/ How to Survive the 2013 Holidays with Real-Time Insights

The holiday shopping predictions have trended lower this year, but what does that mean for your business? Are clothing retailers going to face above-average dividends with all the snow and cold plowing through the US? Will electronics retailers hold their high margins, or are they going to have to severely discount their products to drive more revenue?

The truth is that while macro trends are great for investors, they are almost useless for individual retailers. Trend reports can’t tell individual retailers how much seasonal staff to hire, how to schedule a promotional calendar, how much server capacity to have available, or if a brick-and-mortar location is overstaffed and underperforming.

Retailers need real-time data to make the most of shoppers’ favorite time of year. Here are three areas where you should focus:

1. Online Performance

“Online” is no longer a singular entity. Mobile, desktop and social media are all driving revenue and producing more opportunities, and there’s only one way to keep up: with real-time data. Here’s a shortlist of business questions that demand real-time metrics:

  • What percentage volume traffic are you experiencing?
  • What devices are delivering the most traffic?
  • Is your mobile site generating revenue, or producing abandoned carts?
  • How many sales are generated by social media per hour?

Once you get answers to these and other questions, you still have to decide what to do about them. Real-time data helps you see the big picture sooner, so you can make the right decision faster.

2. Brick-and-Mortar Stats

Brick-and-mortar can be very fickle—do you have the right amount of product, the right number of employees, and the right revenue per location? If you wait for even a single day to get the stats, then you’re missing opportunities to cut costs and increase revenue.

3. Supply Chain Health

Given 2013’s blustery beginning to winter, supply chain health is top-of-mind for most businesses. If your shipments get stuck in Denver, you need to have real-time information on flight statuses and estimated delivery times so that you can pivot and find your way around the logistical roadblock.

Beyond the Holidays

The point is, you can’t rely on trending information or even snapshots of your own organization. Trends can only tell you what has already happened. Forecasts are educated guesses at what’s going to happen. But only real-time data can tell you exactly what is happening and give you the information you need to make better decisions. That’s going to be retailers’ difference between a middling revenue report and a successful year end.