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3 Ways Retail Leaders Can Improve Core Business Functions After The Holiday Shopping Season

As one of the most anticipated holiday shopping seasons in recent memory approaches, businesses are gearing up to meet pent-up consumer demand. A Deloitte study predicts retail sales will jump 9% between now and January, and total spending is expected to hit roughly $1.3 trillion. E-commerce transactions will account for a sizable portion of that spending, and forecasts from KPMG are calling for a massive 35% increase in online holiday shopping compared to last year.

Despite online shopping’s explosion in popularity due to COVID-19, most retail analysts expect similar rebounds for in-store sales after an abysmal 2020. According to Mastercard SpendingPulse, store owners welcoming back the holiday crowds should enjoy a relatively modest uptick in sales of about 6.6%.

With some shoppers having already begun their holiday shopping through in-store and online platforms, it’s clear that consumer activity (i.e., buying and returning) likely won’t slow down until the final days of the year. However, you can and should use that lull to do a big-picture overview of your operations to set yourself up for success in the new year.

With that in mind, here are three core-function adjustments leaders can make for retail success in the coming year:

1. Marketing: Track design performance.

When it comes to attracting and retaining consumer attention, visual aesthetics matter. Yet marketers and creative directors too often view design as a secondary component of messaging — and a largely subjective one, at that.

“For businesses struggling with engagement and lead generation, effective design can turn customers’ heads and generate clicks,” she says. “But that does not mean it is a magical cure-all or a one-time project to delegate to a single team. Design is a C-suite issue, and business leaders should track design performance with the same rigor they use to monitor revenue and costs.”

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In marketing, design is as much a science as it is an art. Ultimately, your marketing assets are only valuable if they work as intended, and design is a feature that should be treated just like any other business tool.

First, zero in on the right metrics. These could be social media likes, clicks, downloads and saves, or something else, but they should always be quantifiable and tied back to your overarching marketing goals. Regularly evaluate your content and graphics to learn which attributes correlate most to success, and then continually optimize design to create assets that appeal to your audiences.

2. Workforce management: Survey employee engagement.

Most organizations conduct some sort of employee performance evaluation on at least an annual basis. Often, these assessments can create anxiety for both employees and managers, particularly if executives aren’t transparent about how the results are used. That said, these evaluations are generally vital to understanding how employees are using their time and whether they’re meeting company standards and expectations. But formal evaluations alone don’t always paint a clear picture of your company’s work environment.

To analyze the vague yet intangible asset that is company culture, complement your formal evaluation process with end-of-year employee engagement surveys. These surveys ask a range of questions focused on employee happiness and well-being instead of performance and role-specific questions.

If your business is like most, your employees are probably your greatest asset. Ensuring they feel empowered, motivated, included, and engaged on an ongoing basis should be a top priority — a highly engaged workforce provides a multitude of quantifiable benefits, including more sales and higher profits. The pandemic took a toll on everyone, and as it continues to linger, taking stock of the emotional health of your workforce is more crucial than ever.

3. Strategic positioning: Perform competitor analyses.

The pace of business is rapidly accelerating due to technological disruption, evolving consumer expectations, and many other factors. In 2022, you could find yourself operating in a market landscape that looks dramatically different than the previous year’s.

To remain competitive, you must understand what other industry players are doing (or planning) and how their activities could impact your business. By performing an end-of-year competitor analysis, you can better prioritize the strategic initiatives you have planned for the months ahead.

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As you conduct your research, focus on the companies you directly compete with and those leading the market. Try to understand how these companies position their offerings, how they’re allocating spending, what roles they’re hiring for, how consumers perceive them, and other comparative criteria. The more data you can gather, the easier it will be to identify potential threats and opportunities on the horizon.

By the end of the year, most retail executives will be understandably exhausted. Even so, it’s important to use this time wisely. Once the chaos of the holidays subsides, conduct exercises like the three above to begin the new year with a significant advantage over the competition.

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