A Head Start on the Holidays

A Head Start on the Holidays

Holiday shopping seasons of the past few years have proven to be a testing ground for how retailers handle their customers’ demands for service, and one thing has been made very clear: it’s the customer who ultimately dictates what kinds of services the retailers will offer.

General fear surrounding supply chain constraints and product availability are forcing shoppers to begin their holiday purchases much earlier, so that presents are available on time. Now-established customer services originally set up to cope with the demands of the pandemic have meant a permanent shift to curbside collection, click-and-collect, and doorstep delivery, creating numerous sales channels that retailers need to optimize if they are to stay relevant in the minds of their customers during the holidays.

Now that many retail enterprises have established a foothold on operating in the era of instant retail, there is yet another variable that retailers must consider as they head into the 2022 holiday shopping season: when will retailers offer specially adapted seasonal shopping services.

In 2021, many shoppers began their holiday shopping earlier, based on supply chain delays, extended lead and shipping times, and uncertainty about the availability of much-desired goods.

Despite supply chain and product availability woes, 2021 posted one of the strongest retail growth numbers in more than 20 years. Total retail spending grew 16.1% year over year to $1.221 trillion, with brick-and-mortar sales increasing 17.3% to $1.017 trillion and eCommerce rising 10.4% to $204.20 billion1.

Now, shoppers are indicating that they will be starting their holiday shopping even earlier in 2022. For some, this is down to the need to cope with rising inflation and continued financial instability, according to a recent Insider Intelligence report2.

In another survey, conducted by Bankrate, 8% of shoppers had started their holiday shopping in August, with 11% reported to have started in September. In the same survey, another 18% of shoppers reported that they will begin their holiday shopping in October2.

Eighty-four percent of shoppers are turning to early-offer discounts and coupons, according to the Bankrate survey, helping increase shoppers’ purchasing power. Additionally, 37% of respondents cite their head-start on the holiday shopping season is to purchase high-demand items before prices increase due to holiday pressure, according to a report from Salesforce2.

Even with financial fears directing the habits of many shoppers in 2022, eCommerce sales are projected to grow by 12.8% to 14.8% as shoppers go online to help find the best deals for the hottest items3. The difference is that they are projected to begin that shopping earlier in 2022 than prior years.

So, what does an early jumpstart on the 2022 holiday shopping season mean for retailers?

For many retailers, this jumpstart on holiday shopping could prove to be a double-edged sword. On one side, early shopping could mean that sales targets are hit earlier in the year with the chance for sales to increase as other shoppers spend in November and December. And as shoppers hit stores earlier in the year, retailers receive a slight reprieve from scrambling to fill their ranks with seasonal workers to cope with holiday demand. Walmart has reported it only plans to hire 40,000 workers in 2022 – a drop from the 150,000 it recruited in 20213.

On the other hand, this jumpstart forces many retailers to evaluate whether they have the right tools and infrastructure to ensure demands are met, both online and in-store. This need for optimized IT to support consumer demand is why many retailers are focusing on automating workflows throughout the retail supply chain, including online and brick-and-mortar stores, as well as warehouse and distribution center space. This is where solutions for better productivity can help. Enterprise-grade handheld mobile computers empower retail associates to provide enhanced service to customers on the shop floor, such as mobile points-of-sale, quick inventory checks, and even assisting them in placing orders for home delivery.

Enterprise-grade mobile computers have built in management features designed to ease the burden, and cost, of maintenance and upkeep. They constantly monitor data regarding their usage and device specifics. Retailers use business intelligence software to analyze that data and help to predict trends, including keeping track of associate productivity, device battery health, real-time location, as well as identify challenges before they impact productivity. As orders are placed online and in-store for home delivery, retailers can use software to achieve real-time visibility on order fulfillment, from the time it leaves the warehouse through to the last mile and out to the customer’s doorstep.

By uniting the entire retail ecosystem with the power of digital automation, retailers can not only cope with this year’s early holiday shoppers, but they can also confidently enhance the overall shopping experience.

Honeywell is ready to help retailers achieve this level of service through our world-class innovation and expertise. If your retail enterprise is ready to embark on the digital transformation journey, discover how partnering with Honeywell will set you apart from the competition today.