The holidays may be over but there is still work to be done.
For retailers, the holidays are everything - they account for a significant portion of merchants' annual sales and are without a doubt the busiest period of the year. Some retailers may have multiple peaks - for example, during back-to-school season or warmer months if they are located in popular summer vacation areas - but for most, the holidays stand alone in importance.
So, with the 2014 holiday season in the books and 2015 on the horizon, what can retailers look forward to now? The time frame after the holidays up until Valentine's Day can be quite slow, but that does not mean retailers should be resting on their laurels and taking it easy until then. The post-holiday lull can be a great time to accomplish a variety of mission-critical tasks.
Here are a few things merchants can do during these slow periods:
1. Reevaluate their current technology and future needs
Retailers are investing more resources into their technology. They use these tools to assist with everything from order fulfillment to product information management. However, retail technology is changing frequently, just as retailers' own needs do, so a solution that was optimal one year can be irrelevant the next.
The holidays are busy and as such, they push merchants to their limits and expose flaws and gaps in the way they operate. With the holidays done and over, savvy retailers will likely have a better of idea of what they need to do to improve operations in the future. The post-holiday lull is the perfect time to start looking into new retail software and solutions so merchants are on top of their game when the next peak period comes around.
2. Prepare for returns and exchanges
With all spikes in sales comes a spike in returns and exchanges. It is not unusual to see long lines of customers looking to return goods to retailers after the holidays. Merchants need to be prepared for more returns and exchanges than normal or else they may find themselves swamped. The whole customer service department must be prepared to deal with customers efficiently and effectively.
"January is a good time to utilize online chat so you can not only provide quick answers, but also help guide customers to an alternate product versus a complete refund," Practical eCommerce writer Pamela Hazelton explained. "It's also helpful to have an internal policy for handling customer requests, like offering free shipping if one opts to go with another item rather than a credit card refund. Or offering a bonus gift card to accompany a store credit."
Gift returns and exchanges will continue deep into January, and once the initial surge is over, this could be the perfect time for retailers to consider making revisions to policies or trying new customer service tactics to improve satisfaction.
3. Hold a post-holiday sale
After the month-long holiday season, the last thing many merchants want to do is hold yet another sale. However, this can be a great opportunity to get people into the online store and spending gift cards and cash they received over the holidays. Additionally, it is a great time to sell leftover holiday goods, such as Christmas candy, and make room for new products.
The post-holiday lull may not see a lot of activity, but that does not mean merchants can sit on their hands and wait idly for business to pickup.