out whether you can group them to help store navigation and problem solving. Gifts for him, for her, for kids, for granny and grandad, for teenagers, bestsellers, top 10 gifts, most in-demand gifts – can you display them or ticket them within your creative theme to make it easy for customers? Do you have category headers that will help them quickly find what they are after? Do you have a sign saying stocking fillers near your cash register? Do you offer gift wrapping or Christmas bags that will solve their headaches when they get the gifts home? Do you offer a gift card if they can’t find something, or they are in a hurry? Do you deliver purchases to their houses? Remember that solving a customer problem could be as simple as helping them navigate smoothly through stores with trolleys prams and wheelchairs so that they can get their shopping done! Whatever you can do to solve their Christmas shopping problem will increase your chances of making those welcome sales.
Fitness tip 4. | Make your store staff your biggest Christmas asset
Planning your staff needs in advance is critical for Christmas business fitness as your customer service needs to be exceptional. Your floor staff will be your greatest Christmas asset during this time of customer high emotional shopping stress. Firstly, make sure you acquire staff “buy in” to your entire Christmas theme. They need to be aware of all your planned activities both in-store and on-line so that they are across any questions a customer can ask. Your staff also need to become product advocates. Find some time to train them in the products or have a “play day” with the product teams where everything comes out of boxes. It is so much easier to answer questions on the shop floor if you have firsthand experience.
To maximise your sales, work out the strengths of your store staff. The ‘gun’ salespeople should be on the floor selling and those who are quick on the register should be efficiently processing sales to cut down any queue time. In your flagship and busiest stores, place staff on the door to welcome and farewell, as well as help with store navigation and potential security. Make sure you change rosters to reflect Christmas trading hours and shopping patterns so that your staff: customer ratio is consistent and effective.
Fitness tip 5. | Planning store promotions
Start planning some clever store promotions that don’t just rely on discounting. Now that you have your unique selling proposition, look at how you can offer your products enforcing this unique point of difference and if possible, integrate these offers and promotions across your multiple retail channels. If you believe there are competitors who may have your products, how can you bundle yours so that it is difficult for them to compare? How can you add value? Is it in the after sales service, do you put something with it to make it a package deal? Can you deliver it to them for utter convenience?
Fitness tip 6. | Know your stock
All of the previous exercises become invalid if you don’t have enough stock to fulfil demand. How frustrating to finally identify the perfect gift only to find it is out of stock. Fundamental Christmas business fitness is stock management, and it is critical that you have the stock on hand to back up your catalogue, advertising, promotions, and window displays. Each morning and evening make sure your staff undertake stock level checks and refills so that you have the day’s stock needs covered. Efficient processes for product replenishment on key product lines should be in place by now but be aware of lead times on back-up stock and place orders in time to avoid customer disappointment and missed sales opportunities.
Fitness tip 7. | Bring exceptional Christmas theatre to your windows.
Your Christmas theme and unique proposition should be amplified in the most incredible window displays that you’ve ever created. But before you go mad with Christmas fun, make sure the theatre is there for a reason. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and express your theme in your windows with them in mind. This is entertainment with purpose. Your product displays should surprise and delight them and reflect what’s in store. Displays should keep changing to reflect shopping patterns and use great call to action words within your theming to bring them in. Don’t forget to integrate this theatre across your multiple retail channels – your online store should feature your theme and a revolving theatrical offer to draw customers in further.
Fitness tip 8. | Give your customers reasons to come back
Finally, this is your busiest time of year and what a fantastic time to meet new customers as well as greet old friends. Whether you have a multi-channel retail platform set up or whether you are just bricks and mortar, use Christmas to find a friendly way to build your customer contact base. Every customer that walks through your physical or cyber door is a potential customer with a specific need and they’ve chosen you to try and solve it. If you find a way to capture their needs, you will be able to target your marketing towards them in the future. Use every touchpoint available to greet them from prize draws in your Christmas catalogue to return offers in their shopping bags. Build your database at Christmas and give them reason to return in 2023
We wish you a successful and integrated multi-channel Christmas and welcome your feedback on successful exercises you make that you would like to share with others.
Happy Fit Retailing!