Giving your team members high-quality tools and training will result in better engaged, more productive, and brand-loyal employees, and their enthusiasm will translate into more satisfied customers and stronger sales.

Bart Mroz, founder and CEO, Sumo Heavy

Bart Mroz, founder and CEO, Sumo Heavy

As the saying goes, readiness is everything. Although opportunities for retailers to boost their sales this holiday season are plentiful, many retailers will underperform because of a failure to adequately plan and organize their holiday campaigns.

For a majority of retailers, holiday sales account for a hefty portion of their annual revenues, in many cases from 20 percent to 30 percent, so achieving the highest possible holiday ROI is critical.

To ensure optimal holiday readiness, a unified plan, coordinated processes, well-prepared teams, and governance measures must be put in place. The organizing, motivating, and oversight that are necessary for success must come from the top down.

Tools for Success

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The success of your holiday campaign relies heavily on the capabilities and readiness of your team. If your staff is equipped with old, slow, outmoded systems, your efforts are undermined at the start. As customer experience expert Alan Porter relates, giving your team members high-quality tools and training will result in better engaged, more productive, and brand loyal employees, and their enthusiasm will translate into more satisfied customers and stronger sales.

Put the team through a scenario in which it’s 12 a.m. when your website crashes.

For example, giving your customer support agents dashboards through which they can easily call up customer purchase histories, returns, complaints, and current activities will increase customer satisfaction. Equipping your marketers and email campaign operations teams with the right marketing automation and analytics systems will enable them to increase conversion rates.

Investing in a centralized database that contains 360-degree customer profiles will enable your marketing and merchandising teams to better segment and personalize messages and offerings, which translates into increased sales. Retailers are employing chatbots not only to boost customer engagement, but to reduce the workload of sales and support teams.

Make Your Staff a Well-Oiled Machine

To ace the holidays, all team members should have a solid understanding of their roles and should be well-rehearsed and ready to pull together to execute a well-conceived plan. Your dev team should be on high alert for any performance issues, bugs, and other problems that might come up, because even small hiccups can result in tens of thousands of dollars in lost sales, not to mention unhappy customers.

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A good way to prepare your team is to run them through some fire drills, create a chain of command, and set emergency procedures. For example, put the team through a scenario in which it’s 12 a.m. when your website crashes. Determine who responds and when, and if the problem escalates, who else will get involved.

By enforcing a disciplined regimen of training, practice, and testing you can ensure that your team will function as a crack unit, with no lapses and fumbling during holiday crunch time.

Smart Holiday Planning

Planning your holiday strategy in accordance with the best available market intelligence is a sound way to gain competitive advantages and maximize your holiday sales. Understanding customer preferences and motivations will enable the team to synchronize their marketing, product offering, and customer service efforts around satisfying customers.

Arm your team with valuable market intelligence, such as how customers are behaving and what they desire, so the team is working with serving the customer in mind. Make sure your team is aware of trending styles, buying patterns, deal-making and deal-breaking issues–such as shipping and delivery options and competitive price ranges.

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Competitive advantages can be gained by focusing team planning and execution on key areas in which other retailers are falling short, such as email campaigns and mobile commerce. As Forrester Research notes, “There is no question that mobile moments are the battleground to win, serve, and retain your customers.”

Customer Service Is Critical

It cannot be emphasized too strongly how important it is to provide caring and responsive customer support. Surveys show that buying decisions are based on how well customers feel they are being treated, and even more, that customers will spend more with companies they believe provide exceptional customer service.

Surveys also show that many customers are unhappy with the lack of attentiveness and quality of help they receive in stores. With many customers eagerly seeking information and recommendations during the holiday season, it pays to invest in a cadre of knowledgeable, personable, and well-trained sales associates who ensure that customers receive all the help they desire.

Ask yourself, does your support team have enough help for the holidays? The customer service team must be prepared to handle the spike in queries, complaints, and returns. Assess your team’s resources and needs and supplement with additional help if necessary.

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The holidays are a critical time for retailers, and also the most stressful times for e-commerce teams. Bringing in help will reduce some of the burden on your support team, so they can focus on delivering exceptional experiences rather than simply scrambling to keep things together.

The holiday season is a time of high spirits and good cheer. Retailers that equip, prepare, and energize their staffs, while instilling a warm and caring attitude towards customers, will see the results in the high customer satisfaction and sales that are generated.

Sumo Heavy is a digital commerce consulting firm based in New York and Philadelphia

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