The weather is turning chillier, and retailers have traded Halloween displays for Thanksgiving and festive season promotions. For shoppers, the end of the year is prime-time: Black Friday looms after Thanksgiving, as does Small Business Saturday (Nov. 25); and most discretionary income is spent during this time period. In all, Deloitte expects retail holiday sales to top $1 trillion between the months of November and January this year.
That means that for most consumer-facing businesses, holiday sales make up the bulk of their annual revenue, and keeping shoppers loyal and satisfied (and employees sane and rational) is a strategic imperative. Fortunately, a flexible and up-to-date communications system can go a long way towards helping retailers and other businesses differentiate themselves and make the most of the holiday sales season.
Black Friday Is Easier With UC
A strong Unified Communications (UC) platform delivers a cornucopia of benefits to help retail businesses be holiday-ready. For one, many shops, stores, and cafes bring on additional seasonal employees; this is the time of year when call centers need to staff up quickly. With a cloud-based UC system, businesses don’t have to purchase hardware or modify their existing technology in order to add more capacity for increased numbers of employees. Provisioned via the cloud, lines can be scaled up or down as needed, with little to no delay.
Meanwhile, staying on top of the complexity of a busy shopping season can mean the difference between naughty and nice for retailers. For instance, retail employees need to know which coupons and promotion codes are being offered, across social media, the website, newspapers, and in-store—not knowing the details can make for angry customers, bad publicity, and lost sales. UC can offer centralized access via mobile phone or tablet for product details and inventory lookup so that employees have the information they need at their fingertips to keep on top of this complexity.
Features like video, presence, chat, and analytics also allow more effective collaboration between employees and across departments—boosting the ability to handle stocking tasks and inventory questions, and to be more responsive and productive to stay on top of potential trouble spots before they happen.
Cyber Monday Needs UC Too
On the e-commerce side, the holidays mean heightened customer engagement, with enquiries about product features, promotion details, shipping times, and the like flying back and forth across multiple channels of communication. UC enables businesses to take an omnichannel approach to customer service, allowing communication via Twitter, Facebook, text messaging, chat apps, emails and yes, even the phone—all from within a single, singularly productive interface.
And finally, small businesses can supercharge their business phone system with cloud and hybrid UC, to not only handle increased demand during Small Business Saturday and the holidays, but to be ready for the rest of the year as well.
Small Businesses: Put UC On Your Wishlist
UC allows smaller companies take advantage of features that give them the same capabilities as their larger competition, including IVR and intelligent call queueing, smart conferencing, and mobile integration. Also, since small business owners often wear many hats—sales associate, customer service rep, and inventory specialist/purchase manager, all wrapped into one shiny package—UC can help them streamline their many responsibilities.
UC offers a unified approach to call management and messaging, so that these hard-working individuals can see their emails, texts, and voicemails all in one place—streamlining their business processes and improving response times. It also makes it easier for them to collaborate with suppliers and customers alike, boosting efficiency and customer loyalty.
The Holiday Wrap-Up
Deloitte expects retailers to see holiday sales growth of as much as 4.5 percent in 2017. This is a long-term trend: Last year, total sales for the season climbed 3.6 percent. E-commerce sales, meanwhile, are expected to increase 18 to 21 percent during the 2017 holiday season (digital sales climbed 14.3 percent in 2016). With that kind of opportunity on the table, managing the holiday season with a strong UC platform can deliver a stocking of revenue for savvy retailers.