How Will Retail And E-Commerce Manage The First ‘Normal’ Q4 Since 2019?
We are now finally into Q4. As every retailer knows, this is the time of year when business really takes off. The old legend about Black Friday was that retailers finally see accounts move into the black in November and therefore make all their profits in the holiday season. That may be more of a legend than reality, but there is no escaping the seasonal rush and the pressure this creates for anyone managing a customer service process.
Holiday Season 2022
It is easy to forget that this is going to be the first ‘normal’ holiday season in three years. 2020 was almost entirely wiped out by the Covid pandemic, with only e-commerce allowing any sales to continue. Last year was closer to normal, but there were still some mask mandates and restrictions that prevented it feeling like a complete return. Retail and e-commerce companies will all be looking at 2022 to see how post-Covid activity compares to their sales in 2019.
But there are several problems that need to be taken into consideration, including:
Global supply chain snarl-ups.
- 95% of merchants have had to adjust their planning because the global supply chain has still not recovered from the pandemic. Margins are affected and freight costs have increased. Only 19% of merchants say they have absorbed all the increased supply chain costs so consumers will be noticing that many products are no longer as affordable as they used to be – if they can be found.
- Employee priorities are changing. More want to work from home or using a hybrid arrangement. Many employees with sought-after skills are seeing their value increase sharply so there is a sense that more employees are footloose and ready to move for better packages and those that remain are demanding more flexibility.
- The surge of e-commerce during the pandemic has not returned to 2019 levels – many customers now prefer this option. Consumers are looking more often to trusted brands. Shopping habits and behavior have also shifted because more employees are spending time at home – it is a big shake-up for retail.
Before the holiday season really gets underway (Thanksgiving this year is on November 24th) there is just enough time to launch a quick review of your customer experience strategy. Have you updated your plans since 2019? Are your current processes designed to consider all the changes that have taken place throughout the pandemic?
Retail and e-commerce have changed dramatically in the past couple of years, but the peak of the final quarter remains unchanged. This year’s only difference is that it is the first ‘normal’ Q4 since 2019.
Each one of the issues outlined above can influence how your holiday season is managed this year. Post-Covid retail and e-commerce really need to focus on agility and a very flexible approach. Customer service strategy cannot be defined a year in advance – it must be ready to change as the market evolves.
Let me know your own views on how you think retail is changing and how we might see a quite different Q4 this year. Some major brands have already started their holiday season because they want to stretch it across the entire quarter instead of artificially focusing all their attention on Black Friday.
If you have any questions, please use my LinkedIn to contact me directly.