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A healthy economy and strong consumer confidence are proving optimistic retail forecasts correct this holiday season. The NRF released holiday sales predictions in the fall, with a projected increase of nearly 5% over 2017.

With 80-95% of US holiday spending still taking place in-store, one of the highest impact areas for brands is in-store conversions. Add the facets of holiday shopper mindset and an influx of seasonal workers to the equation, and retailers are dealing with a unique set of trends to capitalize on this year.


Factor 1: Two types of holiday shoppers

Deloitte recently published its 33rd annual holiday retail survey findings, revealing a fascinating split of two mindsets among shoppers.

Many are entering the holiday season undecided on what to buy or where to buy it, with 50% of all purchases expected to be either completely or partially unplanned. These undecided shoppers are “gatherers,” giving retailers a chance to guide a large part of the shopping budget. On the other hand, there could be just as much opportunity—or missed opportunity—with the other half; the “hunters,” who have already done their research and decided what they’re looking for.

Both types of shoppers offer opportunities for influencing purchases, especially when knowledgeable store associates are factored in. They need to be more informed than the hunters and skilled enough to influence the gatherers. But a high-volume holiday season also means staffing up with seasonal workers who may not be prepared to maximize these valuable interactions for in-store conversion.


Factor 2: Influx of seasonal staff

The NRF forecasted the need for 650,000 temporary workers to meet the demand retailers are facing this year. And with unemployment under 4 percent, there’s heavy competition in the job market, making qualified candidates looking for seasonal work much harder to find.

In this environment, retailers are under tremendous pressure to adequately train and ramp up new hires to ensure positive customer experiences and in-store conversions. With up to 30% of retail sales taking place during the holiday season, much of the year’s revenue depends on it.


Experience gap: A year-round issue

Customer experience continues to be a defining factor this holiday season and retail employees—whether seasonal or experienced—will have a direct impact on consumer brand affinity and in-store conversions. But without the right knowledge and tools, they will remain an underutilized factor in maximizing sales.

Holiday shopper trends are exposing a year-round weakness in store-level execution, resulting from the experience gap between the shopper’s expectations and what the employee is equipped to deliver. Shifting the focus to investments in employee performance allows retailers to more effectively drive the right behaviors in-store and, ultimately, help deliver a better customer experience.

It’s never been more important to invest in employee experience to deliver on customer experience. Employees need to be armed with the right tools and knowledge so there’s not one missed opportunity this season, and beyond.