In the midst of the holiday rush, it’s hard to image how quickly today’s crush of traffic will transform overnight into tomorrow’s post-holiday recovery. But the weeks following a seasonal rush like the holidays aren’t just about cleaning up stores and processing returns. Smart retailers conduct a holiday post-mortem.
Merchandisers will scrutinize item performance, e-commerce will assess online behaviors, marketing will evaluate promotions, HR will look at staffing, and IT must also take a hard look back.
Those charged with store technology must examine how well their store network, devices and support services performed, what they can learn from what went wrong, and how they can innovate to ensure an even better customer experience next year. According to Forrester, 69% of retailers agree that in-store technology drives operational excellence, and 60% agreed that it drives the overall digital customer experience.
Getting the most out of this exercise requires taking thorough and clear-eyed approach. Here is what store IT managers should be planning for their post-holiday look-back:
- Do it soon. Data will persist, but personal observations will fade and other priorities will soon emerge. It’s important to start the process while holiday experiences are still fresh. Get it on the schedule now.
- Include the right people. Each department brings its own perspectives. Make sure your post-mortem team is cross-functional, including IT, operations, customer service, marketing, finance and any other key stakeholders.
- Review the plan. Did you deploy new tablets before the season? Upgrade your bandwidth? Change your support plan? Review the objectives and metrics you set for those projects.
- Collect the right data. Gather the metrics that apply to each device and solution you have deployed. Go beyond basics like uptime, bandwidth usage rates, transaction volume and the number of service calls if possible. Does customer service collect consumer feedback on store experience issues like complaints about WiFi access or kiosks being down? Is there access to comments from associates about store technology? If not, consider creating a mechanism for these valuable areas of feedback in the future. Ask your post-mortem committee to gather their departments’ feedback before you meet.
- Be thorough. Try to consider the performance of store technology from both a customer and an operations perspective. Look at each device and network in terms of performance, how well supply matched demand, adequacy of device placement, and how they achieved specific goals — the indicators that digital signage drove sales. Holidays are the ultimate stress test for devices, and problems are inevitable. It’s important to examine how effective support services were in getting devices back online. How well did support perform in getting things back online quickly? Did you have the right staffing? Right skills and knowledge? Remote support? Expected number of service calls vs remote support sessions? What did you spend? Were there patterns of failure? What were the exceptions to the usual rates of failure, etc.? How easy was it for store personnel and techs to access help?
- Apply what you learn. Report out on findings and be sure the right data gets to the right stakeholders. Turn negatives into punch list items. Be specific.
- Finally, do a post mortem on the post mortem. Did you have mechanisms in place to answer all these questions so we can do better next year? What metrics do we need? Store floor analytics? Data collection mechanisms?
The holidays are a critical period for many retailers, so store IT and support must be ready for the crush. Evaluating what worked and what didn’t is a critical exercise for ensuring next year’s holiday rush is a great experience for everyone.