We’re finally in the home stretch of retail’s busiest period: the holiday season.
With holiday spending projected to reach $656 billion this year, retailers have rightfully been scrambling to get their hands on a healthy serving of the sales pie.
But as the days dwindle down, the competition has only accelerated, and it’s safe to assume that many firms are feeling the pressure.
Here, we round up biggest challenges facing retailers during the final days of the holiday shopping rush.
The Delivery Crunch
With Amazon.com Inc. leading the way, retailers have been under immense pressure in the past few years to offer faster and cheaper shipping. Now, during the holiday season, customer demands for lightning-speed deliveries are at an all-time high — and some firms, quite frankly, cannot afford to keep up.
Offering free shipping to their customers means that many retailers must determine how to absorb those costs and still turn a profit. (Many are unable to replicate Amazon’s Prime format, which offers free shipping on all orders for a $99 annual fee.)
Not to mention, shipping service providers UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service have their own challenges to contend with — not the least of which are inclement weather and accelerated demand.
Getting Customer Service Right
If you’ve visited the aisles of just about any big-box retailer over the past few days, this item needs little explanation. Many stores — regardless of employee training, ramped-up seasonal hiring and other preparations — are overwhelmed, and the evidence is often everywhere.
The list of typical holiday season infractions includes disheveled aisles filled with rummaged over merchandise and tired, frustrated sales associates.
And with many retailers launching new services such as buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) this year, several are working through all of the kinks that accompany the addition of a new platform.
Some side effects include: excessively long lines and frustrated associates who are experiencing “baptism by fire” as they attempt to adjust to a new system during a peak shopping period.
As Amazon proved on Saturday, even the most experienced e-commerce players are not immune to the technical issues that come with operating in the digital realm.
This week, e-commerce only players as well as brick-and-click sellers will shoulder an onslaught of last-minute orders. While many have pulled out all of the stops to create an infrastructure to sustain it, some technical hiccups will be unavoidable.
Some issues may include website crashes or inaccurate product availability information on websites.