Preparing for Retail Peak Season: A Guide

2022's peak retail season is right around the corner. Beat the rush and maintain high customer service levels with our essential guide...

The peak retail season of 2022 is fast approaching, so retailers should be starting to gear up their teams in preparation for the busiest (and most exciting) time of the year.

Staying ahead of the curve has always been a huge part of the territory when it comes to e-commerce, and peak season is no exception to the rule.

Surviving as a retailer and coming out on top against competitors during this time relies on being able to predict what the customer wants before they even know it themselves.

To make sure your customers and staff are well-supported, alongside making sure that your business is successful, read on for our complete guide to find out the most important aspects to focus on this year.

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Getting your business prepared

The pandemic caused e-commerce retailers to make huge changes. From ramping up technology to keep personal data safe, to boosting the morale of staff that might now work remotely – the pressures of the peak sales season mean it’s never too early to start planning for this hectic time of year.

The last two peak seasons have both started earlier than ever before, and the big sales have stretched over longer periods. Black Friday sales now start in mid-October, and Cyber Monday sales now extend over the whole week in November.

Customer expectations are also at an all-time high. They have become accustomed to free or low-cost shipping thanks to retailers like Amazon, and since the pandemic the amount of choice they now have is overwhelming. Big and small businesses alike have set up their own e-commerce sites, creating an even more competitive market – if that’s even possible in one of the largest global industries.

However, it would be naïve to say that the industry will continue to see the growth that it has over the last two years. The cost-of-living crisis should be a massive consideration when preparing for this peak season, as many customers won’t have the disposable income that they have in previous years. This could affect sales predictions and could mean that the season sees a downturn compared to the 1.4% sales increase of November 2021.

Keeping up with the latest technology

Order management

The last thing you want the week of Black Friday is delayed shipping. Or worse, for orders to be lost or forgotten completely.

Streamlining your order management into omnichannel order management systems could be the solution for ensuring these scenarios won’t become a horrible reality halfway through your retail peak season. That’s because this will keep all the channels together and make sure nothing is lost along the way – regardless of whether the customer wants doorstep delivery, buy online pick-up in store (BOPIS), or buy online pick-up curb side (BOPAC).

Artificial intelligence

As customers embrace online shopping, the trust they put in online retailers needs to be matched by the fraud-prevention technology that e-commerce businesses use.

AI can detect typical customer behaviours, along with any deviations. Although it could come at a large cost to your business to keep this technology up to date, it is the difference between customers feeling like their data is safe or losing their trust in online retail.

Being able to trust that their data (whether that be their profile, card details or contact information) is safely secured can directly improve customer satisfaction. In turn, this might just gain you more repeat customers.

 Utilising analytics

Staying ahead of your competitors can be a tricky business when everything is moving so fast.

However, an investment in quicker and more accurate analytics will help you to understand what trends, anomalies and predictions are emerging, as they’re emerging. This can be used to move quicker than your competitors and change up your strategies if necessary.

Essentially, you’ll have more knowledge of the industry and how your business is performing in real-time, which is a priceless asset for any e-commerce business.

How can I boost team morale and support my staff?

Better morale is directly proven to boost productivity in the workplace, whether that’s remote or in-person, so it’s always worth investing both time and money into. That way, your staff will feel more motivated to muck in and go the extra mile during key seasonal periods.

1. Establish regular rewards and incentives

 One of the best ways to improve morale among staff is to establish clear rewards and incentives. Offering vouchers, awards for achievement and even days off are just some options for ways to make sure your team know that they are appreciated and valued – especially when they are expected to work harder during busier periods.

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2. Arm them with knowledge

 If one of the ways you combat the peak retail season is by hiring seasonal staff, it’s important that they are given the same training and resources as existing staff. Not only will this make them feel more supported, but it will also improve the quality of your customer care if every member of your team is armed with the same knowledge.

3. Ask for feedback

Improving all-around communication during busy times will keep your employees in the loop about what’s going on, and any goals or issues the business is working on. Knowing what your employees think about everything from how the business is run to ideas for campaigns will help to keep things flowing smoothly throughout the peak season.

Meet the people

Fine-tuning your customer-centric approach

Without your customers getting the right service, you won’t see the results you want.

If your customers can’t find the information they need, experience long waiting times from customer service, or find themselves unhappy with the overall service from a retailer, then they will most likely go elsewhere.

To make sure you have a successful peak season, here are a few things to think about doing:

  • Reducing average handling time (AHT) – The less time that customers need to spend getting answers (without compromising on quality), the better.
  • Keep e-commerce return rates low – Make changes to your returns and exchanges policies, invest in your review system, or improve images and descriptions. There are many ways you can improve your return rates, and in turn, customer satisfaction.
  • Provide a guarantee of self-service to the customer – Ensure your customers can find out as much information as possible themselves. Consider ways you can streamline your query responses so that you don’t end up wasting your customers’ time and your own money. Our own simple, streamlined solution for your inbound communications combines everything into a single feed.

Customer retention after the peak

Convenience is key when it comes to ensuring your customers keep coming back to you after the sales are over.

So, what are some ways to improve your customer retention now that you’ve provided them with your excellent customer care?

  • Reward loyalty – Provide discounts for your loyal customers that create accounts, provide their contact information, and order repeatedly.
  • Give the customer what they’ve become accustomed to – Free or low-cost shipping at the very least has become the norm. Since customers are likely to abandon their carts if the shipping costs too much, you should consider ways to reduce it wherever you can – whether this be through shipping membership programmes or increasing the costs of products themselves.
  • Personalise their experience – If they bought three pairs of trainers in their last order, the chances are that they like the trainers you sell. Showing them more of what they already love is a basic marketing tool that can be a great advantage for competing against other businesses.

Prompt and responsive customer service is crucial during peak seasonal sales periods. That’s why lots of brands trust Gnatta to deliver contact centre support their staff can rely on when it matters most. For more information about our products and services, visit the homepage.

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