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Top 10 Recommendations for the Holiday Season

How will electronics equipment vendors perform during the back-to-school and end-of-year season in light of continued economic problems in Europe, North America, and Japan? With consumers hunkering down to pay down debts and corporate IT equipment buyers holding tightly to their purse strings, sales in the traditionally strong yearend period may not be as robust as OEMs and retailers would want.

{complink 7014|IDC} is similarly concerned. IDC Retail Insights said in a report (titled Perspective: Top 10 Recommendations for the Holiday Season, August 2011) that this year started out strongly for retailers but probably will end with a whimper if the economy maintains its soggy trend. Strong sales are expected in certain end markets, including tablet PCs, but other segments will face stiff headwinds, according to the IDC. Here's how it assessed the situation in various parts of the globe:

    In the United States, the National Retail Federation predicts flat back-to-school sales, with growth primarily driven by department stores and consumer electronics, with tablets now becoming a top seller. Europe seems to be affected by a return of crisis fears, with difficult economic situations in Greece, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom, just to mention a few in the region.

    The deteriorating economy, caused by rising inflation, stagnant wage growth, and higher levels of personal debt, is impacting consumer confidence, with a possible spending crunch as a result. Even Germany, the driving force behind the European economic recovery, recently reported declining retail sales compared with last year.

There's a positive edge in all this for high-tech companies. Apparently, retailers will increase their use of IT equipment during this period to gain a competitive edge. This could translate into higher sales for high-tech OEMs now or in the future, according to IDC.

Here are 10 things the firm says retailers can do to boost end-of-year and back-to-school sales:

  1. Understand your total cost
  2. . There really is not much room for aberrations from planned landed costs. Retailers must be diligent about monitoring changes and acting accordingly. With the economy still creeping out of the recession, consumers remain sensitive to price changes. Navigating these dynamics will make the difference between ending the year in the red or in the black.

  3. Have the right inventory
  4. . To avert missing business performance expectations, several fundamental inventory management processes should be completed now, including validating current inventory accuracy, evaluating replenishment models, and double-checking order quantities against current consumer demand forecasts.

  5. Keep enterprise management systems optimal
  6. . The sharing of digital assets across the enterprise certainly has made life easier for retailers. These assets are often vital components of in-store marketing campaigns, which retailers are responsible for improving conversion and sales.

  7. Price and promotion efforts must match delivery capabilities
  8. . Your price, promotion, and markdown strategies in the back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons will in large measure determine how well you do in these critical periods and by implication the success of your yearend results.

  9. Use the cloud for demand intelligence
  10. . With their low-cost elastic scalability, [cloud] services can drastically reduce processing times — eliminating one obstacle to more accurate and more frequent demand forecasting and replenishment, allocation, and pricing optimization.

  11. Tap the wisdom of the crowd
  12. . Collective intelligence (CI) tools can be pointed at various decision points in trend merchandise life-cycle planning — from product ideation through selection and pricing to in-season rebuy and allocation decisions.

  13. Make online sales a great customer experience
  14. . The [online] market is worth over $446 billion in 2011, and this is expected to grow to over $662 billion by 2014. With double-digit physical store retail growth a thing of the past in mature retail sectors, focus on the online customer is a sure way of clinching optimal sales growth over the holiday season.

  15. Ensure a robust online architecture
  16. . Many online retailers are facing scalability issues as they experience explosive growth in e-commerce. Running performance testing on a regular basis will uncover bottlenecks and give time to improve performance before the event occurs and your business and/or infrastructure is unable to scale to demand.

  17. Don't forget social media tools
  18. . Invest in social analytics tools to use the wealth of information available on these sites to feed into merchandise and promotion planning.

  19. Embrace mobile retailing
  20. . In 2010, about one third of the world's population used a mobile device to access the Internet. With mobile-optimized Web sites, retailers can attract new customers and increase existing customers' loyalty.

26 comments on “Top 10 Recommendations for the Holiday Season

  1. FLYINGSCOT
    August 23, 2011

    If one is employed and healthy it is easy to stay somewhat removed from the recession.  Sure things are a bit more expensive and it is depressing watching the news stories of wars and recession.  However it is really starting to hit home now as I know quite a few people who have lost their jobs or are having to sell their car to pay mortgages etc.  It is quite scary out there and I feel very fortunate to have a job.  Relating to the article posted, I am a firm believer that there are always opportunities for the savvy suppliers and retailers.  Bolaji's article cited 10 things and they are all valid points.  Consumers now are a lot more picky about their purchases and shopping experience so to survive retailers must be cognizant of their customers' changing needs and adapt their tactics/services accordingly.

  2. Jay_Bond
    August 23, 2011

    This is going to be a very interesting holiday season for retailers and OEM's. By all accounts many economists and fund managers say a recession is almost inevitable. On top of those fears, consumers just aren't giving up their money as easily. They want to be well informed and make sure these are valid purchases. Retailers need to look at this trend and follow suit. Your 10 recommendations make great sense. If retailers can make sure the shoppers willing to spend money are getting their best deals, they should do okay.

  3. Susan Fourtané
    August 23, 2011

    Flyingscot, 

    Yes, I agree with you. Although I also tend to think that if one is employed and healthy but has some friends who are not for the reason you say “hitting home”, that will also afect us in one way or another. 

    Consumers are more picky and carefull, too, about their shopping habits. Retailers have to be careful of not losing the opportunity of a sale as a result of making a bad move or having a bad marketing strategy not according to the time and moment we are living.

    -Susan 

  4. Susan Fourtané
    August 23, 2011

    “Embrace mobile retailingIn 2010, about one third of the world's population used a mobile device to access the Internet. With mobile-optimized Web sites, retailers can attract new customers and increase existing customers' loyalty.”

    Mobile retailing is particularly useful in emerging countries where consumers show high interest in mobile retail apps, both in their current and potential usage. 

    -Susan

  5. Ariella
    August 23, 2011

    It's an excellent list, Bolaji, but I would add one more thing. That is to remember that you want to keep your relationship with your customer active after the sale, so be sure to provide excellent customer service, espeically if there was a problem with the order and follow up. That sows the seeds of customer loyalty. 

  6. eemom
    August 23, 2011

    That's a very impressive list.  I can personally attest to the growth on on-line shopping.  I do about 90% of my shopping on-line.  It is so much easier, most of time there is no tax or shipping charges.  It is important for retailers to offer deals equivalent to a giant like Amazon since it is easy to bargain shop on the internet. 

    The other reason I tend to do my shopping on-line is lack of customer service.  While I agree that retailers should maintain good customer relations and support post sale, I feel that they need to step up their customer service to achieve the sale. Doing research on the internet is usually more accurate than the information you get from a sales rep.  It is also hasstle free if you get a rep that doesn't feel like begin there.

     

  7. hwong
    August 23, 2011

    @eemom – What types of things do you buy that constitute 90% of shopping ? I'm curious because I do shop online for certain items but I can't imagine buying everything else like groceries or clothes.

     

  8. Taimoor Zubar
    August 23, 2011

    I think mobile retailing will become very important. Apart from online selling, the use of mobile apps would also aid users while shopping physically in stores. For instance, there are apps out there which help the customers in locating the goods while they are shopping in super markets. Apps which read the barcode on a product and give information about the product are also becoming more common.

  9. eemom
    August 23, 2011

    @hwong – I actually do my clothes shopping on-line.  I know my size and I can get better deals on-line.  I do most of my groceries in person but I do purchase some non-perishables on-line. 

  10. Tim Votapka
    August 23, 2011

    Ariella's point is well said. The customer relationship only strengthens when you ask for their opinion on how your service was – whether you delivered the right product at the right price at the right time or not. In many cases, it becomes the best PR you've got and certainly not something your competitors will take the time to do especially if they're relying on the Net for most of the transactional contact.

  11. mfbertozzi
    August 24, 2011

    While holiday season is coming, there is potentially the risk that retailers promote special sales and special prices in order to leave off their inventories. People are very attracted by special offers, but sometimes they forget it is basically a commercial policy for selling lastone units of product with the aim to launch on the market new and up-to-date products once holiday season is gone. Ever happened in your opinion?

  12. Eldredge
    August 24, 2011

    Free shipping is one of the promotions that customers are coming to expect in the current competitive environment.

  13. bolaji ojo
    August 24, 2011

    @Ariella, Correct. If the after-sales support is shoddy the customer will remember. I know I do. One of the things I want to be sure of is that I can return items if they don't fit or for any other sensible reason. I also want to know I can get support if needed especially for expensive products like electronics. Without this you won't clinch the sales or if you do, I may not be back the next time.

  14. Ariella
    August 24, 2011

    Exactly, Bolaji. There is always a bit more risk in ordering something rather than picking out the actual item physically. Those who sell online have to take that into account in their policies for returns and service.

  15. Kunmi
    August 24, 2011

    It is risky and at times deceitful when you make your purchases online. Except all specs are displayed, you can make a very costly buying error.

  16. Kunmi
    August 24, 2011

    Buying clothes and other cosmetic things online are relatively cheap. How do you determine the quality of what you are buying? Walk in to the store gives an advantage of thorough examination of what you are investing on.

  17. eemom
    August 24, 2011

    @Kunmi – There are a couple of sites that I love to buy clothes for myself.  I've been purchasing products through them for several years.  I know my size and I usually do not have any trouble.  Also, stores have their own websites that you can purchase through.  If you are familiar with the store and their products, its easy.  I usually do not have any problems and if I do, I return the product just like I do with a regular store.

     

  18. mario8a
    August 25, 2011

    Recommendation # 10 …..makes the whole difference, you can buy, compare, search for retail price, ….definitely # 10 is the winner

    thanks for this great add.

  19. Kunmi
    August 25, 2011

    @eemom: Can you give me a tip of the website for the clothings; Imean the ones that you know that have quality materials at a cheaper rate. I will like to browse it perhaps I can be drafted. I know it brings convenience and safes you gas and time. I also think that you may probably have a nice deal during the holiday season.

  20. Tim Votapka
    August 25, 2011

    I don't want to get too far off the electronics industry trail, but if you want to look at a model for mobile retailing…I'd say Peapod has it pretty well figured out. Now if they could just do something about the number of plastic bags they use in packing and shipping!

  21. Anna Young
    August 27, 2011

    @eemom, I suspect it might be a lot easier to buy electronics online than it is buying clothes although you seem to have nailed even that down. 🙂 In buying electronics the specs are usually straightforward and the graphics show mainly what you will get. Also, most consumers would only buy electronics, at least new ones, from trusted name brands. It gets more complicated when you are buying it from resellers or the open market such as ebay. How have you navigated the issue of trust and certainty about what you are buying in your online clothing purchase?

  22. eemom
    August 27, 2011

    @Anna – It appears that I am alone (or in a small group of people) that navigate clothing purchases on-line.  There are two sites that I trust and buy most of my clothing from.  I know how their clothes fit and I love their styles.  I actually get frustrated when I go to a mall and I have to look through racks of clothes.  I love the way I can navigate looking for things by narrowing down by size, style, etc.  You can say that I am spoiled in this electronics age.  Over Christmas, I ventured and purchased my daughters Ugg Boots from the internet.  I did go to sites that I had not used before, so before I make any purchase, I research reviews etc, to make sure that it is a reputable site.  Also for my girls, they have a couple of favored stores, so I just shop those stores on-line.  Not that we never go shopping but I do about 90% of my xmas shopping on-line.  You can get the same deals – and sometimes even better – that you get in the stores. 

  23. Anna Young
    August 28, 2011

    @eemon, I'm sure you're not alone in purchasing your clothings online. You'll be surprised that more people shop online than admitted. 

     I do use online services to compare prices before venturing out to buy from the high street stores. I think  based on your assurances on trusted sites you've used, I might just try it out if you can pass on the details.

    I know it's cheaper, saves time and convenient. It is just the matter of safety that discourages me from buying online.

  24. eemom
    August 28, 2011

    @Anna – My favorite sites are body central (bodyc.com) and Victoria's Secret and boston Proper. I think I buy most of my clothes from them.  Victoria's Secret has very nice clothes that they only offer on-line.

  25. Anna Young
    August 28, 2011

    @ eemom, thanks. I will check it.

  26. garyk
    August 30, 2011

    Yes, this is excellent price savings for everyone. But NO Tax revenue, NO state Taxes are paid. Stores going out of business, Boarders (books), Video Stores, Curcuit City, Best Buy, etc. Internet buying is graet but this is not a level playing field for stores or Tax Revenue.

    Two choices are, First choice charge TAX on internet sales and get rid of all the store and jobs required to run the stores.

    Second choice, stores and internet sales compete on a level playing field, both paying Taxes.

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