In this on-demand economy retailers must provide visibility into customer reviews of an item or inventory availability of products across all of their locations.

Every year online spending during the holiday shopping season breaks the previous year’s record. The 2018 holiday shopping season saw shoppers spend a whopping $126 billion online. And that growth is likely to continue this year. To explore the strategies retailers can take to remain competitive during the busiest shopping season of the year, Internet Retailer spoke with Chris Benner, master industry principal at Oracle NetSuite, a cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) software provider.

Oracle NetSuite Chris Benner

Chris Benner, master industry principal, Oracle NetSuite

IR: What trends should retailers have on their radars this holiday shopping season?

CB: More retailers are beginning to leverage their physical stores to stay competitive during the holiday shopping season. They’re updating in-store technology and enabling in-store omnichannel fulfillment. Using technology platforms, such as iPads or other mobile devices, to look up and order products in the store allows retailers to provide ecommerce-like shopping experiences to in-store customers. And offering buy online pickup in store (BOPIS) or deliver-from-store is another great way to leverage the store during peak seasons. Retailers are also implementing shipping automation, such as high-speed labelling, to get products on trucks and out to customers faster during the holidays.

IR: What challenges do they face this holiday season?

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CB: Retailers are struggling to keep up with consumers’ constantly evolving shopping habits. In this on-demand economy, consumers expect to be able to buy what they want, when they want it and receive it quickly—no matter what they’re shopping for. This is especially true during the holidays. That means, for example, retailers must provide visibility into customer reviews of an item or inventory availability of products across all of their locations. But many retailers have older, custom-built or on-premise systems that don’t provide the data they need. The inability of those systems to adapt to business changes not only prevents retailers from meeting or exceeding their holiday season goals, but it also inhibits overall business growth.

IR: How can retailers overcome these holiday shopping season challenges?

CB: It all comes down to having access to accurate data and building a strategy that leverages data to meet the high customer demands during the holidays. Data gives retailers a clear and accurate view into their inventory across all their locations—warehouses, distribution centers and physical stores. That inventory visibility means retailers can offer customers a much more satisfying customer experience wherever they’re shopping, regardless of whether they’re online or in a store. It also allows them to provide several different fulfillment options.

IR: How can technology help them leverage their data to succeed during the holidays?

CB: One of the best ways retailers can maximize sales is to use a cloud-based unified platform, which stores all of a retailer’s data in one central location. NetSuite’s unified platform, for example, was built to deliver an ecommerce-like experience in the store—for both customers and store associates. It also provides store associates with all of the item, customer and inventory data that is available in the back-end—such as customer reviews.

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A unified platform gives retailers real-time visibility into accurate inventory data across all locations and allows them to offer many different fulfillment options—such as buy online and ship anywhere, buy online and pickup in a store, or buy anywhere and have the order shipped from the closest store or warehouse.

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