The Hidden Economy That Makes Holiday Shopping Possible
As early as October, you start seeing the signs pop up in the windows of retail businesses: Now Hiring Seasonal Staff. With the perfect storm of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and New Year’s all happening within a month of each other, it’s become more vital than ever for retailers to hire extra help to handle the holiday rush. But it’s not just the people working behind the cash registers — freelancers, managed service providers, and freelance management systems ensure that multiple industries are prepared for the holiday shopping boom. When the regular full-time staff steps down to take a break around the holidays, contingent workers are the ones who step up to fill the gap and keep things running smoothly.
With the big shopping season fast approaching, let’s examine the ways that freelance and contingent workers help make it possible for you to still get great service, even when there’s already a lineup of last-minute shoppers.
What Industries Need to Do to Prepare
It’s an understatement to say that the holidays are a massive moneymaker in the United States and around the world. With so much tradition built around the buying and exchanging of presents, it’s no wonder that shopping malls typically fill up with frenzied customers from November to December. And it’s not just physical stores that need the extra help — it’s online stores and their shipping warehouses as well. In a 2013 article from Google that studies the previous year’s holiday shopping trends, the authors point out that e-commerce is only growing in popularity:
“E-Commerce was the clear star, even on big in-store shopping days like Black Friday. Online sales on Black Friday increased 26% last year while in-store Black Friday sales actually declined 2%. This trend shows no signs of slowing down. Nearly half of consumers say they plan to buy holiday gifts online this year, according to a Google Consumer Survey of 1,500 consumers conducted in early July. In fact, with the exception of boomers and seniors (55+), every demographic we asked plans to shop more on the internet than in brick-and-mortar retail stores.”
With every retailer fighting to get the biggest piece of the pie, it can be an incredibly hectic season for both consumers and the people supplying them with their purchases and their service – so it’s no wonder that more people are turning to the Internet to shop rather than brave overcrowded malls.
It’s also a big time of year for industries like ad companies, public relations firms, and marketing agencies. Although it can be a toss-up whether the holiday months are chaotic and busy or calm and quiet, it’s always best for an agency to be prepared for whatever might come their way. Since so many full-time staff are looking to also take time off (to say nothing for the amount of sickness that goes around in the wintertime), and there are also days of religious observance like Hanukkah to consider, it’s imperative that agencies have enough staffing power to cover any vital absences. This is also a huge time of year for clients to launch holiday-based campaigns, but if there aren’t enough employees available to handle project management, then they could be looking at potentially lost business.
How Freelancers Can Fill the Gap
For the retail and hospitality sectors, hiring seasonal workers and contingent staff makes the most sense to shore up staffing before the holidays begin. An article from Inbound Logistics quotes Kunal Thakkar, vice president of operations at leading online electronics vendor Newegg, as saying, “Recruiting and training additional labor presents a challenge during the holidays. Our order volume grows rapidly every day, spiking on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the week before Christmas. It’s critical that we have the appropriate skilled labor in place to fulfill these orders.” These new recruits are also hired early to ensure that they have the training needed to get them through the holiday rush, “but at a rate that does not negatively impact production and add to our cost.” This is of particular importance to retailers; although it’s important to bring seasonal staff on board, you’ll want to be certain that the cost of training them doesn’t outweigh how much quality service they’re going to bring to the table.
When it comes to businesses like agencies, managed services make a difference — especially for projects and campaigns that may be launching in the days leading up to the holidays. As mentioned earlier, this is the season where a lot of staff take time off (especially if they lose their accrued paid vacation days when the calendar rolls over into the new year), which can be a hindrance for an agency looking to launch a campaign that will hopefully take advantage of holiday spending. Instead, if an agency has a solid roster of freelancers on board or under retainer, they automatically have a replacement army to step in and take up the slack. Freelance management systems help make it simple to assign projects, facilitate edits, and connect with freelancers across the globe, so it’s never been easier to add freelancers to your workforce — plus it pays off big time around the holidays.
Also, according to Google, a company should be prepared to adapt to a more mobile focus, since more shoppers are turning to their handheld devices to find the best deals (although according to this infographic by Signal, not as many consumers are making purchases via mobile; instead they mostly use them to search for inventory availability and discounts). “Last year, shopping-related searches on mobile devices boomed during key in-store days,” says the article. “The three biggest days for mobile queries were Black Friday, Thanksgiving, and the day after Christmas. Whether shoppers are comparing prices, checking inventory or hunting for coupons, retailers should aim to meet them in context wherever they are, based on the shopper’s location and device.” When you’ve got freelancers on board to keep an eye on data from any place at any time, your company will be better prepared to change things on the fly or adjust campaign metrics.
Freelancers as the Holiday Solution
If you’ve seen your hometown go gaga over the holiday shopping season, you’ve undoubtedly seen how it can be big business for retailers and other companies. But, depending on the industry you work in, you could be left short-staffed after you’ve been overtaken by a horde of customers and a rash of employee absences. That’s why it’s a good plan to have freelancers ready to step in to assist during this busy time of year — and with the rise of freelance management systems and managed services, it’s incredibly simple to keep your business afloat and successful during the busy season.
Have you ever utilized contingent workers to help your business with the holiday rush? Let us know in the comments.