In preparation for the competitive holiday season, retail Industry leaders and experts converged online for the first annual Holiday Connected Consumer 2013 webinar series, September 16-19.
Topics for event sessions included omnichannel retail, workforce hiring, RFID and the store of the future. Wrap-ups of each session are featured below. To register and access on-demand versions of each event, as well as other valuable assets, click here.
Larry Freed Kicks Off Holiday Webinar Series
The gradual economic recovery shows promise that overall consumer spending will increase during the 2013 holiday season, according to Larry Freed, President and CEO of ForeSee.
During the webinar, Freed explained that during the 2012 holiday season, 89% of all sales happened in-store, while a smaller percentage of sales were completed online (10%) and via mobile (1%). He added that in 2013, e-Commerce and mobile sales are expected to reach 12% and 2%, respectively, while brick-and-mortar sales will rest at 86%.
In the Q&A-style session, titled: How To Get On The Top Of Consumers’ Wish Lists For Holiday 2013, Freed shared insights around how retailers can drive sales and engagement through mobile, social, the web and brick-and-mortar stores.
Freed added that although consumers will be more willing to make purchases during the holiday season, retailers are faced with one primary challenge: Providing a compelling and seamless experience across all channels. To truly succeed, businesses must ensure price, merchandise selection and availability, marketing and service are uniform across all channels.
Retailers also are expected to hold sales, daily deals and door-busters earlier and more frequently. Because the 2013 holiday season is approximately six days shorter than 2012, retailers will have “more of an incentive to release discounts and promotions earlier,” Freed said. “Before we know it, the holiday season will start in September.”
Customer Wins Illuminate The Role Of Big Data
Recalling fond memories of holiday shopping as a boy from the Sears Wish Book, Rusty Warner, SVP of Marketing for SDL, noted that holiday marketing was a lot less complicated in 1966.
During the webinar, titled: 5 Ways to Boost Holiday Marketing Revenue with Big Data, Warner shared success stories from Australia-based Specialty Fashion Group (SFG) and Dave & Buster’s, as well as an international pizza franchise and an online florist. With a better understanding of customer data, SFG was able to boost email open rates by 44%, while Dave & Buster’s saw a sales increase of $50 million, up from $2 million, using targeted emails.
Citing SDL’s 2012 report, Preferences on Holiday Shopping Experiences, Warner said that online search was the most influential source for U.S. holiday shoppers at 49%, with in-store at 43.2% and the retailer’s web site at 39.1%. He also reported that social media was the least influential channel for gift selection and recommendations, according to survey respondents, but he expected that trend to shift.
“The key takeaway message is that during holidays, understanding and engaging with consumers based on their preferred channels can create experiences they value not only during the holidays but year round,” Warner said. “Having the right customer insight is vital during the holidays. Consumers have money to spend. It is just a matter of where they will spend it.”
Cutting Losses With Online Reference Checks
For retailers, a bad hire can mean lost revenue, shrinkage, a poor customer experience, or worse. Brian Gilbert, Director of Business Development for SkillSurvey, Inc., explained how online reference-checking platforms can help retailers hire employees with the behaviors and skills that increase customer loyalty and sales.
For example, Burlington Coat Factory launched reference checking with considerable success. The solution helped the retailer avoid hiring low-scoring candidates and saved potential losses.
The cost of a bad hire can severely impact a company’s health. Gilbert shared information from Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos: “He once estimated that his own bad hires have cost the company well over $100 million.” Now, Gilbert explained, to mitigate those losses Hsieh offers new hires a $2,000 if they decide to quit after their first week on the job.
During the webinar, Hire The Best Candidates To Increase Holiday Customer Loyalty, Gilbert explained: “These candidates are handling your merchandise, revenue and your customers. There are key success traits they must have, such as dependability, integrity and interpersonal skills.” And while it may seem obvious, he continued, “The first key is whether they show up.”
RFID Helps Gap Keep Tabs On Holiday Inventory
Marshall Kay, Founder of RFID Sherpas, shared a success story from Gap , in which the retailer installed an online reservation program in 40 Gap and Banana Republic stores. Kay and Randy Dunn, Sales Director of Store Performance Solutions at Tyco Retail Solutions, presented during the fourth session of the Retail TouchPoints Holiday Connected Consumer Series, titled: RFID Saturation Point: Optimizing Omnichannel Inventory Across Retail Segments.
According to Kay, customers can check online to see what products were available in Gap stores within 25 miles. Items are collected within an hour of ordering and available for customers to pick up in- store.
“It’s as if the customer, even though the store is locked and the lights are off, has the ability to know exactly what’s sitting in the store,” Kay said. “That is a step forward and that’s what suggests to me that this concept really does have legs.”
Kay explained that hands-free RFID has a number of benefits, including labor savings, improved loss prevention, and the ability to monitor store-level execution. “You can know with the particular style, whether the merchandise got out to the sales floor as quickly as it was intended to.”
Dunn added: “You need to have a closed-loop system and hands free [RFID] is the only way to do that,” Dunn said. “Knowing precisely what you have and where it’s at is critical to creating and delivering on an omnichannel experience that satisfies customers rather than disappoints them, and allows retailers not simply to launch the capability, but to maximize the opportunity.”
Brick-And-Mortar Must Play Key Role In Holiday Strategies
The brick-and-mortar store remains a crucial component of a successful omnichannel strategy, and its role is only heightened during the holiday season. This point was highlighted by Gaurav Pant, Research Director at Edgell Knowledge Network (EKN), and Mark Colbert, Director of Product Marketing, Customer Transaction Solutions at Epicor, during the fifth and final session of the Retail TouchPoints Holiday Connected Consumer Series.
During the webinar, titled: The Future of the Store, Pant said that while mobile and online sales are on the rise, in-store sales are expected to account for 68.3% of total revenue in 2015. He added that retailers must understand the new function their brick-and-mortar stores play in customer service.
“The definition of what a store means cannot be looked at only from a revenue perspective,” Pant said.“What the store needs to do in the future is be relevant and be part of that new experience that customers demand, which is the anytime, anywhere, what I want, when I want it experience.”
Citing EKN’s Future of the Store Report, Pant noted that store associate mobility is high on the priority list for many retailers, but low on their maturity curve. To illustrate this, he noted that 64% of store associates use mobile devices to perform functions on the job, but are only empowered to use them to find product information.
Click here to access all five on-demand presentations.