The 2020 holiday shopping season is expected to experience an e-commerce surge, with Deloitte recently projecting that online holiday sales will be up anywhere from 25 to 35 percent. This, of course, includes securing ample digital support, but traditional retail personnel will play as integral a role as ever--if not more so--in navigating a successful season.

These are some of the key areas where retailers should be looking to staff up in preparation for this anticipated flurry of activity.

In-Store Fulfillment

Buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) has been a steadily growing trend for many online shoppers over the past several years, but its popularity was catapulted by physical shopping restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to data from fraud protection company Signifyd's Commerce Network, BOPIS orders increased by more than 450 percent within a month of the start of the pandemic. Nearly four months later, BOPIS orders were still 275 percent higher than they were pre-pandemic. 

During this turbulent time, curbside pickup became a welcome staple in the omnichannel model, and one expected to be relied upon heavily throughout the holiday season. Half of the respondents in a survey conducted by BlackFriday.com and Survey Gizmo said they plan to use curbside or contactless pickup during the holiday season compared to last year.

While in-store shopping traffic is projected to be minimal, the number of shoppers picking up online orders at or in stores will be considerable. Retailers should prepare by hiring or designating and training staff to manage this particular segment in accordance with store size and projected demand.

Customer Service Support

The goal of your customer service team should be to effectively solve customers' problems in a way that makes them feel acknowledged and appreciated. Customer service has an undeniable influence over customer retention, loyalty, and sales.

With increased e-commerce orders come more inquiries, requests, complaints, and other matters requiring personal attention--something today's consumers not only crave but have come to expect. With a healthy roster of well-trained customer service associates, first response time will likely be shorter, thereby giving your customers the attention they desire in a timely and efficient manner.

Inventory Management

As much as shoppers enjoy BOPIS and curbside pickup, managing inventory and fulfilling orders is challenging. Because substantial online order fulfillment is taking place at the store level, retailers should be looking at seasonal store hires with more diverse skill sets than they perhaps have in years past. An ideal candidate will possess interpersonal skills like managing customer relations, while also being able to focus on more monotonous tasks, such as order fulfillment.

As important as the size of the staff you hire to handle order fulfillment is, it's at least equally important that the employees responsible for this job be familiar with the store layout--something that, naturally, is more challenging for seasonal workers than "regular" employees. Good inventory management technology that supports an efficient order fulfillment strategy will separate the successes from the failures here.

Each of these key areas has the power to make or break the customer experience, which, as we all know by now, is king. Making good staffing decisions will not only pave the way for a successful 2020 holiday shopping season, it can go a long way in earning loyal customers who will help keep you in business for many holiday seasons to come.