I’m a merchant at heart. I love merchandise. It probably goes back to over 20 years ago when I was an assistant buyer for May Company department stores. Part of our responsibility was to work out in the stores during sale periods in November and December. It gave me a chance to get customers reactions to merchandise on the spot. Talk about instant feedback.
Fast forward to today where I run one of the leading online retailers of hobbies and specialty toys at eHobbies. My job title might have changed but I still love merchandise and think like a merchant. Instead of dragging out boxes of down comforters and pillows I am promoting cool hobbies like model rockets, slot cars and science & educational model kits. I also know that for retailers especially those selling toys, that the holiday season represents a large part of their annual sales. Just like in my days of getting feedback in person from customers, I do the same thing now by reviewing customer service emails and monitoring phone calls. I also answer the phone and respond to emails when I can.
I am constantly thinking about how to improve both our merchandise selection and our user interface for our customers. We can have the greatest products but if our customers are not able to have a great experience with us, they are not likely to return. Similarly, our website can have all of the newest bells and whistles but if our customers are not interested in what we are selling then we have made our investment in the wrong place. Retailing is a very common sense oriented business but it requires excessive attention to details in order to be successful.
With only 30 days to go before the start of the 4th quarter, I am spending this critical time to ensure that our highest priorities are in place before the craziness of the holiday season kicks in. It seems that every year, customers tend to start their holiday shopping later and later and the big ramp up doesn’t start until after Halloween is over. That is very good on one hand because it allows more time to get the store ready but bad on the other because we have alot of business to do in a short period of time. The priorities for me for the next month are optimizing SEO & PPC programs, site enhancements (updates to the item pages including video demos and product delivery estimator) and a quick and easy way for customers to get real-time order updates without logging in to their account.
As I like to say, we are always either in the holiday season or getting ready for it. Do your best to prepare yourself now because when it hits, its almost always too late to implement major improvements on the fly.