Guest Column | November 10, 2021

Making The Most Of The Holiday Season, Despite Supply Chain Slowdowns

By Meyar Sheik, Kibo

Retail Holiday COVID

As COVID-19 cases retreat once again and the holiday season approaches, consumer demand is surging. But despite the appetite for shopping and gift giving, the current labor shortage and supply chain pressures threaten the economic recovery for many brands and retailers across the country and globally. These disruptions have the potential to overshadow the positive trends in the industry as we approach the holiday season.

Brands and retailers have repeatedly been told to invest in the latest and greatest technology since the onset of the global pandemic. And most of these companies doubled down on critical functionality such as BOPIS, Curbside Pickup, and inventory availability features, but even the most technologically savvy retail leaders have room for improvement. In fact, according to the Omnichannel Retail Index 2021, conducted by Fit for Commerce and commissioned by Kibo, “The average adoption of best practices across all retailers and brands in the Index is 62% – up from 54% in 2019. The highest scoring retailer in the Index has implemented just 72% of best practices, only 10% higher than the average score.” What’s more, the least adopted best practice, the ability to sort products by “On Sale” terms on the product listing page, was only incorporated by 6% of retailers included in the Index.

With so much at stake this holiday season, retailers need to know which technological investments and best practices will have the largest impact on their bottom line. With such little time left before the holidays, retailers should take incremental steps toward improving their order management, omni-channel, and personalization strategies now to receive the biggest wallet share from shoppers.

Optimizing Order Management Around A Disrupted Supply Chain

Today, the supply chain is an overarching challenge for every retailer, whether you are CVS, Home Depot, or Adidas because strained supply chains will limit assortments and merchandise availability. With this, every brand and retailer must work smarter when it comes to matching assortments with customer preferences. It doesn’t matter how great your prices are or how wide your assortment is; if you can’t deliver it, you will lose even your most loyal shoppers. Amazon has perfected this by developing a diverse supply chain over the years, giving the e-commerce giant another advantage over the competition. With the supply chain disruptions top-of-mind and e-commerce competition at an all-time high, order management is no longer a boring background task, it’s a critical part of a positive shopping experience.

There are a few ways that brands and retailers can optimize their order management systems and their inventories, but all the options come back to improved communication. For example, retailers should optimize the online experience so the items that are in stock or could be delivered within the desired time frame are showcased. Additionally, retailers should call out every possible delivery method for the consumer. Regardless of the location, retail companies should investigate ship from store and inventory rerouting opportunities on an ongoing basis to truly take advantage of the inventory in stock wherever they have it.

Introducing More Personalized Experiences To Stand Out From The Crowd

Personalization has become a critical opportunity for retailers to shine in the crowded e-commerce landscape. By giving the prospective buyer a shopping experience that is catered to their needs and wishes, retailers can leave a lasting impression that highlights convenience and reliability. Yet despite the benefits, there are still a wide variety of untapped opportunities for brands and retailers in the realm of personalization. In fact, the Fit for Commerce Omnichannel Retail Index 2021 found that only 33% of retailers incorporated a ‘previously searched terms’ function in their search bar and only 53% of retailers recommended related products in the cart. These are approachable routes to personalization that can enhance the shopping experience for customers while improving basket sizes and repeat purchase rates.

Yet personalization does not only apply to the e-commerce store. Personalization also can occur via mobile app, in-store journeys, and any store communication. According to the same report from Fit for Commerce, only 2% of retailers had an option for consumers to select how often they want newsletters or SMS outreach, and only 44% even used SMS marketing. By personalizing all customer touchpoints, retail companies can connect with potential buyers and showcase what it is about their brand that sets it apart from the competition and why the buyer should engage with them this holiday season.

Strengthening Omnichannel Capabilities For The Channel-Agnostic Customer

Customers are back to shopping in-store, but the new online shopping habits developed during COVID-19 are not going away. The holiday season likely won’t be dramatically different from 2020. We will see more in-store shopping because of vaccinations, which may neutralize or negatively impact e-commerce performance, but every element of the omni-channel retail experience, from e-commerce to in-store to Buy Online Pickup in Store (BOPIS), will be relevant this year. All these options have created a sense of channel-blindness as customers now demand a seamless, branded omni-channel experience.

With this in mind, there are opportunities for brands and retailers to invest in better mobile experiences. Mobile traffic percentages are increasing steadily along with mobile revenue; however, mobile conversions are not as high as they should be. This is emphasized in the Omnichannel Retail Index 2021 as researchers found that only 32% of consumers were offered innovative experiences on mobile. There are tremendous opportunities in this area like incentive or loyalty programs, personalized wish lists, and in-store navigation experiences that can enhance the mobile experience and encourage purchasing across all touchpoints and customer journeys.

Investing For This Holiday Season And The Next

There are still many opportunities for retailers to take advantage of this holiday season. Yet with supply chains delayed and fulfillment extending into January, it’s important to have these opportunities prioritized and sorted out long-term. The switch to a more seamless e-commerce experience will not reverse, so brands and retailers must invest in improved customer experiences now to succeed amid the competitive market in the future.

About The Author

Meyar Sheik is President and Chief Commerce Office at Kibo.