This time of year, retail brands not only experience an increase in traffic to their brick-and-mortar locations, but they also see a spike in messages sent to their social media profiles. In great numbers, people are turning to social as their preferred communications channel. As always—but especially this time of year—social media managers need to handle the incoming volume efficiently while reaching customers in a meaningful way.

At Sprout Social, we recently published a report on the state of social media responsiveness across 15 industries. In that report, The Q4 2015 Sprout Social Index, we pay particularly close attention to retailers, given that Cyber Monday is just around the corner.

To further help the retail industry prepare for the deluge of social messages coming this holiday season, members of the #SproutChat community shared their thoughts on how to set expectations while improving brand response rates and times. Here’s what our experts had to say.

Take the Reins With the Right Team, Tools & Tactics

Consumer expectations continue to increase. Simply put, they want answers fast. But most brands just aren’t prepared to keep up. That’s an unfortunate position to be in during the holiday shopping season, which represents a critical make-or-break period for most retailers. Responding quickly and sincerely is essential to driving sales, as this could be the first and only time a potential customer ever reaches out.

Prepare for Last-Minute Shoppers

According to a survey from Walmart, 42% of Americans do the majority of their holiday shopping in December. Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation projects that almost half of holiday shopping this year will be done online. With that in mind, brands should anticipate that people will have pressing questions and will be seeking immediate answers across social networks, especially Facebook and Twitter. Ignoring these messages shouldn’t be an option. Brands must prepare to respond to incoming messages during off hours—and sometimes from not-so-cheery customers.

Bridge the Gap With In-Store Activations

Campaigns with online and offline integrations are nothing new—but the holidays provide a particularly ripe opportunity to bring these two worlds together. While shoppers are spending half of their time making purchases online, there remains a large volume of shoppers also stepping foot in stores. Tapping into customers’ mobile-centered behavior may result in increased sales. Brands can test and see what works and then adapt a campaign as needed to get the desired results.

Expand Your Knowledge

Thanks to everyone who stopped by this week to share your insights. See you all again this Wed., Nov. 18, as we discuss emoji marketing. To stay up to date on forthcoming chat topics and to connect with other industry pros, join our Facebook community. And be sure to download our free report on retail responsiveness.