Labor Day weekend marked the unofficial end of summer and initiated the home stretch of another year culminating in the holidays; the most prolific shopping period of the year. For retailers, holiday shopping accounts for 20-30 percent of annual sales, so being adequately prepared is job one. And for the resellers who support these retailers, their role is significant and represents a critical component in their customer’s seasonal readiness efforts – infrastructure.
Even though the ability to address many of the issues discussed here will take a back seat to the tactical immediacy of seasonal readiness, infrastructure improvements require awareness and long-term planning. Since there’s no better time to consider tomorrow, than today, we spoke with Tech Data’s retail vertical SolutionsPath™ consultant Norm Korn about his view of how customers can better position their retail end user for success.
Speaking broadly, which technologies are most deeply impacted by prime retail seasons, specifically holiday shopping?
The entire technology ecosystem is impacted. Technology is heavily at play because the shopping experience—which has changed dramatically over the last 20 years—is increasingly based in technology. Therefore, it’s critical for resellers to keep four key points in mind when counseling their customers to prepare for the holiday retail season:
- Website network performance: Make certain that it can handle the traffic and capacity the retailer is anticipating. Ensure too that it is integrated with third-party capabilities.
- Strength in security: Hacking is a concern during any season, but particularly during the holiday rush. In 2013, mega retailer Target was hacked during the height of the season. You simply have more people hitting the network, so tight security is a must.
- Storage network and bandwidth: Again, a significant amount of data is being accessed during the season, so your retailer’s network must be able to accommodate.
- Scalability: Any retailer’s storage and processing power must be scalable, with the ability to ramp up/down accordingly.
Finally, resellers should keep a mental note of the exact timeframe of the holiday retail season. As defined by the National Retail Federation (NRF) it’s the 61-day period of Nov. 1-Dec. 31. Also, certain segments that experience high sales during the season—such as children’s toys and jewelry—report a high percentage of their annual sales during the season, while other segments—such as grocery—are not as high.
How can the reseller community strategize with its partners to ensure they are positioned for success during the holiday retail season?
First and foremost, make sure to have a sound infrastructure. Think about where you want to be in the near future, and establish a plan to get you there. Due the necessary due diligence and start thinking about the infrastructure you need to be successful. Bear in mind that retailers often go into “lock down” mode as the holidays approach. With this window narrowing, the time to complete major projects is now. However, it’s not too early to planning longer-term infrastructure needs now – for next year and beyond.
Second, take the time to develop an analytics strategy that ensures a strong customer experience, effective brand alignment and accurate/efficient inventory management. Resellers have a great opportunity to help retailers build their brands, so take advantage of it. From signage to mobile POS to floor tools for in-store associates, have a plan in place.
Remember, too, that retailers need to establish and maintain a sense of community. Because many brand enthusiasts engage over social media, community word-of-mouth is often integral to a brand. Make sure that customers are being targeted effectively and served the right message; there’s nothing more frustrating than receiving a message or offer that is not tailored to the recipient. Finally, be sure to employ analytics to determine what worked well and what didn’t, so that next year’s season is even stronger.
Are there specific steps that resellers in retail can and should take during the holiday season?
Yes: plan and test. Know your objectives and metrics. Run assessments on your network and the strength of your security. Conduct load testing and tweaking, so that you are confident that your business is ready for the holiday season.
Resellers have a unique opportunity to support their retail clients by making sure they can answer “Yes” to the following three imperatives:
- Applications are firmly in place
- All systems are running correctly and securely
- Storage systems (Cloud and local network) can effectively handle traffic and input
At number 83 on the Fortune 500, Tech Data is among the largest technology distributors globally, representing all of the top technology vendors. This scope enables us to provide end-to-end solutions and expert knowledge using a broad base of vendor solutions and technological expertise, as well as custom configuration capabilities, inventory and distribution advantages. As the digital transformation gains momentum, Tech Data has the capabilities and resources to help resellers leverage their value as ‘trusted advisor’ by enabling their retail end-user customers’ success through next-generation technology solutions and services. For more information on how Tech Data can help, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the coming weeks, Norm will provide more insight on how resellers can help their retail customers leverage consumer usage of mobile devices while shopping in stores. He will talk about the success of Amazon Prime 2018 and lessons that resellers can learn from the retail giant.
About the Author
Norman Korn is a retail solutions specialist for Tech Data, where he works with customers and channel partners to assist in the identification, development, marketing and sales of next-generation technology solutions and services within the retail, consumer products and hospitality industries. Prior to joining Tech Data, he worked for 18 years at a Fortune 100 computer services firm as a data analyst, business consultant, marketing and operations manager, and partner development manager. Norm holds a BA degree in Political Science and an MBA, both from the University of Minnesota.