It seems like everyone is saying they’ve already completed everything they need to do to prepare for the fast-approaching holiday season. Doubt that. For some reason, recent fiascoes pop into mind: most notably, Toysrus.com’s fulfillment debacle last year. The general mood around here, though, is that the industry will have a busy, busy season and that many in the online realm will see an extraordinary year — as long as they heed some lessons learned from years past.
One of those lessons prompted Toysrus.com’s decision to join forces this month with Amazon.com to create co-branded Web sites that play off each other’s strengths: Toys ‘R’ Us will identify, buy and manage inventory, while Amazon will house the inventory in all those distribution centers it has built over the past few years. The first site — selling toys and video games — is expected to open this fall. Let’s see if Amazon’s top customer service reputation can rub off on Toys ‘R’ Us.
Catalog columnist Bill Dean (http://www.dmnews.com/articles/2000-08-21/10135.html) reminds readers of several things that will make this season different from previous years — among them, the fall election and low unemployment. Expect a definite slowdown in sales a week or two before the election, he writes, and time your mailings accordingly. If it’s close, people will be more distracted from their day-to-day lives and will be less interested in shopping. As for low unemployment, companies are having a difficult time hiring temporary help to staff call centers and to fulfill all those expected orders. A new study by Sibson & Co. indicates how costly high turnover among call center employees can be.
Meanwhile, analysts are warning retailers to improve their Web sites, specifically revamping the shopping experience for customers, or they may lose them for good this year. Be upfront about shipping costs or include them in the price of the product. That’s a big reason for many abandoned shopping carts. Last year, traditional catalogers were enticing shoppers with offers of free shipping on their covers. It’ll be interesting to see what trend emerges this year.