As global markets go, retail seems to be following a parallel path.  It’s a time where yesterday’s North is todays South, down is up and the number of exceptions seems to equal the number that justify any economic rule.  The 2018 retail holiday season began with a strong shot – with retailers (both online and brick and mortar) reporting their strongest start in over a decade.  Enter December, and Santa leaves dichotomy under the Christmas tree.  While some retailers reported a strong December, others faultered as the US edition of the Wall Street Journal reports.

So, what is a retailer to make of this?  And, how do you ensure you’re on the winning side come the 2019 season?   Let’s take a look at some of the interesting data this holiday season showed, and how that could affect planning for the future.

Returns Season

Traditionally, returns happen after the holidays pass.  As consumers, we are familiar with the lines at the customer service counter during January. This year, a report from Supply Chain Dive showed the first return peak happened on December 19. The article talks to the “why”, but from an operational standpoint, retails must consider how to handle the inflow of returns while still pushing massive amounts of goods out the door. Optimizing these tasks for fast processing and turn around make or break the season.

Customer Experience

Customer engagement tech was all the rage at NRF last month, and vendors offered solutions to address major gaps in retail experiences.  Traditional challenges – such as on-site inventory visibility and Ecommerce pressures remain.  These were supplemented by solutions that offered more personalized shopper engagement, and a big emphasis on the buy online pickup in store (BOPIS) experience.  I’ve been a fan of BOPIS and its offspring BORIS (buy online, return in store) for over a decade. When seamlessly executed, the advantages are many. However, when it goes wrong, it becomes a bad customer experience very quickly.

Planning for Seasonal Workers and Training

Reflecting on 2018, businesses need to be able to handle shipping and return processes simultaneously, at both the warehouse and the store.  With roughly 650,000 seasonal workers hired by retailers this holiday season, they now need to be trained on tasks both outbound and inbound, and able to perform them during an overlapping segment of the peak season.

Firms can’t afford to spend two weeks training seasonal help.  Adding in returns handling tasks, store and warehouse operations teams need to equip workers with technologies and workflows that are easy to learn and intuitive to use.  What if you could train workers on how to use a voice-enabled picking solution in 15 minutes? What if the task workflow for processing BORIS tasks was as easy as tapping and swiping through a typical Android application? What if you could deploy these types of solutions without changing any of the enterprise systems you already have in place?

This should be in your 2019 plan. With Speakeasy voice-enablement and Velocity app migration to Android, your workers can be trained on modern, voice-enabled operational tasks in minutes. Plus, it’s easy to implement with your existing WMS or other enterprise systems.  Whether your mobile access is via telnet or a browser, our Rapid platform can migrate that configuration to Android easily – as in under 10 minutes.  Ask for demonstration here, and you’re on your way to a faster, stronger, more productive 2019 peak season.