Now that school is successfully back in session, most of the back-to-school items have been sold or marked down, and the retail Halloween displays are in full force. I’ve even heard that there have been some Santa sightings on some retailers’ shelves. Honestly, I’m really just not mentally ready for holiday shopping. Here on the east coast, we’re still having 90-degree days and wishing the pool was still open.

I can, however, wrap my thoughts around Halloween – my favorite all time holiday, because for one night (or perhaps longer), you get to dress up as someone or something else and step out of your own body for a bit; eat copious amounts of candy with your kids; and use creative decorations to disguise or enhance the existing spider webs and dust that seems to be omni-present in your house (or at least they are in mine).

All of this fun with no expectations of finding the “perfect” gift for your mother-in-law and trying to maintain sanity as the often-dreaded task of holiday shopping consumes us.

However, during the upcoming holiday season of peace and joy, I will be part of the quickly growing number of people using smartphones to do some portion of their shopping – either investigating product specifications, reviews and other information; looking for the best price; finding retailers who are offering the most convenient fulfillment options; and/or just simply trying to find a particular product anywhere.

Parker Avery just published a Point of View that discusses Omnichannel Inventory Optimization, and in it, we talk about the need for inventory visibility and fulfillment flexibility across channels – not only for the retailer, but just as importantly for the customer. If a customer is shopping for a specific item, and a retailer cannot provide the confidence of that item being in-stock and able to be fulfilled when and how that customer wants it, there is very little chance they will make the sale.

Especially during the holiday season, as customers become increasingly fatigued with the shopping process and quantities of hot items seem to vanish in a single click, they become much less price-sensitive and more in a state of panic. That is where inventory optimization is very important. Margins can be saved if a retailer has the right systems and processes in place to give customers the confidence of inventory availability and desired fulfillment. This can be done by the customer while on the retailer’s website or mobile site, and it can also be accomplished by sales associates equipped with the appropriate technology and authority, who also understand the process from end-to-end.

Different fulfillment options become increasingly important when most of the items being purchased are gifts. There are a variety of reasons for this:

• Need to hide “Santa” presents from the kiddos (and sometimes adults)
• Need to ship items to a location that’s not your home
• Need to have gifts wrapped prior to shipping
• Need to disguise or hide something big
• Need to have something last minute

This confidence plus a seamless execution of payment, communication and fulfillment then equates to high customer satisfaction. In addition to shopping, the holiday season brings parties, travel, extra baking, family stresses, kids’ school and college schedule changes, and other events that make the season so hectic. So anything that makes even one element of the season easier for your customers will result in higher customer satisfaction that ultimately makes for more loyal customers. Bottom line – everybody wins.

Shop on.

– Tricia

Published On: September 12, 2013Categories: Customer Experience, Holiday Season, Omnichannel, Tricia Chismer Gustin