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Mastering Omnichannel Retail: 5 Ways to Get Ready for the Holiday Season

‘Tis the season to fine-tune your omnichannel retail strategy

Meeting consumers’ heightened expectations is critical year-round, but it becomes especially important during the holiday season. Between Thanksgiving and the New Year, the world’s most prominent brands go head to head with one another to win consumers’ hard-earned money.

However, in 2017, the stakes are higher than ever.  

The key to making the most of the festive rush is to ensure you have a robust and well-executed omnichannel strategy in place. This, of course, holds true at any time of year, but especially over the next couple of months when demand is high and systems are stretched.

With this in mind, here are five tips and best practices designed to help ensure you’re primed and ready to take on the 2017 holiday season and make it the best one yet.

1. View Your Channels Holistically

With more competitors entering the grocery space than ever before, this holiday season it’s even more important for retailers to ensure the entire commerce journey is seamless, engaging and personalized for today’s “anytime, anywhere” shoppers—regardless of channel.

Omnichannel: seamless multi-channel shopping experiences via online and mobile, in-store, and customer support.

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So when planning out your strategy, ask yourself: How can we provide greater convenience and value to shoppers as part of a seamless, multi-channel shopping experience? For example, would your customers appreciate an app that assists them with shopping in your store—perhaps by providing layout-based grocery lists, or the ability to see where the best in-store promotions are?

In the digital age, shoppers will use whatever channel best suits their needs for convenience, choice, and value. This means it’s critical that retailers sit at the crossroads of the physical and virtual worlds, and leverage technology to satisfy their shoppers however and whenever they choose to buy their groceries.  

2. Create a Frictionless Path to Purchase

It’s estimated that, in 2016, almost 70% of online shopping carts were abandoned before payment was made. One of the main reasons shoppers abandon their online purchases is because the checkout process is too cumbersome.

As an eCommerce retailer, your job is to get customers through the payment process as quickly and as painlessly as possible—long forms with several steps that require the browser to load new pages often make for impatient shoppers, especially during the holidays. For this reason, a one-page checkout where all relevant details are entered on a single page can be a great way for retailers to increase conversions.

A screenshot featuring an example of a frictionless path to purchase for a shopper.

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Another best practice to minimize friction in the path to purchase is to ask shoppers to provide only the most pertinent information (e.g. delivery address and payment details) to place an order—an approach that’s designed to minimize checkout abandonment significantly.

3. Keep Track of Inventory

When it comes to providing seamless, omnichannel customer experiences during the yuletide season, it’s critical to ensure your business has the tools necessary to provide real-time visibility into every aspect of your retail operations.

Inventories need to be constantly monitored and replenished with fresh goods, delivery schedules must be coordinated with extreme care and, all the while, the customer experience must remain a top priority every step of the way. However, all too often the high transaction volumes this time of year brings can overwhelm inventory systems that haven’t been well optimized.

An illustration of the inventory cycle and the relationships between online ordering, delivery, inventory, shipping, and customer service.

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To make the most of the flurry of purchases and greater basket sizes associated with the season, it’s important for retailers to ensure they have near real-time visibility into stock levels in the warehouse, on the shelf, and in the back room. Those who are able to do this will be in a better position to make their shoppers’ lives easier during the holidays, while building long-lasting brand loyalty.

4. Leverage Data to Fuel Your Holiday Marketing Campaigns

Not only do today's shoppers expect quality service and a consistent experience across all channels, but they also want their buying experience to be one that fits their unique preferences to the greatest possible extent.

However, to be able to deliver the kinds of tailored experiences your shoppers desire, you need one key ingredient: data. More specifically, you need to have the ability to collect, organize, and effectively utilize that data. For retailers, this will be the real differentiator going forward.

Leverage data develop a strategy to define how customer information will be collected and used across your business.
[Image Credit: Qubit]


But this is easier said than done. According to a 2017 study by Qubit, only 34 percent of retailers have a dedicated multichannel analytics strategy. The rest either don’t have one at all or say their data is siloed across the organization.

Retailers have their work cut out for them as they face the challenges of a changing grocery landscape and stiff competition from Amazon and Walmart, but those who squeeze as much value from their data as possible are the ones who will see the most transformative results.

5. Deliver Highly-Targeted Offers to Drive Sales

For centuries, people have made big decisions and developed everyday preferences using the simple yet effective power of word-of-mouth marketing. After all, who doesn’t love hearing about a great product or service from a trustworthy source?

In the digital age, however, retailers are slowly beginning to fill that role through the use of data and analytics strategies that use customers' buying habits and purchase histories to recommend additional items. These automated features make it easy for shoppers to discover their new favorite product, or get a recipe on their phone based on the items they’ve added to their cart.

This means that grocers no longer have to compete with the likes of Amazon and Walmart by providing everything at the lowest possible prices. Instead, they simply need to provide the products their data indicates shoppers will want and need the most. Sometimes this will be fresh or precooked food, and other times, just the right assortment of staple goods.

Deliver highly-targeted offers to drive sales

More advanced retailers are also beginning to experiment with location-aware and context-sensitive marketing tactics, designed to assess shopper behavior in real time to send highly-targeted, instant offers.

It’s unrealistic to expect a completely smooth festive period without any hiccups. But by ensuring that each of the five facets above has been addressed, retailers will be in a strong position to deliver the kinds of seamless and engaging shopping experiences that today’s tech-savvy consumers have come to expect during the 2017 holiday season—and beyond.

Want to learn more about how you can incorporate personalization into your omnichannel retail strategy? Download “A Beginner’s Guide to Personalization: The Differentiating Factor in Grocery eCommerce” below.

The front page of "A Beginner’s Guide to Personalization: The Differentiating Factor in Grocery eCommerce."

Stefanie Neyland
Stefanie Neyland is a Content Marketing Manager at Mercatus, specializing in all things grocery eCommerce.

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