When to start the festive season sales?

And yet again the festive season is here. This is arguably the best time of the year for many, as it is also considered to be the holiday season in many regions. Ultimately, this is the time of festivities, color, new beginnings, gifts, and also the best time to shop. This is the right time for retail brands to capitalize and score big to add glitter to their festive season. One important query that retailers seek to resolve is to know the right time to start the festive sales

Officially speaking there is no specific start date for retailers to begin launching their festive season sales. In fact, every year, new standards are set by different retailers, making this shopping season a dynamic one and which continues to evolve further. Having said that, deciding the start of the festive season sale should be typically based on 2 factors:

  • The nature of the business: The best starting point would be to look at earlier trends of the business and understand what the competition is doing as this will give retail owners a benchmark. Then applying those learnings to their business will help them in taking the right steps towards launching the campaign. Also, it is very important to consider business objectives and align efforts accordingly because the business’ long term goal should be.
  • The market the business serves: It is important to understand and sense the market trends and the sentiments of the consumers. Various factors such as season, geography, ethnicity, and others, largely influence the target markets’ shopping behavior.

A good example of considering the above to factors for starting the sale is a scenario where a retail business deals with selling products that are generally perceived to be of high value and exclusive, with a limited stock. In that case it would be better to start closer to the festival as the bonuses come in and thus there may be demand for high range products then due to the increase in purchasing power.

Taking into account the nature of the business and its market will really help retailers make the right decisions towards launching their festive season sales.

This festive shopping is going Omni-channel

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The Singles’ Day shopping extravaganza would not have become a huge phenomenon nor would it have been a record-breaking event had it not been for disruption technology such as omni-channel. That’s not all. As per a survey, 81 percent of holiday season shoppers use up to six channels to make their purchases for the festive season. These are significant numbers and must not be overlooked. All these are clear and straight-forward indications that omni-channel is the best step for retail businesses in the right direction during the upcoming Christmas shopping season.

It would not be an understatement to state that ‘for most retail businesses and other entities ‘omni-channel’ should be their go to strategy this festive season. What this implies is, retail owners need to channelize their efforts in delivering a unified omni-channel customer experience throughout the shoppers’ journey right from research through purchase to returns. Enabling omni-channel fulfillment options like click-and-collect, endless aisle, click-and-deliver, drop shipping and so on would definitely help the cause. To make it more impressive, adding new and innovative options such as ‘reserve online, try in-store’ or ‘book online, pay in-store’, could not only pave the way for retailers to have an edge above their competitors, but also prove to be ‘deal clinchers’. Going the extra mile, omni-channel returns also need to be taken seriously. While handling returns the right way should be a priority for brands, they need to improvise on the way returns are accepted so as to make it easier and faster for the end customer. For example, retail companies can provide customers with kiosks at malls and stores for returns.

To be able to do all of the above, retailers need to get these 4 fundamentals right:
– Making their business customer focused or customer-centric
– Integrating all channels (processes, operations, systems) seamlessly
– Having a consistent branding across all channels
– Enabling accurate, real-time information accessibility wherever necessary

Offering a unified omni-channel experience and the challenges of getting that right should be top of mind for retailers looking to bolster their sales this Christmas and New Year. However, retailers who are determined to get their fundamentals right to the ‘T’ as well as adopt forward looking, innovative omni-channel retail solutions could emerge trailblazers in the festive shopping arena.

5 Festive things retailers should do to relish a successful shopping season.

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It’s time for the festive holiday season once again, and for a retailer, this should only mean one thing: it is time to ramp up the planning and implementation of processes. The festive season is the biggest shopping period of the year, and for many retail businesses, festive shopping can be the opportunity to really boost their sales. It goes without saying that retail owners will do their best to rise to the occasion and add that extra bling to their business. In-order to help retail companies ring in higher festive shopping sales, here are a few simple things that need to be done.

  1. Festive displays – Ensuring the displays, those at the window and in-store, shop layouts, online websites, and mobile apps are aligned with the theme of the festive season, and are attention grabbing, enticing consumers to at least take a look. Once they peek, the merchandising and product displays should be able to hook the shoppers and lure them to take further actions. At the brick-and-mortar store level, elements like lights, signage, and props can be used whereas on e-commerce sites and mobile apps, color theme, banners and images can be used to bring that festive look.
  2. Festive merchandise – Merchandise and products need to have the flavor of the festive season. As such, having limited edition merchandise for the festive season or running attractive offers on certain merchandise exclusively during the festive season is sure to spike interest amongst shoppers. In some cases, even planning and arrangement of merchandise on the shelves with some festive touch can be good enough for consumers to notice.
  3. Festive inventory – To ensure that shoppers are able to get the desired products in their preferred quantities and time-frames that they are looking for as well as to reduce the out of stock situations, retail owners must plan their festive inventories right. Not only that, they should keep a track of the stock turnover and order new inventory accordingly, keeping it ready to replenish stocks without delays. In some cases, it may be advisable to have additional stocks in order to avert no stock situations. Using techniques like ‘endless aisle’, retailers can avert lost sale situations when the inventory is not obtainable at the store.
  4. Festive support – If retailers are expecting shoppers to pour in large numbers especially during peak and rush hours, they need to hire additional staff not only at the store, but also at the call center or online support to handle such situations. This would ensure that adequate number of associates are available to assist customers in such situations. In addition to this, having extra point-of-sale (POS) counters for check-out, using handled/mobile POS devices for billing can help forestall long queues. Also, retail owners should manage their websites and apps well so that they load and update quickly despite heavy traffic. All this will ensure that shoppers experience no lags and reduced wait times warding off situations of cart abandonment.
  5. Festive offers – In the festive season, shoppers look forward most for the umpteen discounts and promotions that retail brands offer. Festive discounts and promotions are a norm now and most of the retailers run various marketing campaigns to attract customers. Thus, it is important for retail businesses to offer more relevant and personalized promotions that will entice shoppers. Using cross-selling and up-selling techniques would further benefit both customers and retailers.

Merry shopping and prosperous retailing!

ETP blog festive season tips

Christmas and New Year are just around the corner and shopping during this time of the year is at its peak. Amongst the festive shopping chaos, retailers and shoppers need to get their act right so that they do not miss out on anything – the maximum margins for retailers, and the right products for shoppers.

While shoppers – they are the ones who are connected – have the power of choice, the option of using multiple channels and alternatives through intense competition amongst brands. At this juncture, shoppers only know one thing, to get what they want, and they would not hesitate to switch between channels or for that matter even between brands, to do that. It is at this juncture that retail businesses can seize the opportunity to make their mark on the customers and step ahead of their competition.

Here’s how:

Connecting all the way – Gone are the days when the transaction marked the end of the sale and engagements were limited to product queries and purchases. Today, when customer expectations have reached new heights, better customer interaction is one of the necessities for retail owners to take cognizance of. They need to constantly engage with their customers, right from the product research stage till the next purchase, and it does not end there. Some benefits of connected retailing would be nurturing brand-customer relationships, enhancing customer loyalty, knowing the customers purchase history better and tailoring offerings to the customer’s tastes.

Choice is bliss – It should be the top prerogative of the retail businesses to add to the festive cheers by offering customers ample choices – be it products, prices, channels, promotions, and so on. Having said that, retailers should not overwhelm their customers with choices such that they are unable to make a decision. Rather, they should help their customers in choosing the right product that would be the best fit for the customers’ needs. Having the required quantity of merchandise and inventory, appropriate pricing of products, relevant and attractive promotions, and cross-channel operations­ are some of the necessary measures retailers need to take for providing a better and choicest shopping experience.

Creating the ho, ho, ho omni-channel experience – Retail businesses need to go omni-channel as it is the new norm and there are no two ways about it. If a customer would like to research for a product online, purchase the product in the store and expects it to be delivered at home, the retailer needs to manage the whole process seamlessly and satisfy the customer’s expectation. This would delight the customer since they are being offered a unified and seamless experience throughout their shopping journey regardless of the channel they choose to interact with. Investing in the right omni-channel retail solutions will allow retailers to spread the festive joy through superior customer experience and ring in more sales.

To make the Christmas shopping season truly merry, retail businesses need to be connected with their customers all the time, help them with the right choice, and provide them with a seamless omni-channel customer experience. This will help the retailers and their customers have a happy and prosperous New Year.

How to make discounting work!

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The festive season is synonymous with shopping and sales. Year after year, the festive shopping season gets more demanding, basically due to two main factors – increase in the number of shoppers and rise in the competition amongst retail businesses. While more shoppers is certainly good news to the business, tough competition can be detrimental to success in the festive shopping arena.

One of the most common and probably one of the most effective techniques used by retail businesses to attract shoppers is offering festive discounts. Discount based promotions are a popular crowd puller but in the modern day retail, planning and executing discounts the right way can be a huge challenge. Retailers need to make sure that customers are finding their offers better than the others. At the same time, they also need to ensure that they are not gouging a hole in their own pockets while offering markdowns or free of charge products.

Here are some simple tips that retail businesses can use to make discounting work:

Defining objectives: This is an important step that retailers need to take while thinking about discounts. They need to clearly define the purpose of running a sale or a promotion and ensure that it is aligned with the overall business objective. The purpose could be varied, such as, looking for new customers, encouraging repeat purchases, selling off old stock and so on. Based on the purpose, retailers can decide what kind of offers they need to plan and execute, when to run the promotion campaigns offering the discounts and which products should they be offering discounts on. Further, the performance of the promotion can be tracked and measured effectively when the purpose is clear.

Segment right: Once the purpose is defined, next is to identify the target audience to whom the discounts would be offered. This includes segmenting shoppers in to different buckets so that more relevant and attractive discounts can be offered to each. Shoppers can be segmented based on their purchase history, their buying preferences, their budgets, demographics and more. Shoppers would be more eager to receive offers that are most appealing to them.

Mindful of margins: Retail business owners need to be mindful of their margins while running offers and discounts. Based on the objectives and customer segments, they need to set an acceptable margin so that they don’t end up giving away too much and running into losses.

Creatively strategize: Once retailers have their objectives defined, they know which customer segments need to be targeted and they have set their acceptable range of margin, they should then draw up strategies and define the business rules for running the promotions. While doing so, retail owners should get creative through techniques such as clever pricing, highlighting new products, offering different discounts for varied set of customers.

Execute and monitor: Next, it is time to get your promotions engine running and track its performance against set KPIs that have been predefined keeping in mind the objectives, margin, customer segments and plans. Constantly and proactively tracking and tweaking the promotion campaigns for improving performance is necessary to reap maximum benefits from discounts.

Offering discounts is a tested and proven technique for retailers to make the most of the shopping season, but it is important that it is done right.

10 Tips to add that extra bling to the festive season sales and profits

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As the festive season is in progress, there is a lot retailers can do to bank more sales and boost profits as much as possible. The key is to be proactively prepared. If retail businesses expect to grab larger portions of the festive shopping cake, it is up to the retailers to take charge and make it happen.

1. Have enough product on hand
Plan for sufficient buffer stock to meet the targeted sales volume for the season. Keep the warehouse inventory handy and the display amply stocked so customers have feel spoilt for choice.

2. Focus on cross-selling and upselling
Identify which potential products can be coupled for sales to add value to a sale (cross-selling) and products that have big-ticket or upgraded models that can be suggested for customers to consider (upselling). Slow-moving items can be offered as complementary products or repackaged as a special buy in combination with best-sellers to get the slow movers out the door.

3. Stand apart from the competition
Highlight the most distinctive features of the mainstream merchandise with the right communication or offer some new and unique products that cannot be found elsewhere, to attract the attention of curious customers looking for the latest in the season.

4. Deck the stores to a “happy place” to encourage sales
Set the festive ambience at the stores with the right paraphernalia to match the season – merchandise displays, lighting, colours, music and such other means to delight customers. Focus on creating a space that is shopper friendly.

5. Collect all the customer data you can
The festive season will bring in new customers. Capture every customer’s data. Further, track and analyze their buying behavior and preferences to spot which products are trending up and which are getting eluded to be able to personalize offerings and boost loyalty.

ETP blog festive season tips

6. Know your customer
Know what customers are really looking for in terms of shopping experience in the festive season. Take the time and effort to ask questions and receive actionable feedback from all channels. Understand the demographics of the region and choose your product offerings accordingly.

7. Keep product knowledge a priority
Make sure in-store salespeople know the product features and benefits thoroughly. Moreover store staff should be well versed with the technology at the counters to be able to service customers faster. Ensure product features and USPs are clearly highlighted for easy reference.

8. Improve customer service
Focus on customer centricity by understanding customers better and then servicing them accordingly. Employ technologies to enhance customer service particularly during peak business periods and to ensure safe transactions. Enhanced customer experience can help induce repeat purchases.

9. Plan for the last-minute frenzy
Employ the right skills and technologies to handle in-store as well as online traffic on the e-commerce website. Keep the supply chain engine running through the season to ensure sufficient stock is always handy through careful planning and allocation of stocks across all retail touch points.

10. Manage finances to last the season
Plan the pre-season stock allocation and in-season procurement of inventory to last through the entire festive shopping season, which is starting earlier and lasting longer each year. This makes it crucial to handle budgets accordingly.

Focus On The Four Fear Factors Of Festive Shopping

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There is plenty of advice out there for retailers on how to get ready for the shopping frenzy that they experience and if managed right, enjoy during the festive shopping season every year. Buzzwords such as mobile optimization and omni-channel experiences are good to hear, but when it comes down to milking the cow during the most revenue generating part of the year, the transaction is at the heart of the holiday season shopping experience.

Customers worry about price, secure transactions and right product availability when spending their festive dollars both online and offline (in-store) and they are depending upon you to dispel those fears. For retailers, that means addressing the four fear factors that concern shoppers:

Product: To realize maximum profits, it is of optimum essence to plan your pre-season and in-season omni-channel merchandise and inventory right. Even at a time when the offline and online are merging to enhance shopper experiences, customers prefer to complete their festive shopping hassle free, one stop. So it is vital to stock the right product in the right channel and the right quantity at the right time. This will also help you to get through the entire festive season effectively, avoid stockout situations which usually result in unhappy or lost customers and ensure that you do not end up with excess stock at the end of the season.

Pricing: With many retailers offering similar products across multiple channels, shoppers are spoilt for options. In this situation, price usually becomes the deciding factor between a sale and a no-sale. Hence, along with the right inventory, you need to price your merchandise right across each channel. Additionally, you need to analyze the profit margins on individual seasonal products. If you can’t make a profit after the season is over with the left over merchandise, you may want to consider offering a markdown on the time sensitive products during the season.

Promotions: A steady number of shoppers are seen to be actively planning their festive shopping early, looking for deals and promotions to compare their best buying options. They have more locations to purchase from, both online and in-store including pop-ups, more discounts to compare and more information at their fingertips about the products they want. Hence, it is imperative that you plan, roll-out and modify your festive promotions and campaigns early as well as on the fly in-season.

Protection: With a plethora of transactions taking place due to the rise in shopping activity during the festive season, it is necessary to protect shoppers’ payment card data and ensure secure transactions across channels. You must take measures to make payment card transactions safe for your customers, no matter which channel they use for buying from your retail business, by employing a payment application that helps you do just that by protecting the heart of the festive shopping experience – the transaction.

ETP’s Omni-Channel Retail Solutions can help you put to rest all the above fear factors effectively and efficiently. The ETP Merchandise Planner helps you plan and manage cross-channel merchandise and inventory taking cues from previous seasons and industry data. It also enables you to manage pricing for all your products across each channel. The ETP Accelerator equips you to define, plan and roll-out retail promotions based on your business rules, and start, stop or modify them on the fly. The ETP V5.5 Omni-Channel POS solution is certified as PA-DSS v3.1 compliant by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC). It means that retailers can now feel more secure with the ETP V5.5 POS solutions to provide a secure payment card-related transaction process for their end users.