Retailers succeed in the 2014 holiday season
Merchants were criticized in the 2013 holiday season for failing in the post-purchase process – many gifts just did not arrive when people expected them to, meaning Santa was a no show for some households. While the onus was not completely on retailers for this failure, carriers shouldered some of the blame for late deliveries, it was still an issue many merchants looked to fix for the 2014 holiday season. Considering the holidays can account for up to 40 percent of merchants’ annual sales, according to the National Retail Federation, it was in sellers’ best interest to make the appropriate adjustments.
Grabbing big wins during the holidays
Data collected by consulting firm The E-tailing Group suggests that merchants did indeed take the 2013 missteps seriously and worked hard to address them, improving everything from customer service to delivery times. The organization’s research found the average delivery time for online orders was actually reduced by 10 percent this year, from 3.8 days to 3.4 days.
This means merchants were getting products out the door and into customers’ homes even faster – not an easy task, considering people are increasingly doing more holiday shopping online or through alternative channels.
“Service today means unprecedented access via every channel and every device where efficiency is an expectation and choice nonnegotiable. Creating a culture across one’s enterprise is no small feat but nonetheless required to achieve the high standards set by shoppers,” the report noted.
Retailers were also exceeding in numerous other areas this holiday season, with these improvements resulting in a better customer experience overall. For example, two-thirds of sellers reported making major improvements to their return policies, which were designed to make the exchange process more transparent and easier for customers to grasp.
“Sixty-six percent of the retailers tracked offered a single return policy for all orders (as opposed to different rules based on the product or whether the item was opened), versus 60 percent a year earlier; 38 percent allowed shoppers to begin the returns process online, an increase from 27 percent, and 64 percent offered a prepaid return label, up from 59 percent,” noted Internet Retailer, citing the research.
Of course, there is always room to improve in this regard. The E-tailing Group analyzed several of the top performers based on numerous metrics, and each merchant still had specific areas where they lagged behind competitors. For example, while some merchants were answering customer inquiries within a half hour, others took upward of eight hours to do the same.
Making improvement a continual goal in 2015
While the holidays may only be a two-month period, that does not mean merchants can afford to ease up the rest of the year. The industry is competitive, and discovering the right formula for success can take months of work. Merchants want to bring their A-game during the holidays, and the time period leading up to that point is the perfect time to implement the right tools and work processes that will help sellers bring it during the end of the year peak periods.
Some retailers made major improvements during the 2014 holidays, but this same time-frame likely exposed some real problem points as well. Now is the perfect time to begin addressing those issues so retailers can set themselves up for even greater success in the 2015 holiday season.