Black Friday sales are anticipated to continue their upward trajectory, as retailers capitalize on the opportunity to preserve market share early in the holiday season and shoppers still strongly resonate with bargain pricing. Having established itself as the traditional beginning of the holiday shopping season, despite recent trends to shift spending earlier in the cycle, Black Friday seems to gain in popularity each year among both online and in-store customers. Indeed, according to the National Retail Federation, 88 million U.S. consumers bought items online during last year's Black Friday, while 66.5 million purchased in-store.
Black Friday is a fantastic opportunity to gain new customers and increase revenue. It allows retailers to offer rock-bottom pricing on overstock inventory as well as doorbusters and discounts on trending seasonal products. Retailers frequently provide significant discounts on big-ticket products and top-selling brands to entice shoppers into purchasing higher-margin goods once in-store. While online sales channels were marginally more profitable last year, it's apparent that retailers must be able to strike a balance between online and in-store sales channels to fully capitalize on the event.
The ability for retailers to execute omnichannel selling strategies combining traditional and online sales models such as buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) is critical to remain competitive in today’s retail landscape. Black Friday presents an opportunity for retailers to showcase their omnichannel offerings, differentiate their brand, and expand their customer base if they're able to execute successfully. When planning and preparing for this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday events, it's crucial to do a holistic analysis of the critical issues your brand is facing when selling products both online and in-store, some of which include limited inventory, shipment delays, and labor shortages. Peak selling season separates retailers that are addressing these challenges proactively from those that fail to take action on inventory and operational execution issues. Technological developments, such as the deployment of radio frequency identification (RFID), can alleviate these pain points at a foundational level by correcting inventory and providing operational and labor-saving benefits.
Stack Them High, Let 'em Fly
By employing RFID, retailers can easily track stock levels in seconds, allowing a business to identify individual products and components, and trace them throughout the supply chain from production to point of sale (POS). This enables retailers to maintain high order fulfillment rates and make better, faster decisions throughout the supply chain during a hectic Black Friday event. Adopting this innovative technology eliminates the need for manual inventory counts, allowing employees to deliver better customer service and drive additional sales to increase basket size.
RFID solutions provide an array of benefits, including closed-box receiving that's completed in a fraction of the time of traditional barcode scanning and at a much higher accuracy rate. RFID also allows entire pallets of items to be replenished from back-stock to the sales floor as replenishment during peak holiday sales periods is critical in order to avoid out-of-stocks on the sales floor.
In addition, the ability to update the status of individual items, such as items reserved for BOPIS orders or in-transit products, is critical to accurately differentiate what stock is available during peak omnichannel selling periods. The ability of RFID to increase speed and accuracy at the POS allows for increased conversions and an improved customer experience as checkout wait times are reduced and missed barcode scans at the register are eliminated. Asset protection is also aided by RFID as retailers have the ability to leverage item-level data on items passing through entrance and exit points in-store and can choose to leverage the sales history of items in real time to help reduce or deter theft.
By converting from barcodes to an RFID system, retailers can conduct accurate stock counts on the schedule they determine, resulting in inventory accuracy of 93 percent to 99 percent. Prior to RFID, inventory was often only taken once or twice a year, resulting in stock accuracy between 65 percent to 75 percent. RFID technology enables real-time inventory and location data to flow seamlessly from supplier to customer and back again. Retailers can avoid out-of-stock situations, improve customer confidence, and increase sales during Black Friday by adopting a system to precisely track inventory.
Change Before You Have To
There has never been a greater emphasis on the customer experience (CX). Meeting customers' expanding demands and delivering consistently high levels of CX necessitates a strategy that leverages technological improvements to deliver flexible and frictionless shopping experiences. Real-time visibility to accurately stated inventory levels is fundamental to operating in modern retail. According to an Elastic Path study, 75 percent of consumers expect same-day delivery, and 72 percent are expecting to be able to order online and pick up curbside.
By employing RFID tags, retailers are empowered to track inventory, avoid manual scanning, and implement stock visibility at the item-level to further ensure stock accuracy. This is important because retailers that implement RFID in conjunction with omnichannel experiences report a higher return on investment compared to those that have paired RFID technology with a single sales channel. There's a direct correlation between inventory accuracy and the ability of a retailer to successfully meet the demands of omnichannel selling.
Striking the Balance Between Online and In-Store
Through omnichannel retail, brands aim to provide customers with a seamless experience whether a customer purchases something in-store or online. The implementation of omnichannel retail can be complex, but it's simplified by the introduction of item-level RFID, which provides the amount of supply chain visibility required. This multichannel approach allows the customer to do their product research online and reserve their purchase, then collect the product in-store rather than wait for delivery. Conversely, the consumer may use the omnichannel offering to browse and purchase products in-store, and then have the products shipped to their home. These variations allow retailers to increase their online sales presence, while also taking advantage of their in-store infrastructure to drive profitability and top-line sales.
Customer satisfaction can improve when you anticipate and respond to the customers’ needs more quickly and adapt to their expectations and changing habits. Retailers that fully utilize RFID technology across all aspects of their business create a more efficient and seamless retail experience during the holiday shopping season and establish a solid foundation for maintaining this elevated approach to selling going forward.
Related story: How RFID Can Help Retailers Manage Returns