Inflation, labor shortages, higher fuel prices, and supply chain disruptions are set to drive tighter margins for retailers this peak season and into 2023. Shoppers may buy less from fewer retailers during the holidays—which means every retailer needs to compete by optimizing their operations to deliver the best customer experience possible.
While the challenges seem daunting, how businesses respond to them can set them up to thrive this retail peak season and in years to come. How? By investing in the right moves that drive efficiency, cost savings, and convenience for shoppers.
Despite the pressures shoppers are feeling, they still expect a smooth, seamless, omnichannel experience from brands that anticipate their needs, deliver on their promises, and fulfill their orders accurately and on time. Retailers that prepare for peak season now can position themselves to win new customers and retain the loyalty of those who love how it feels to shop with them—even during difficult times.
Let’s explore seven ways retailers and eCommerce brands can optimize their operations and prepare for a successful 2022 peak season and beyond.
7 WAYS TO PREPARE FOR A STRONG FUTURE
1. Put Customer Experience at the Center of Every Decision
When margins get squeezed tighter, decisions often come down to financial ones and, potentially, at the expense of customer experience (CX). Retailers need to keep the customer experience front and center of every business decision they make during peak season—especially the hard ones.
Ask: How will a proposed change impact our customers’ overall experience with our brand? If we make this change, what is the ripple down effect on CX? What can we do to protect CX or compensate for it if we make this decision?
2. Be People and Earth First, Profits Second
Retailers need to make a profit, but companies that make it clear that people and sustainability matter more than money win the hearts of customers and employees. During tough times, brands that connect to the human heart garner loyalty. Customers favor brands that demonstrate how they value the earth and sustainability. The pandemic inspired many brands to excel at connecting to customers on a “we’re in this together” sentiment. That same bond can help weary, socially conscious, financially concerned customers feel connected to the brand.
Ask: How can we communicate warmth, empathy, and our own humanity to our customers in a way that builds rapport? Where can we be more human and make our brand feel as if it understands what our customers and the environment are going through? Where can we be transparent and honest about our challenges (like supply chain issues) so that customers can better understand the situation?
3. Make Employees Feel That They Matter
The employee experience (EX) is just as significant as the customer experience. Many employees throughout the retail ecosystem are overburdened, worn out, and frustrated with the intensity they’ve had to endure since 2020. As supply chain issues continue to irritate customers and as retailers are shifting to store fulfillment methods, many employees have a negative emotional experience throughout their shifts.
High inflation and concerns over a potential recession may reduce turnover, but employees need to know their daily experience at work matters. As employees are expected to do more with less and fill more roles than ever before, retailers need to evaluate how to meaningfully improve the employee experience. Ask employees for their input as what matters to them may not be apparent.
Ask: What frustrates our employees the most—especially during the retail peak season? What changes—big or small—can we make that will improve how they experience their jobs? Where can automation reduce the tedious, rote work and free them to focus on tasks only humans can do (requiring empathy, judgement, and complex problem solving)? How can we make work more efficient, reduce friction, and make it easy for employees to make customers happy?
4. Integrate Your Technology
The pandemic inspired a massive leap forward in digital transformation and technology adoption. But as the dust settles, many retailers are grappling with systems that still don’t connect to each other and existing legacy, on-premises systems as well as newer, cloud-based ones. Now is the time to integrate applications, systems, and data to simplify tech stacks and streamline digital operations. Integrated systems “talk” to each other and can provide a single platform that offers up all the relevant data needed. This fuels an efficient omnichannel experience for customers and employees alike.
Ask: Which systems could benefit from better integrations? How would integrating applications improve CX and EX? Where are we experiencing bottlenecks? What frustrates our employees the most when using our systems? Where can integration help us automate workflows for a more streamlined, omnichannel experience externally and internally?
5. Ensure Real-Time Inventory Visibility
An order management system (OMS) is the central hub for omnichannel operations. A centralized OMS enables seamless integration between order and delivery channels, giving retailers real-time visibility into inventory across the ecosystem. With supply chain delays and out-of-stocks happening this season, it’s important that customers and employees have an accurate, transparent view into product availability, shipping options, and expected delivery times. A modern OMS solution will scale to handle the entire purchase process from transaction, payments, and optimal order fulfillment options to returns, customer service, and business intelligence—and will keep pace with peak demand.
Ask: Does our current OMS integrate with third-party partners and carriers? Can it provide real-time visibility into inventory status across the enterprise? Does it consolidate disparate inventory tracking systems into one single source of truth? Does it enable reverse logistics, customer service, and analytics to help optimize every aspect of the fulfillment process?
6. Make Fraud Detection Seamless to Trusted Customers
Fraud increases during busy retail peak seasons and trusted customers need to be able to make purchases without getting falsely declined. Modern fraud prevention systems built into payment solutions protect your business from fraud while approving legitimate customer transactions. Evaluate current fraud detection solutions and consider upgrading to one that offers payments, tax, and fraud in a single, central integration point for all payment needs.
Ask: Does our fraud solution offer zero fraud liability? Does it support the highest possible conversion rates? Does it offer comprehensive taxes, duties, and fees reconciliation? Can it handle high-risk, high-volume protection?
7. Optimize Order Fulfillment
Orchestrating order fulfillment during the holidays is always a challenge and this retail peak season will prove to be even more intense as supply chain disruptions and labor shortages impact product availability, order fulfillment, and delivery times. Offering multiple fulfillment options such as buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS); buy online, pickup curbside (BOPAC), and ship-to-store gives customers flexible choices.
However, given the constraints shippers and retailers are facing, it’s essential to make sure all fulfillment options are optimized to meet customer expectations. Negotiating shipping and delivery rates with carriers, optimizing order fulfillment processes, and ensuring there is enough capacity to scale fulfillment during peak helps retailers prepare for success—and have a backup plan for disruption.
For those uncertain of their capacity, or in need of extra support, outsourcing fulfillment to a third-party fulfillment provider is an effective solution—especially during challenging economic environments. An outsourced fulfillment provider can relieve retailers from having to handle fulfillment on their own and can provide the OMS to make store fulfillment seamless. Be sure to evaluate fulfillment providers carefully to ensure they meet your needs and have a future-proof strategy for their business.
Ask: Do they offer complete fulfillment services including warehousing, returns processing, and direct-to-customer eCommerce fulfillment? Can they support you with store fulfillment solutions and global fulfillment centers? Are they innovating with AI and robotic automation for faster, more accurate results? Do they provide omnichannel solutions and business analytics? Will they give you real-time visibility into inventory across your ecosystem?
How Radial Can Help
Radial provides solutions to help businesses achieve success during retail peak season and every day of the year, with unique services to help mitigate the impact of inflation and current market challenges. We can help you with:
Fulfillment & Transportation. Streamline order and inventory management across distribution centers and suppliers while protecting margins, scaling seamlessly, fulfilling and shipping orders faster, personalizing customers’ shopping experience, and delivering where and when desired.
Omnichannel Solutions. Create unified brand experiences across digital channels, devices, and physical stores with distributed order management, enterprise-wide inventory visibility, store fulfillment, and customer care tools.
Payments, Tax, & Fraud. Eliminate fraud and deliver a frictionless payment experience that maximizes conversions and removes customer frustration.
Customer Care. Cultivate and build loyalty with your customers through personalized interactions and experiences, all focused on driving customer satisfaction, repeat purchases, and profits.
Rely on the experts to help you prepare for and win the 2022 retail peak season even during a time full of unprecedented challenges. From fulfillment and transportation to fraud protection and customer care, learn how Radial can help you optimize your operations and provide your customers with the omnichannel experiences they expect during the holidays.