The 2015 holiday shopping season will soon be here and consumer expectations have never been higher.
Being prepared to accept payments any way and anywhere your customers want to pay, and taking a proactive approach to your business operations can help you avoid the following five mistakes and ultimately win the sale.
1. Ignoring omnichannel integration
Eighty-four percent of people currently use electronic devices to research or buy products, and those individuals are 40% more likely to go through with an e-commerce sale than their less tech-savvy counterparts, according to a Deloitte study. Consumers are constantly connected to technology and pursue shopping options that match their habits. More than 101.7 million shoppers made 2014 holiday purchases via smartphones alone and overall digital sales accounted for 8% ($72.4 billion) of the total $863 billion in seasonal revenue, according to CMO.com.
Flexibility and connectivity are key characteristics of today’s shopping experience - from researching products online, to buying them via mobile, to making exchanges in-store. Talk to your payments partner about an omnichannel inventory management system. Solutions are available that track the pace of business on each platform, continuously updating stock numbers, sending reordering notifications, submitting requests to vendors and fostering price changes in real time.
Also, consider reviewing the user experience that your mobile app provides. Selz.com estimates roughly 60% of shoppers ditch their search without proper engagement. Payment processing upgrades like mobile wallet compatibility and credit card vaulting coupled with direct, in-app customer service features are some ideas to ask developers about that can keep customers engaged in the purchasing cycle during the busy holiday shopping season.
An integrated purchasing experience across in-store, online and mobile touchpoints is what your customers will be looking for this holiday season.
2. Putting data protection on the back burner
Shoppers will not be the only group on the move this winter. The holidays are a busy time for fraudsters and cyber criminals in search of vulnerable credit card data. The EuroPay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) liability shift on Oct. 1 means merchants who fail to equip their POS terminals with EMV-capable technologies may be held liable for fraudulent card activity that may occur on their networks. While the time crunch itself may pose challenges, the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business index found more than half of retailers nationwide are unaware of the liability change, let alone prepared for it.
Form a project team to collaborate with your payments partner on needed upgrades to your existing payments technology and train your staff members on the changes so they can alleviate customer concerns.
Also consider additional cloud-based security solutions beyond EMV and approach your payments provider about how to best prepare for the spike in transactions. Features like point-to-point encryption, vaulting and tokenization can also help keep cardholder data secure.
3. Going into the season without a backup plan
Today’s technology can make it easy to forget that no solution is ever 100% perfect. Retailers reacting to online platforms that freeze or crash, POS servers shutting down and mobile apps experiencing traffic overloads run risk of losing sales. And considering the last two months of the year alone account for 40% of the retail industry’s annual revenue, according to CMO.com, businesses need to have a pressure-tested backup plan.
Keep “knuckle-buster” credit card impression machines, pads of carbon paper and calculators on hand behind the register. Increase the number of associates on call, especially technical and customer service staff for e-commerce platforms. Consider also implementing a “roaming” cashier rotation where associates facilitate transactions on mobile POS terminals to cut back on wait times and manage the holiday crowd more easily.
4. Dismissing gift card redemption
While plastic gift cards may seem a thing of the past, several recent studies from Giftcards.com prove otherwise. The site found consumers spend more than $100 billion on gift cards each year and online gift card usage is growing at an annual rate of 29%.
Furthermore, almost three-quarters of customers spend more on a purchase than just the amount allotted on their gift cards – presenting a critical opportunity for more sales. The elements of a solid gift card redemption policy include POS activation, customer spend tracking and 24/7 cardholder support. Having a strategy set before the holidays for in-store and e-commerce platforms can prepare you for the uptick in redemptions after the holidays and add a nice stream of additional revenue.
5.Waiting until Black Friday
Widely acclaimed branded shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday are big for business, but merchants need to be ready well before then. The holiday frenzy hits full speed the day before Thanksgiving (Black Wednesday, as it’s otherwise known) with a boom in grocery and food sales to get those big family meals underway. From EMV-readiness, to training consumer-facing staff, all of the strategies above should be implemented by Black Wednesday at the very least with the legwork done much farther in advance.
Steering clear of avoidable mistakes can stop your business from freezing up in the winter cold. A commitment to providing the desired customer experience, making data protection a priority and collaborating closely with your payments partner can make the holidays less hectic for you and your customers.
Chester Ritchie is the senior VP of Worldpay US, a global payments technology provider for all sales channels: in-store, online and via mobile devices. (www.worldpay.com/us).