While holiday forecasts are just starting to come out, most industry experts agree that retailers can expect mobile to command a bigger share of online shopping. Forrester projects $294 billion in e-commerce sales across 30 retail categories in 2014, with $87 billion of the total occurring on phones and tablets in 2014. A report by IBM forecasts that mobile will account for more than 20% of site sales and more than 43% of site traffic, by November 2014.
“Mobile should be a primary purchase channel within a few years,” said Bill Davis, director of MB&G Consulting. Davis offers the following tips for retailers fine-tuning a mobile commerce strategy for the holiday season.
• Focus Your Mobile Presence.
Many retailers have mobile apps, but if they do not, Davis advises that establishing a focused mobile presence, not just pointing mobile device users to an existing website, is required.
“Engaging customers to download and use the app is necessary, so linking the download and registration to an in-store promotion, say 10% off a $40 order, is one way to accomplish this,” said Davis.
• Let the Beacon Guide Shoppers.
Related to mobile is the use of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons, which enable proximity sensing of the mobile device, primarily iPhones, to identify where a consumer is in the store and to message them.
“The ability to engage consumers in store is the ‘last mile’ issue for retailers, and BLE beacons currently offer the best opportunity for addressing this,” Davis explained. “Knowing a loyalty customer has walked into a store as he or she crosses the threshold helps level the playing field with e-commerce’s analytical capabilities.”
• Manage Your Information.
While unlikely to be implemented by or during holiday 2014, Davis says most retailers should consider adopting a product information management (PIM) system to manage how they deliver product information to their various physical and digital sales channels.
“As Amazon and e-tailers have shown, information is the new gold and nowhere is this more relevant than in the depth of the product information they present to help guide a buyer’s decision,” Davis said.
Sephora Secures Seasonal Staffing
Everyone knows that stores need extra staff during the holiday shopping rush, but there is a big difference between carefully scheduling employees when and where they are needed and simply adding bodies to a store’s headcount. San Francisco-based beauty retailer Sephora has come up with a solution: The company is expanding its use of the Ceridian Dayforce workforce management platform to adjust holiday staffing according to both historical sales data and current trends.
“We forecast the entire quarter’s sales and payroll,” explained Gino Filice, IT manager of Sephora. “Store managers can also have influence and make detailed store-level forecasting suggestions.”
In addition to forecasting staffing needs based on anticipated sales and traffic levels by the quarter, Sephora also re-forecasts on a monthly basis two weeks before the month begins and then constantly adjusts during the month at the individual store level, with input from store managers.
“We use eyes on the ground,” said Filice. “We create a schedule a week ahead of time and then adjust it again midweek. By Wednesday, store traffic might be up 20% from Monday.”
Sephora began using Dayforce in 40 Canadian stores in 2012 and started applying it to holiday forecasting for the 2013 holiday season in July 2013.
“Our Canadian holiday business was phenomenal,” said Filice. “We were above and beyond other Canadian specialty cosmetic retailers.”
Based on that success, Sephora started creating 2014 holiday forecasts for its 355 U.S. and Puerto Rican stores with Dayforce in July of this year. In addition to helping better schedule existing employees, Sephora will also use the solution to assist in the hiring and scheduling of approximately 5,000 seasonal workers.
“We ramp up our workforce about 25 to 30% for the holidays,” said Filice.
At a time of year when consumers are still caught up in end-of-summer barbecues and back-to-school shopping, retailers are getting caught up in the rush of holiday planning. Holiday sales can account for 20% to 40% of a retailer’s total annual sales, according to the National Retail Federation, and a successful holiday can turn around a bad year or make a good year even better.
But the holiday season presents challenges as well as opportunities. And that’s especially true in today’s omnichannel environment where retailers must ensure that online sites as well physical stores can handle the holiday rush. Never has the path to purchase been more complicated, with consumer interaction now involving social media, mobile devices, email and traditional media.
Retailers must ensure that areas, such as customer service, staffing, online personalization and marketing, are up to speed and are supported by technology robust enough to keep things running no matter how big holiday crowds get. In addition, leading-edge solutions like mobile, social and digital gift cards can open new channels and help retailers reach holiday shoppers through as many touchpoints as possible.
In this month’s tech section, CSA offers an in-depth look at how leading retailers are integrating IT into their holiday plans, and also provides expert advice on the best ways to use mobile and social platforms, as well as digital gift cards, to help make the holidays happy for everyone — wherever and however they may choose to shop.