14 Things the Pandemic Taught Us to Prepare for Holiday 2020 Success

 

Holiday 2020 shopping will bring big crowds, short tempers, and long retail hours. What have we learned about store operations and loss prevention in the past nine months to help keep spirits and revenues high? Here is a list of 14 things the pandemic taught us to prepare for holiday 2020 success.

#1: Santa has a checklist, and so should you.

When you combine the frequent, holiday plan-o-gram changes, inexperienced temporary workers, and changing COVID safety guidelines, things can fall through the cracks.

Prep tip: Create a store audit that managers and employees can tick through before a big sale, so that safety and sizzle coexist on the sales floor.

#2: Black Friday may be even more stressful.

Deep discounts attract and delight consumers, but only if they have a chance at scoring the big purchase. With a faulty supply chain and consumer patience running short, Black Friday may be problematic if departments do not coordinate their efforts. Buyers and merchandisers, for instance, need to consider how traffic flow and item limits will have to be enforced and how decoration can influence traffic flow. In addition, many major retailers are closing on (US) Thanksgiving to help flatten the curve on illness—consider how that will impact your traffic the day after.

Prep tip: Increase de-escalation training and clarify your policy on apprehensions for the front-line personnel whose gentle reminders can trigger explosive consumer reactions. Work with other departments to prepare a safe and fun customer experience.

#3: Cyber Monday every day.

The typical doorbusters may present a health hazard as competitiveness and thriftiness distract consumers from distancing requirements. Fewer consumers will be willing to browse the whole store for gift inspiration. Pivoting the major sales to online transactions helps prevent crowded conditions, but you will need to protect against chargebacks and false non-delivery claims.

Prep tip: Make sure you are applying your fraud-prevention analytics to all channels, not just the store. If possible, centralize onto one system since fraudsters may be switching to omnichannel. In addition, you will probably see an increase in orders with multiple addresses for shipping since consumers may wish to avoid boxing and shipping packages themselves. You may want to consider adjusting your analytics.

With high unemployment and job uncertainty, you will probably find more people running virtual garage sales and using your store (or ecommerce site) as their warehouse. “Buy low, sell high, and return what’s left,” is their business model.

#4: Curbside and BOPIS are here to stay.

Whether you have had the option for years or just rolled it out in 2020, embrace buy-online-pick-up-in-store and curbside pickups. They will help you reduce overcrowded stores and require less sanitizing than having consumers touching store fixtures (not to mention your savings on hand sanitizer).

Prep tip: Improve the customer experience by streamlining ordering, picking, and paying. Take some time to evaluate whether your curbside pickup area needs to be temporarily expanded.

#5: Unauthorized resellers are diluting your profits.

With high unemployment and job uncertainty, you will probably find more people running virtual garage sales and using your store (or ecommerce site) as their warehouse. “Buy low, sell high, and return what’s left,” is their business model.

Prep tip: Work with your analysts to identify these consumers and restrict their ability to make returns. Consumers who file many non-delivery claims may also be reselling.

#6: Returns and refunds—you’ve seen it before, and you’ll see it again.

With fitting rooms closed, people shopping online, and many other reasons, returns for some retailers are skyrocketing. This leads to the question of what to do with returned goods during and after holiday 2020. Are they quarantined—and if so, how does that affect on-hand inventory counts? Is a manual sanitization process sustainable or impractical? Have ORC groups returned to your stores, and are they using new techniques?

Prep tip: Use your analytics to monitor for return fraud. Evaluate your official policy and any temporary return policies to determine whether they put you at risk for fraud or if they alienate your best customers. A professional data analysis can uncover ways to protect profits while reducing returns and shrink. Also monitor product quality from your manufacturers and suppliers. They suffer supply chain disruptions, too, and may be making defective products.

Many seasonal employees turn into great permanent employees. However, every new worker presents risks that impact operations. This holiday season, the usual rush to train will be even busier due to added content about sanitization and safety procedures.

#7: Tap into mobile payments.

Consumers enjoy the convenience and you enjoy the cleanliness, and our research shows a sharp uptick in consumers using mobile wallets.

Prep tip: If you accept mobile payments, make sure your analytics software has access to the payment token from Apple Pay, Google Wallet, etc. These exist, and your fraud prevention analytics needs them to analyze these transactions.

#8: Temporary workers may need damage control.

Many seasonal employees turn into great permanent employees. However, every new worker presents risks that impact operations. This holiday season, the usual rush to train will be even busier due to added content about sanitization and safety procedures. Some new hires may resist health screenings or may not take safety mandates seriously. In addition, temp workers can cause unintended loss because they forgot their training or were not fully trained. They may have taken the temp job with the intent to steal, or they can be the scapegoat for permanent employees who are committing frauds.

Prep tip: Document your processes now to make training seasonal employees easier. Adjust your POS analytics to identify employee fraud from new and seasoned employees. This is not a time to dial-back on monitoring like you may have done during retail recovery.

#9: Lovers are going to love.

Some employees, seeing the economic hardships around them, use their position to give items away. Whether they sweetheart friends and family who may need help making it through the holidays, fall for a scammer’s sob story, or pilfer snacks for a person experiencing homelessness, their generosity hurts your bottom line. This Robin Hood–like fraud has grown during the pandemic, and the opulence of the holidays makes it even easier for them to imagine that no harm comes from their actions.

Prep tip: Use break room signage, training materials, and your EBR system to make sure the season of giving does not include unauthorized sharing. Consider highlighting your stores’ community outreach to remind employees that you are already giving back.

Gift wrapping, alterations, and makeovers are among the high-touch services that retailers will probably suspend this year.

#10: One way works.

Many retailers have described reduced loss due to creating one entry and one exit for the store since it is easier to monitor. This arrangement also allows them to sanitize carts and baskets between uses, protecting workers and consumers alike. One way aisles seem to be less successful.

Prep tip: Are consumers breaking the flow rules? Maybe you need to reposition or redesign your signage.

#11: Practicality and luxuries coexist as main sales drivers.

Many consumers face a lean holiday season. They will pass over fancy clothes and new jewelry in favor of more comfortable daily wear. At the same time, there seems to be a willingness for those with a little extra money to spend it on luxury tools for daily life. The coffee aficionado may choose a top-of-the-line coffee grinder; the home-owner may buy a hot tub; the home sewer may upgrade to a new machine.

Prep tip: Expect to lose margin on the goods that are intended to impress others (party clothes, for example) and make it back on comfort items.

#12: High-touch services and charitable actions may be limited.

Gift wrapping, alterations, and makeovers are among the high-touch services that retailers will probably suspend this year. Salvation Army bell-ringers and candy-selling students may also be absent from the store foyer or its premises entirely.

Prep tip: Update and communicate policies clearly to store managers including well-phrased explanations they can share with customers seeking services or charities seeking assistance. The PR department may be able to provide a form letter to gently decline requests from charities.

#13: Subscription programs will continue to thrive.

Clothes, food, entertainment—all are available through subscriptions, and those seem to be growing in popularity. They are an easy gift, too.

Prep tip: Can your stores offer similar boxes for pickup or delivery?

#14: Optimize the SKUs you have.

Supply chain disruption continues to cause shortages—sometimes in unexpected areas.

Prep tip: Take time to review and streamline your inter-store transfer process. You might find it necessary to rely more on inter-store transfers to reduce outages and to sell merchandise at the best price. You may also need to revisit your policy on rain checks.

 

 

About this blog
Appriss Retail has more than 300 clients operating more than 150,000 locations (physical and digital) in 45 countries. This blog was composed by interviewing the international support team about what clients learned during the shutdown and reopening. The tips are intended to raise awareness of potential issues and solutions, but they are not business advice nor are they applicable to all retailers. Please consider your own company goals, processes, and limitations.

On Santa’s Naughty List: The 6 Forms of Fraudulent Holiday Returns

READ NEXT

Author

Carrie Cassidy, Director, Marketing, Appriss Retail

A technology advocate for more than 25 years, Carrie makes information about advanced data analytics solutions accessible to retail professionals through a variety of media. She has written numerous white papers, case studies, and articles for a variety of industries ranging from motion control to human resources.

Other Posts By This Author