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Black Friday: What to Look for Once the Dust Settles

This past year has seen a plethora of new in-store innovations. In this new age where ‘too big to fail’ no longer applies, retailers have been eager to adapt their stores to meet the changing demands of today’s retail consumer. Some of the in-store innovations we’ve seen this year include in-store apps, drone delivery and frictionless checkout, while on the strategic partnership side there has been a growing number of ‘store within a store’ concepts, all designed to increase footfall. All these innovations demonstrate a willingness to adapt, however the barometer of success will be gauged over the coming months as we move into peak seasonal trading periods.

Between Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year and the January sales, we know that this is the busiest time of the year for retailers. For the IT teams within retail, now is a time to cease implementing new systems, hunker down, and prepare for the barrage of consumers in every store, on every website, and on every app. This is the ultimate test for store infrastructure and omnichannel integration, any kind of downtime could result in significant lost revenue, not to mention the potential damage to a brand.  The name of the game now is support and maintenance, ensuring that any issues are speedily resolved with minimal disturbance to store sales.

While the support and maintenance teams are on alert, it’s a good time for other IT team members to review how the store systems have performed during such a critical sales period and make recommendations for the year ahead. Many leading retailers are making it a priority to review their existing store technology and if necessary, plan ahead to deploy new in-store applications and services that can maximize the revenue opportunities provided by seasonal peak periods.

Here are a few factors that should be considered when gauging in-store effectiveness:

Wait Time

The objective of some innovations, such as Office Depot’s ‘Save a Spot’ app and Walmart’s ‘Check out with Me’ is to reduce the time waiting in line.  The holiday season presents the perfect testing ground to gauge the effectiveness of such improvements, due to the sheer volume of footfall. If your stores are experiencing long wait times, frustrated customers and risk of abandoned baskets, this can indicate that your current line-busting methods need tweaking or replacing.

Speed of innovation has become a key competitive differentiator, especially during the holiday season when customers expect shopping experiences that are ‘merry and bright’. When it comes to deploying new in-store features like line busting during peak periods or empowering store associates with technology to make them more productive and efficient, retailers need to take a hard look at their IT infrastructures to ensure they are ready to support these new applications.

Nick East
CEO, Zynstra

Fulfillment

Speed and flexibility are two key ingredients for ensuring fulfillment, providing a successful omnichannel experience for customers – particularly when the blend of online and bricks-and-mortar shopping is at its peak. Many have put innovations and promotions in place to ensure customers have a swift and convenient journey from the point of sale to acquiring the product. Target, for instance, have prepared for the holiday season by introducing free delivery on “hundreds of thousands of items” and expanding the fulfillment team of each store.  The number of products that were delivered, or indeed returned, in a timely manner can help to gauge the effectiveness of one’s fulfillment process.

Customer Service

With so much invested in self-serve and other forms of automation, your staff should have more time available for customer service. Many retailers, such as Walmart, are realizing that the right technology in the right hands can empower store associates by accelerating transactions, and provide inventory information to customers on the fly. This can cut down on lines, and allow for a better customer experience, which is always crucial during the busy holiday period. Ensure you quickly evaluate customer feedback during this peak seasonal trading period to gauge whether the in-store tech you have in place truly has freed up staff to make the customer experience as smooth as possible.

How did we do on our 2019 Predictions?

Coming up, we’ll be taking a look back at the year to see how our predictions for 2019 really did turn out, while in the meantime we have our thinking caps on for the 2020 predictions. Watch this space!

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