How 2017 Will Challenge and Reward Retailers

Here are five steps to get ahead for the New Year.

Louis DeJianne | UPS

Cooler temperatures, seasonal hiring and final preparations for the holiday shopping season are upon us. 

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Omnichannel continues to evolve from a strategy to how shopping is done.

Before we know it, the headlines and water cooler conversations will evolve from this year’s holiday sales to what the New Year will bring.

The major storylines shouldn’t be too hard to predict. Online shopping projections, especially mobile, continue to rise. Consumers want orders fulfilled more quickly.

Omnichannel continues to evolve from a strategy to how shopping is done.

The challenge and opportunity for many retailers will be how they transform their shopping experience to adapt to changing consumer expectations.

Product selection and marketing are only part of this equation. How to target and engage with new and existing customers is every bit as important.

For some retailers, the coming year will mark a radical departure from their typical playbook. Here are five ways retailers can maximize their financial, operational and human resources investments.

1

info button 1Adopt an “Always-On” Strategy

Online shoppers expect to buy what they want, how and when they want it. You can start with a website, social media presence and live chat.

Make sure every touch point properly represents your brand.

The customer’s path to purchase begins just as easily on social media and online marketplaces as it does wandering through a mixed-use community or shopping plaza.

Tailor search engine marketing and paid search campaigns to reinforce your online, mobile and brick-and-mortar storefronts.

Make sure your returns process reinforces the experience you want customers to remember.

According to the 2016 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study, consumers report that 38 percent of their purchases are cross channel, combining online and in-store shopping activities.

For example, 23 percent of online shoppers purchase products through social media sites. Half of online shoppers report using ship to store, and 70 percent of those consumers purchase additional items while picking up their online order.

Present the same brand experience at every touch point.

info button 2 yellowImprove Your Omnichannel Strategy

Fulfillment is one of the most impactful areas where retailers can improve their omnichannel experience.

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Present the same brand experience at every touch point. 

Fulfillment strategies vary based on the retailer’s footprint, network of stores, percent of online orders and customer density.

A qualified supply chain consultant can identify the opportunities to increase efficiency and improve customer service.

Be prepared – the optimal solution could include more inventory to more quickly service your customers.

Check out same-day delivery services, such as Deliv, for customers who desire that level of speed.

Remember that your online presence in an integral part of your website and brick-and-mortar storefronts.

The UPS study found that most product searches begin at online marketplaces – more than retailers’ other channels and search engines.

2

info button 3 yellowEliminate Cross-Border Barriers

Consumers actively seek products from international retailers when searching for unique items (42 percent) and brands or products that aren’t readily available in their native region (38 percent), according to UPS research.

If your website is already receiving traffic from international shoppers, build on that momentum by proactively marketing to them and other shoppers in their region.

Another strategy is to identify products you sell best in other countries.

Canada, Australia and the UK, for example, are ideal places to start because of their common language.

Use a reputable third party vendor, such as UPS i-parcel, to implement marketing programs, welcome online shoppers in their native language, convert pricing to the shopper’s local currency, offer familiar payment options and full delivery visibility.

Display all duties, taxes and fees in your customer’s online shopping cart, along with flexible shipping options, to reduce abandoned orders. And collect those fees at the time of purchase to ensure a seamless consumer experience.

3

info button 4 yellowMake Returns Satisfying

Online shoppers say the two most important elements of a great returns experience are free returns shipping and a hassle-free, no-questions-asked returns policy.

According to the National Retail Federation, returns are three times more prevalent for online retailers and among the lowest areas of customer satisfaction.

Whether your company is a pure-play online or multichannel retailer, a clear and easy-to-use returns process is paramount.

By tracking customer purchases and returns data, you can identify shopping and returns patterns by customer.

Use that data to tailor the consumer’s experience while minimizing your returns costs and increasing opportunities for residual sales.

The UPS study found that 40 percent of online shoppers prefer to ship returns back to the retailer while 60 percent prefer to return items to the store. Roughly 70 percent of shoppers that returned items to a store made an additional purchase during the returns process.

Welcome and reward those shoppers in an engaging way that spurs additional sales.

info button 5 yellowFoster Fanatical Customer Relationships

Never underestimate the power of the customer relationship. While styles change from season to season, building and maintaining a culture that resonates with shoppers can stand the test of time.

Well-informed, well-trained sales associates and customer service representatives are powerful assets to quickly help shoppers find what they want – and in a way that delivers on your company’s brand promise.

To facilitate this experience, invest in inventory transparency for employees and customers.

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Never underestimate the power of the customer relationship.

According to the UPS study, 58 percent of online shoppers find it important to view a retailer’s inventory status online when searching for and selecting products, and 53 percent find back-in-stock alerts valuable.

Utilize customer data to empower suggestive selling techniques.

The UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study found that only 59 percent of shoppers are satisfied with product recommendations based on past browsing and buying behavior.

That’s a competitive advantage waiting to be leveraged.

Survey your customers to learn what they find valuable.

Develop a plan that prioritizes your customers’ desires and your company’s needs. Be bold and measured in your pursuits. And shape your business so it’s well-positioned for the years ahead. goldbrown2

This article first appeared on Innovative Retail Technologies and was republished with permission. 

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Louis DeJianne is the director of consumer goods, apparel and retail for UPS.

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Reprinted with permission of Longitudes, the UPS blog devoted to the trends shaping the global economy.

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