Author: Retail expert Shelley E. Kohan

Holiday 2013 article imageBased on this year’s unique holiday calendar, brick-and-mortar retailers will need to focus on how to translate fewer days into more revenue, and it won’t be easy. Let’s first take a quick look at the calendar:

1.   Only 26 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas

What does this mean? Six days fewer than last year will impact sales and the number of shopping visits per store.

2.   Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving

What does this mean? Compared to last year, Hanukkah is moving up from the month of December to November. Also, this is the first and last time Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving unless we live until the year 79,811. This could have a slightly negative impact on December as sales move forward a month.

3.  Christmas is on Wednesday

What does this mean? This can lead to a “super weekend” prior to Christmas that includes December 21 and 22, which will be “mega shopping days.” This also means a strong post holiday weekend for sales.

In order to take full advantage of this crazy holiday calendar, here are 5 tips for retailers to ensure their brick-and-mortar stores are fully capitalizing on these 26 days.

Tip #1: Create an in-store experience that inspires

Customers want environments that inspire, where they learn while having fun, and at the same time, are able to find their products.

Retailers need to take each component (inspire, learn, fun and find) and deliver an experience that achieves those objectives in a way that aligns with the brand image of the company. In-store experiences should be productive, personalized and convenient.

Use in-store analytics to provide real-time and actionable information to understand the who-what-when-where-why of shoppers in the stores.

In past years, brick-and-mortar retailers have been at a disadvantage in understanding these types of metrics that online channels have been using for years. Close the gap and truly understand what is happening inside the four walls on both a micro and macro level.

Tip #2: Make real-time decisions using “Big Data” analytics

Retailers are collecting data 24×7, 365 days a year across all stores. The key is two-fold:

First, make sure there is a comprehensive way to collect information from as many sources that are relevant to how the business is measured.

Second, have real-time access to the information in a format that is actionable in a “quick response” manner.

For example, collect traffic data on a real-time basis and compare it with staffing hours and POS information to fully understand how effectively shoppers are being converted into customers (conversion, average sale, customer to staff ratio).

Utilizing a comprehensive dashboard or reporting tools, retail professionals are equipped to convert “committee decisions” into fast “real-time” decisions that have the potential to generate real-time results.

Tip #3: “Don’t be fooled, you work for her!”

Customers are calling all of the shots this year. They are dictating what they will buy, the price they will pay and the channel/location of where they will shop. Today’s customers expect a personalized marketing plan, a connection with the brand and a dynamic product that has value.

Continued technology advancements, including smart devices, seem to be benefitting the shopper more than the employee, and retailers need to reverse this dilemma. The inherent problem is that almost 70 percent of customers do some type of online searching prior to coming into the physical store. They have already seen the product, read the descriptions, content and reviews. When the shopper walks into the store, they are already armed with an arsenal of information whereas the store employees are less equipped.

Stores have reduced staff, eliminated or shortened employee training, and do not have the infrastructure to support an employee accessible information system at the customer-employee interaction point.

The bottom line: shoppers are better informed about products and services than the staff. Retailers need a “run don’t walk” approach to fix this NOW.

Tip #4: Be proactive and offer pricing transparency

Remember the employee knowledge deficiency in stores mentioned in Tip #3? Here is where it helps to close the gap. Make it simple for the customer. Understand competitor pricing, show comparison pricing (if appropriate), price match (to win not to lose), and most importantly build a compelling brand and take price out of the decision.

Tip #5: Convert social and mobile commerce

For physical stores, it’s a challenge to know how exactly mobile apps and social media will drive more foot traffic. Here’s a new trend that may help which combines social and shopping: Haul videos.

The personalities behind “haul” videos are referred to as “haulers.” They go into brick-and-mortar stores, buy products, take them home and make a “haul” video, which includes detailing the hauler’s likes and dislikes around the products. The videos are then placed on YouTube for all to see often times resulting in hundreds of thousands of viral views.

The “haulers” are equivalent to the “bloggers” of five years ago. Although retailers never before thought that bloggers would be a serious factor in the world of retail, they are today. In fact, many fashion companies have hired professional bloggers to support the brand. Be more attuned to their value and the contributions that they can make in promoting your products and your brand.

With these five key tips in mind, you can optimize sales and seize holiday opportunities. Good luck retail warriors!

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About the Author: Retail expert Shelley E. Kohan has more than 20 years of experience in retail store operations and is the VP of Consulting for RetailNext. She is also an instructor at the Fashion Institute of Technology of the State University of New York, in the Fashion Merchandising Management Program at the Jay and Patty Baker School of Business & Technology.