Keeping retail customers happy this holiday season
Online retailers should already have developed their Christmas fulfilment strategy in order to meet consumer demands, according to distance shopping service provider, Zendor, which offers several tips for a more effective holiday season retail strategy.
With levels of online shopping predicted to hit an all time record, and in the wake of a number of retailers already unveiling their Christmas lines on the high street, Zendor has drawn up a number of corporate best practices for retailers to consider in the run-up to the festive period:
- Communication Share your strategy clearly with all involved; including staff, partners and suppliers. Any retailer can set up a web site or catalogue but a robust strategy is key to distance-selling success.
- Capacity Ensure you have adequate space for storage. If excess stock is delivered, can your supplier or warehouses cope? The more notice that is given to your supplier of potential peaks and troughs in demand, the more accommodating they can be to your needs.
- Returns When Christmas day has passed you still can't afford to relax. Returns are notoriously high after the Christmas peak and increased staffing and space will be needed to manage them effectively. Call centres will also need additional staff to cope with the increased volume of enquiries that will arise in the New Year.
- Integration By integrating all front and back end processes and systems, from order-taking to delivery and returns, the entire business can have access to all the relevant information, from stock levels to customer data, and you should be able to handle orders quickly and efficiently for a successful multi-channel Christmas.
- Staffing Staff absences can be as high as 10% - 15% of the total workforce around the Christmas period due to both planned leave and unforeseen illness. Build a good working relationship with your recruitment firm or HR department to adequately cover staff absences at short notice.
- Technology Most retailers rely solely on internal systems to generate customer advice notes, track deliveries, and monitor stock levels and payroll. In the event of IT failure, have a system in place so that work can continue. If your IT is outsourced, confirm that such contingencies are covered by your supplier.
- Management It is vital to maintain control with a detailed plan that allows for delays and unforeseen problems, and still deliver goods on time. For example, clearly communicate a cut-off date for ordering goods to guarantee delivery by the 24th December, and consider late or delayed orders being upgraded to express delivery after an agreed date.
- Accessibility Make sure it is simple and straightforward for your customers to order from your web site. If not, you risk losing valuable holiday shoppers to competitors.
- Sales forecasts Sales forecasts are essential when it comes to assigning warehouse space during the festive rush. Often your warehouse will have to store double the amount of goods over the peak period so using warehouse space cleverly is vital. Accurate forecasts will enable you to plan and organise your warehouse effectively prior to the seasonal rush.
John Ganley, operations manager for Zendor, offers one extra piece of advice: "If things go wrong and you are prepared, they can be fixed. If you have a good team and suppliers around you who are well-briefed and prepared, you should be able to sort out problems without the customer even knowing there was a problem." UK-based Zendor provides a range of services for distance-shopping retailers, including fulfilment, call centres, multi-channel strategy, planning, channel development, and marketing.