Five ways retailers can make Christmas 2013 profitable
Retailers worldwide are wishing for a plentiful Christmas this year. While some forecasters are giving conservative estimates, others are suggesting that 2013 could be one of the best shopping seasons in recent years. Either way the Christmas shopping period remains one of the most important times of the year for retailers and it’s vital that this opportunity is fully utilized.
Launching a pre-Christmas sale is a sure-fire attention-grabber, however there are many other ways that retailers can stand out online and on the high street, fostering loyalty that will last into the New Year and beyond.
With so much resting on success in the run-up to Christmas, Bernard Luthi, CMO and COO at Rakuten.com Shopping, shares his top tips for showing shoppers that you care about more than getting them to part with their cash >>>
1. Give the gift of inspiration with recommendations of what to buy
With money tight and must-have gifts often hard to find, the Christmas shopping season can be a stressful time for shoppers, especially when looking for the perfect gift for those impossible to please friends and family members. Our research shows that the majority of consumers spend up to an hour researching gifts. Retailers can help customers by providing inspiration of presents to buy across all price points.
An easy way to provide inspiration is to prepare a round-up of gifts. This could be focused on an intended recipient, such as ‘for him’ or ‘for her’, or a price bracket, such as stocking fillers under $20. Round-ups of gift suggestions could be published on your website or even included in an email newsletter, providing a way to target shoppers who have bought items from you in the past.
2. Spread the Christmas cheer with top class customer service
Looking beyond more traditional customer channels, retailers should also take time to consider how they can provide customer support through other channels this Christmas, such as social media and web chat. Although virtual, customers expect the same level of service through these channels, so make sure you are able to meet their expectations by clearly outlining what times staff are available to answer questions and how quickly they can expect to receive a response.
As one of the busiest times of the year, it’s highly likely you will need some extra help. While many temporary workers will only be working for you for a few weeks, it’s important that they are fully equipped to deliver the same customer experience that you expect from your permanent staff, regardless of whether they are providing assistance in-store, over the phone or on the web.
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3. Help social sharing snowball with high quality photos and video
Shoppers regularly recommend or seek out recommendations of products on social media, and Christmas is no different. Social media can therefore be a very effective resource for retailers to take advantage of.
There are plenty of ways for retailers to use social networks. Pinterest, for instance, can be used to create mood boards of potential presents. Retailers can also make good use of Twitter by tweeting suggestions of things to buy, such as the top-selling Christmas gifts. Alternatively, Vine, a platform for short videos, could be used to share fun videos, such as how to wrap an unusually shaped gift.
However, retailers shouldn’t overlook the power of a customer’s recommendation. It’s important to encourage shoppers to share photos and video content on your store. You can do this by making social sharing of product images easy, and offering rewards for posting reviews after purchasing a product, such as loyalty points or entry into a competition.
4. Don’t drop the ball when the big day comes
When December 25th finally comes, you might expect things to ease off a little, at least temporarily, but it is expected that this year people will continue shopping online on Christmas Day. Whether customers are looking to bag themselves a bargain in the sales or searching for some very last-minute presents, there are still opportunities for retailers to build customer loyalty.
Retailers can reward customers by inviting them to member-only sales in-store or online where they can get exclusive, first look at products in the January sales before it is opened up to the general public. Offering personalized deals and discounts is another effective way that retailers can drive sales after Christmas day, while saying ‘thank you’ to customers that have shopped with them.
5. Dazzle shoppers by going the extra mile this Christmas
Whether shopping online or in-store, the experience that shoppers receive impacts how likely it is that they will shop with you again in the future. Delivering a top notch experience is of course of vital importance, however there is more that retailers can do to wow customers after making a sale.
Retailers can show customers that they care by offering personalized treats for loyal customers, such as free delivery on their next order or free gift wrapping. Even a gesture as small as giving a few sweets or candy canes to customers in-store or in a delivery box for an online order can impress shoppers and ensure that your store sticks in their memory.
Q&A: Professor Loredana Padurean, Asia School of Business
As someone who is creating Asia Pacific’s business leaders of the future, what do you believe are the essential skills leaders require?
In many ways, we need leaders who are Renaissance women/men or polymaths, as opposed to specialists of an industry or a field. A polymath is a person with profound knowledge, proficiency and expertise in multiple fields and today’s leaders have to be able to combine various ideas, look at problems in novel and useful ways, and develop a broad and yet still deep set of skills, talents, and knowledge.
You’ve coined ‘smart’ and ‘sharp’ as skills of the future. What are these?
They are replacements for ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ skills, a concept coined by a US Army doctor in 1972 who observed that his pupils had different skills: dealing with machinery required ‘hard’ skills, while dealing with people and paper were ‘soft’ skills. This concept has served us well since, but I find it too binary, not to mention the semantic implications of the words themselves.
Soft implies gentle, delicate, mild, quiet, tender, weak. However, there is nothing soft in navigating competing perspectives and cultures, handling and delivering critical feedback or dealing with office politics. Instead, I prefer to call these skills ‘smart’. Hard implies rigid, difficult, heavy, static. But how can we think of engineering or software development as static or rigid? I believe ‘sharp’ is more apt as such skills need constant updating or sharpening.
I think it’s time to reflect on these classifications, because we can drastically change someone’s perspective by how we choose to talk about and frame something.
How important are smart skills in leadership today?
Smart skills are more important than ever because we live in a world of extreme diversity: generational, ethical, value-based, gender, etc. Gone are the days when giving an order was an effective act of leadership. I personally work with people from five different continents and across five different generations, therefore as leaders, we need to know how to adapt, motivate, inspire and connect. We need to increase our investment in learning about them in action, especially as smart skills are more difficult to develop.
I believe that a successful leader today has to be both smart and sharp. Take cognitive readiness, one of my top 10 smart skills. In order to be cognitive ready, one has to master system dynamics, one of my top 10 sharp skills. Also, did you know that one of the primary reasons why digital transformation fails is not the absence of digital literacy, a sharp skill, but the need for more validation and adaptability, both smart skills. So, instead of thinking of these skills as binary, I prefer to think of them as the yin and yang; co-existing and complementing each other.
So, you can teach leaders smart skills then?
Yes, you can, via a combination of the classroom experience, plus an action component supported by deeply embedded reflection. At ASB we call this Action Learning, and we teach it both in the MBA and in the executive programs. For example, in teaching a leader emotional maturity as a smart skill, first they need to learn what it is, and then act on it, before reflecting on what we did and how we did it. And then to repeat it, but this time with more expertise and awareness. It’s not easy, but that’s why my favourite mantra is ‘the job is easy, the people are not’.
Discover Professor Padurean's successful skills for a digital transformation here