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.
Nine West Chats up Customers
For retailers looking to provide an optimal customer experience to harried holiday shoppers, live chat is more than a nice extra.
“Customer expectations today make live chat a necessity; more and more customers are demanding this channel to interact with brands since it’s a convenient and efficient means of getting assistance online,” said Milton Pappas, president of e-commerce for White Plains, New York-based Nine West Group, which operates 183 Nine West stores, 78 Easy Spirit stores and 88 JNY stores in the United States.
Shortly before the 2013 holiday period, Nine West integrated the LiveEngage customer service platform from LivePerson into its Demandware Commerce platform.
“Through LiveEngage, we are able to provide customers with very relevant answers and recommendations based on shopping cart information or product page info,” said Pappas. “The customer doesn’t have to explain in detail the exact product they are looking at because of the benefit of digital versus voice. Also, if customers identify themselves, agents can leverage historical data to provide even more personalized recommendations.”
Since Nine West launched so close to last year’s holiday season, the retailer used chat as a supporting channel for customer service, rather than a primary channel. Nine West still saw an increase in sales and a significant amount of call deflection. For the 2014 holiday season, Nine West plans to bolster its use of chat, supported by LiveEngage and Demandware Commerce.
“We want to ramp up heavily on chat,” explained Pappas. “It’s less costly than other channels, and we are able to handle multiple interactions at the same time. We also want to proactively engage customers to drive sales. With intelligent targeting capabilities, we can be creative in the types of promotions we might offer to customers, e.g., leveraging location-based or page-based analytics.”
Pappas also had a plan to make chat a very direct means of increasing sales.
“We’re also excited to launch PCI forms embedded in chat so customers can seamlessly make a purchase while speaking to a customer service rep,” he added.