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Retail holiday shopping: How to prepare for seasonal events all year long

Summary

Tips, stats, and insights to help retailers plan their seasonal and holiday shopping events.

Read time: 8 minutes

Sales events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday during the winter holidays probably come to mind when thinking of seasonal shopping. Sure, October to December is the busiest shopping time of the year. But retailers are always preparing for the next big revenue-generating campaign — like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, or back to school to name a few.

Consumer seasonal spending reminder

Holiday sales events make up a considerable portion of every retailer’s revenue. According to the NRF¹:

  • 2022 Valentine’s Day consumer spending reached $23.9 billion

  • 2022 back-to-school spending was predicted to reach nearly $37 billion

  • Mother's Day spending was expected to total $31.7 billion – up $3.6 billion from 2021’s high

While seasonal shopping can help retailers reap revenue rewards, without proper planning and technology in place, it can strain resources. Why allow roadblocks to hinder a successful shopping season? Holiday readiness is critical — savvy planning and smart technology partnerships can help you avoid challenges.

Here are some important questions to consider while preparing your seasonal shopping campaigns.

  • How long will it take to onboard seasonal or temporary staff?

  • Are your network and peripheral IoT devices secured?

  • Does your organization have adequate technical personnel or IT talent to quickly fix and repair your robot devices and digital displays for maintenance, or if they fail?

  • Can you enhance your buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) process?

Let's look at how to prepare for your next big retail holiday seasonal shopping event.

Starting retail employees off in a positive way can be essential for retention. According to a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the U.S. retail employee turnover rate is around 60%.

Simplify the onboarding process for seasonal employees with automation

Retailers, logistics, and fulfillment centers recruit and hire thousands of seasonal and temporary employees to handle the surge of holiday shoppers. The hiring process can get tedious and cumbersome, creating negative experiences for candidates and human resources.

Starting employees off in a positive way can be essential for retention. According to a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report, the average retail employee turnover rate in the US is around 60% putting the retail industry in the top four behind hospitality (130%), arts and entertainment (127%), and construction (69%).²

According to Gallup analytics, 70% of employees have had positive onboarding experiences and say they have "the best possible job." These team members are also 2.6 times as likely to be extremely satisfied with their workplace and more likely to stay. For retailers focused on retaining employees, excellent onboarding is essential.³

Intelligent automated business services can help expedite and streamline the onboarding process for new or seasonable employees. Automated workflows eliminate manual paper-based processes that leave room for error, create redundancies, burden team members unnecessarily, and limit visibility.

Automation can also assist with repetitive recruiting and human resources tasks like posting job openings on multiple sites, scheduling interviews, background checks, and approving offers. A digitized system allows retail organizations to scan and capture data and gather critical tax info from the early application process to payroll.

Pro Tip: Need back-office business processing services, but lack the infrastructure or support? Outsourcing can help. Ricoh provides services and solutions you may find beneficial to your bottom line.

Check out this article, "How to overcome back-office information overload," for additional details on our digitization, data processing, and workflow automation offerings that can help retailers manage and streamline AP/AR, invoicing, and in-bound and out-bound mail.

Ensure holiday readiness – improve your buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) program

Like you, retail customers are beyond busy during holiday shopping seasons. Whether back-to-school shopping or Black Friday, it's essential to offer a BOPIS or click-and-collect program and vital that the process continues running smoothly.

Consider a variety of factors that affect BOPIS programs. Are you well-staffed? Should you consider a smart or intelligent parcel locker program?

According to a recent survey commissioned by Ricoh and conducted online by The Harris Poll among over 2,000 American adults, we discovered that more than 3 in 4 Americans (77%) would consider using a locker to receive online purchases with a convenient location (53%) and convenient hours (50%) topping the list of features that would be likely to motivate Americans to receive online purchases at a locker.⁴

Ensure your BOPIS program is a breeze for customers looking to save time. Cloud solutions make contactless in-store package pick up easier and work seamlessly with customers' mobile devices to support and manage delivery.

BOPIS has proven to be a true win-win for both customers and retailers. Retailers see an uptick in sales while consumers enjoy the convenience. According to a National Retail Federation study, 70% of customers believe BOPIS improves the entire shopping experience.⁵

Click and collect locker solutions

Retailers who have yet to invest in automated e-commerce fulfillment centers can opt for a BOPIS click-and-collect locker solution to solve the increase in seasonal shopper demands.

Click-and-collect e-commerce locker solutions can be implemented quickly in a small footprint within the store. Shoppers can take advantage of the ease and flexibility to buy online along with fast, low-touch pickups minus the high shipping costs—vital when customers are stocking the tree instead of Santa’s elves.

What’s more, freight, delivery, and fuel savings allow retailers to reduce expenses and emissions, which can help with corporate sustainability efforts.

Pro Tip: Customizable, secured locker systems can turn any retail store into a decentralized warehouse supporting same-day and next-day e-commerce order fulfillment. Plus, by placing lockers in a strategic location, you can drive additional foot traffic and increase in-store conversion rates.

Safeguard your network for seasonal shopping and beyond

Elevating the overall customer and employee experience starts with your retail chains’ network. Whether it is your digital signage, mobile POS systems, or ensuring communication with customers about order status and delivery – make sure your network doesn’t leave you hanging during the holidays.

Regular testing, upgrading, and deployments are critical with so much reliance on your network infrastructure. Is your IT staff prepared?

Additionally, cybersecurity awareness should always be top of mind, especially around holiday shopping events. All employees—from your store assistants checking their BYO devices to corporate teams checking emails—must be versed in the dangers of retail cybersecurity threats like ransomware, phishing, and social engineering. Your IT staff can help with training.

It’s no secret tech talent has become increasingly challenging to source. Often referred to as Managed Services Providers or MSPs, a third-party group of tech pros can provide various benefits to your retail organization all year.

What are the benefits of third-party outsourced managed IT services?

  • Controls costs: pay only for what you need, when you need it, at a fixed monthly fee, plan better for upgrades, and save by bundling IT support services, hardware, and software

  • Improves scalability: quickly and efficiently implement and deploy technology, training, and management – streamline your business for accelerated growth

  • Keeps you competitive: gain easy access to enterprise-level technology and expertise, empower your business to compete with larger retailers

  • Minimizes downtime: maintain business continuity, gain reliability, and protect your retail organization from site or equipment failures, expired software licenses, and more

  • Increases security: enhance protection against ever-present, always-evolving threats such as malware, ransomware, and DDoS, become more flexible, agile, and dynamic

Pro Tip: Working closely with third-party outsourced managed IT services provides expert onsite and remote tech support to ensure retailers' networks are secured and running correctly. Leveraging Ricoh’s resources allows you to keep your existing IT team focused on critical infrastructure, in-flight projects, and more.

Streamline and simplify the seasonal returns process

How often do you open a gift and immediately toss it in the regift pile or cringe, knowing the hassle that awaits with the return process? Returns are a year-round issue that leads to increased product waste and adds pressure to the supply chain.

Visual augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies aid in helping online or e-commerce customers get the proper size or fit and can reduce or eliminate the need for returns or exchanges. If fit, size, and product “feel” can be better understood with visual tech, retailers can expect fewer returns up front vs. gift return woes as a seasonal phenomenon.

Retail returns skyrocketed to more than $761 billion in 2021 – accounting for an average of 16.6 percent of total retail shopping, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Appriss Retail. That’s a jump from an average 10.6% return rate in 2020.

The NRF also reported that retail sales during the November to December 2021 holiday season hit $887 billion, surpassing the 11.5 percent growth forecast. Retailers were said to expect 17.8 percent, or $158 billion, of merchandise sold during the holiday timeframe to be returned, on average.⁶

As retailers continue to sort out the cost of free returns, some customers count on in-store returns at physical, brick-and-mortar stores. Though retailers can reduce shipping fees, it can still cost up to $1.40 in labor costs per transaction, plus inconvenient wait times as shoppers interact with sales staff to complete the return.

A gap remains for retailers, getting the converted sale or exchange of a returned item. Was it a size, color miss, or hard return? Rather than shoppers simply returning items, conveniently located lockers can provide readily available items for exchange and easy pick up.

According to a recent online study commissioned by Ricoh and conducted online by The Harris Poll, we discovered three-quarters of Americans (76%) would consider using a locker to return online purchases. Convenient location (52%) and convenient hours (46%) top the features that would likely motivate Americans to choose a locker to return their online purchase.⁴

Pro Tip: Installing a customized intelligent or smart locker system for parcel delivery and product or merchandise return can offer a better customer and employee experience. Labor costs associated with locker returns are typically minimal, plus the process is fast and efficient for customers. Ricoh offers intelligent or smart locker systems – visit this page on our website for additional info.

Automate and manage daily tasks to free up staff

Nearly all retailers are drowning in unstructured data and paper documents, unable to convert insights into valuable, accessible, and searchable information.

Freeing up your retail staff can be especially important during big holidays or seasonal sales. Let automated services organize your digital content, scan and capture paper documents, and deliver the real-time data needed for analytics and strategic decision-making.

Deploying digital processes help control costs and increase productivity during busy seasonal promotions or at any time. Implementing a capture and conversion service or solution process can do more than scan your documents. Intelligent document and data capture tools make sense of incoming information and automatically classify, sort, index, tag, and extract data reducing tedious work for your employees.

Pro Tip: Unlock the value of your data from a secured, easy-to-use cloud-based portal with Ricoh's Intelligent Business Platform (IBP). IBP offers applications and services that align with your retail business processes. Deploying IBP brings consistency and continuity to your operations while you reap the rewards of becoming more informed and more connected with your employees and customers.

Robotics and automation for retail

While your staff takes a well-deserved vacation, robots can pitch in. As an ongoing, 24/7 solution, robotics and automation can be incredibly helpful – offsetting continued retail labor shortages and increasing labor costs.

According to Forrester, two-thirds of global business and retail technology pros are adopting AI and robots and cobots—ideal for security and delivery and process automation to help to support self-service.⁷

  • Automation and robotics assist with everything from cleaning floors to stocking shelves

  • Self-checkout kiosks and frictionless payment options save time

  • Delivery drones can get items to customers faster

  • Robotics handle monotonous tasks allowing retailers to refocus staff members, which can drive sales and create better work experiences

  • Cobots in logistics and supply chain roles reduce stock-out shortages and losses due to administrative or human errors

Pro Tip: Need additional tech support to service your robots and automation tools? A third-party tech service group such as Ricoh’s Service Advantage can support critical automation technologies from robots in the supply chain and back of the store to cash recyclers and in-store cashless technologies to drones for delivery. Third-party tech support and service teams or MSPs can absorb the pain of having multiple vendors with one agnostic partner that keeps your technology always on.

What is digital twin technology, and how can it help retailers?

Digital twin technology allows businesses to create a digital replica of nearly anything, thus empowering teams to make data-driven decisions based on the results of the digital copy. This technology is transforming e-commerce.

Visual technologies provide a clear image ideal for product placement and physical customer journeys and offer more accurate apparel fit for shoppers. Customers gain a better feel for how items will drape or move. Visual tech can also help within the store by capturing information along physical aisle routes during cleaning or inventory robot activities identifying low or stock outages requiring replenishment.

Digital twin data can help with simulation, analysis, forecasting, decision-making, and optimization – simplifying things for your vendors and customers. This technology can be vital for anticipating supply chain issues and shipping delays before big holiday shopping seasons.

Pro Tip: Go beyond digitization with services that include designing and implementing strategies for functions like processing AP/AR, coupons, and checks to help meet your needs and requirements.

Integrate augmented reality (AR) to create better customer experiences

Trying to select an artificial Christmas tree can be challenging. Give your customers a way to see if that pre-lit fake fir tree will fit in their space with augmented reality options via their mobile devices.

Augmented reality is a powerful sales driver for physical stores and e-commerce shops. Moreover, 66% of shoppers admit they wouldn't mind using AR to help with purchasing decisions.⁸

AR makes online selling easier and gives customers a better idea of how furniture will look in their home or if that designer purse will hold their sustainable water bottle and mobile phone. By creating virtual simulations, customers can become more confident and comfortable with online purchases – they may even be less inclined to return items.

Additional options like Holotwin technology give retailers another innovative way to engage customers. The technology works with green screens and lets retailers create new realistic virtual reality-style campaigns using video content that truly captures customers' attention.

Pro Tip: AR experiences can also include helpful virtual educational information that could assist retailers with driving conversion rates. For example, Ricoh’s tech solutions team recently used AR to help a grocery retailer provide important nutritional information within the store’s pharmacy area – a creative way to remind and educate shoppers and possibly increase basket size during their shopping trip.

Seasonal shopping takeaways

Whether you're automating the onboarding process for seasonal hires and back-office administrative tasks, tapping into closed-loop digital twin technology to keep holiday shipments on schedule, or using AR to create better customer experiences, Ricoh offers various services, solutions, and support.

Check out Ricoh’s retail offerings to learn more.

Survey Method:

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Ricoh from Nov. 1-3, 2022, among 2,041 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within +/- 2.8 percentage points using a 95% confidence level. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact john.greco@ricoh-usa.com.

  1. 1https://nrf.com/topics/retail-holiday-and-seasonal-trends
  2. 2https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/jolts.pdf
  3. 3https://www.gallup.com/workplace/353096/practical-tips-leaders-better-onboarding-process.aspx
  4. 4Survey conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll on behalf of Ricoh from Nov. 1-3, 2022, among 2,041 U.S. adults ages 18 and older.
  5. 5https://cdn.nrf.com/sites/default/files/2020-01/cv8-convenience-final-jan-9-2020.pdf
  6. 6https://nrf.com/media-center/press-releases/retail-returns-increased-761-billion-2021-result-overall-sales-growth
  7. 7https://www.forrester.com/report/predictions-2023-retail/RES178189?ref_search=0_1667310138381
  8. 8https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/consumer-insights/consumer-trends/ar-shopping-interest-statistics/

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