This post originally ran on Retail Minded on July 29, 2014.
Holiday shopping is a distant blip on the radar for consumers during these balmy mid-summer months, but retailers need to prepare now for the inexorable approach of the busy holiday season. Here are three things independent retailers can tackle now to increase profits later.
1. Get Responsive. No, I’m not talking about customer service (though that’s important too). The rise of mobile shopping is pushing retailers to develop responsive, flexible online stores that function seamlessly across all devices. In this hyper-competitive attention economy, fanning the online sales flame during high consumer activity demands a flawless experience wherever shoppers are ready to click “buy.” While it may require an investment, developing a responsive site is likely more affordable than a mobile app—an easier option for big brands.
2. Get Social. Social media has always been a stalwart marketing tool for independent retailers. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest have proven effective channels to engage with social shoppers, highlight new products and inform loyal fans and followers about promotions and sales. Recently, e-commerce has gone super social, with Facebook testing buy buttons directly in brand page posts. Keep up with your social marketing and also stay apprised of new paid social tools heading into the holidays.
3. Get Gifting Ready. You offer gift receipts, gift certificates and maybe physical gift wraps, but is your online store really gifting ready? To maximize online sales, reduce costly cart abandonment and returns; retailers need to provide gift shoppers with the shortest distance to purchase. Buying physical gifts online should be as easy—if not easier—than buying a gift card. Gift details such as clothing size, style, color and shipping address should be put in the hands of recipients to reduce returns and ensure happy recipients. Consider adding gift tabs to your store and using data to curate and highlight popular gifts.
Bonus Item: Get Reading. There are a plethora of good books out there that will inspire, motivate and inform entrepreneurial independent retailers. “Customers Included” is a book by Mark Hurst that aims to answer why companies so often fail to give customers what they want. It’s a timely read for an era when customer-centric strategies are paramount to e-commerce success. I’d also be remiss to not mention “Retail 101: The Guide to Managing and Marketing Your Retail Business” by Nicole Reyhle, founder of Retail Minded. So, grab your beach chair and enjoy some summer reading!