By Andres Modak WG’12/G’12, Co-founder of Snowe
The holidays are a special time, with boozy office party faux pas, overindulging at the dinner table, and braving impossibly long TSA lines. It’s a special time for retailers too—and by special I mean it’s crunch time! On average a fifth of all retail sales happen during the holidays, with some retailers doing significantly more (it’s rumored that Amazon does over a third). Retailers face customers who expect great service, a delightful cornucopia of logistical hazards, and the impenetrable din of holiday marketing—all this while gunning for sales targets and key milestones.
Snowe is a new home brand—we create thoughtfully-designed, luxury-quality home essentials at attainable prices. This year we faced our first holiday season after launching only a few months earlier. It was a critical time to leverage the gifting season while acquiring as many new customers as possible. From unanticipated stock-outs to dealing with the demands of last-minute holiday shoppers, we saw it all.
A few key learnings stood out:
- The Early Bird Gets More Worms – We all complain when we see the Halloween candy fill the shelves of stores in August or Christmas decorations turn up in October. But customers actually begin their holiday shopping quite early. According the the National Retail Federation, over 40% of US consumers will have shopped by the end of October and almost 80% will have by the end of November. You thought that because you procrastinate that most people do too? Apparently not so. Key Learning: Start early. Many of your early holiday shoppers will also be your biggest spenders; the procrastinators less so.
- Knock Their Stockings Off – If the customer is always right, then during the holidays they’re basically omnipotent. The last thing you want to do is disappoint customers when they’re at their most stressed. At Snowe, we built in moments of ‘holiday delight’ with thoughtful gifts and guidance. We provided complimentary expedited services and added extra layers of customer service to ensure a stellar experience. After the dust settled, we were surprised at how many of these new holiday customers became our most vocal advocates. Key Learning: Go the extra mile to really wow customers during this key period. Customers won’t remember discounts as much as they will a stellar experience.
- Making A List, And Checking It Twice – While you can’t prepare for every eventuality, you can definitely try. Chances are you’ll see supply chain issues you can’t predict and technology glitches that need your team’s attention at the worst possible hour. After a national TV mention during the holidays, we sold out of a product in a day and had to scramble to restock for the rest of the holidays. While this had a silver lining, many issues we saw did not. Preparation is your best friend during the holidays. Key Learning: Learn from other companies’ mistakes, pressure test your systems, and build in extra resources and the right amount redundancy.
After the holidays come not only resolutions, but reflection. Holiday promotions are ever changing and so too are many strategies and tactics to succeed. As we look to future holiday seasons, we’ll have to stay ahead of the curve while remaining true to our brand and our customers. Growth in multichannel retail and shifts in consumer preferences are changing the nature of holiday promotions. Black Friday’s importance is waning and despite our unquenchable thirst for a good deal, competing holiday promotions drown each other out. Instead of bombarding customers with discounts we’ll opt for building a lasting relationship with them.
At Snowe we are not a discount-driven business. Our products are designed to be an exceptional value all the time. We chose to sit out Black Friday and all its ‘white noise’ and instead give our customers the time to enjoy what’s best about the holiday. After the Thanksgiving weekend, we focused on ways to add value to our customers’ purchases and experience, from unique gifts and complimentary delivery options to creative bonus content to arm them for the holidays. For the moment we take with us a few learnings and some of the payoffs that come with focusing on creating the best possible experience for our customers.
Bio: Andrés Modak is a Co-Founder of SNOWE, a home brand building the destination for home for the contemporary consumer. Andrés began SNOWE with co-founder Rachel Cohen (WG’12) after moving to New York City and being unsatisfied with mass-produced homewares and luxury pricing. Prior to SNOWE, Andres worked in real estate private equity and consulting. He grew up across 5 continents in a family of entrepreneurs, architects and interior designers. Andres is has an MBA from the Wharton School and an MA from the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania.