By Adam Forrest, Senior Director, Americas Marketing
It’s that time of the year when retailers start executing the holiday strategies they’ve had in the works for months. But this year will look a little different when compared to holiday seasons past. Retailer success will be dictated by how well they meet consumer demands and expectations – a moving target for some – which is largely driven by the evolution of a mobile and omni-channel shopping experience.
Here are the top 5 holiday season trends I think we’ll see – and why we should keep an eye on them.
1. Mobile is Far from Saturated
Last year, we saw consumers increasingly use mobile devices to make holiday purchases. This year, we’ll not only see an increased use of mobile devices to complete a purchase, we’ll also see those devices being used as a means to help guide the customer through their entire shopping journey. The emergence of beacons in more retail locations will present new engagement opportunities with customers that walk through the door. And retailers are getting smarter with responsive design capabilities, ensuring email promotions are easy-to-digest for customers on-the-go. But there is room for improvement here; mobile will be a priority investment area for retailers in 2015.
2. Embrace Change
The increased engagement with retailers and brands via mobile devices means showrooming is becoming less of a threat. Sure, consumers are visiting stores less, but when they do walk through the door, they’re spending more. We’ll see retailers start to transform their physical stores and test new formats and functions – e.g., becoming a pick-up point or a showroom model, as opposed to a shopping or browsing destination. The increased conversion of digital with the physical store will help drive this forward.
3. The Evolution of Shipping
We’re going to see retailers take shipping to a new level – beyond the promise of fast and free shipping – as a result of the increased efforts organizations are making around order fulfillment and distribution. Retailers will pool inventory across all locations, including both store inventory and web inventory, to give customers new ways to buy products and get them faster. This presents retailers with the opportunity to rethink their strategies around discounts and promotions, and possibly engage with holiday shopping procrastinators for great last minute buys they can get on time through buy online/pick-up in-store options.
4. Removing Barriers for Customer Satisfaction
Pooling inventory across all locations will allow retailers to get a real-time view of all products and recognize business success as a whole. And this goes beyond reporting; it extends itself to customer satisfaction. Retailers that operate their stores and websites as separate entities often run out of the hot ticket items because they don’t have transparency into all available inventory across every channel. This also extends to returns; retailers will need to be able to get a product right back into the available inventory, regardless of whether or not it was purchased in a different location or online. We’ll start to see some improvements here, driven largely by omni-channel adoption.
5. Marketing Strategies
Each of these holiday shopping trends point to a new opportunity for retailers: the evolution of marketing strategies. Leveraging responsive design, offering more convenient shipping options and having greater transparency into inventory all have a direct impact on the evolution of retailers’ marketing strategies. This year will be a baseline to compare against next year. We’ll see early adopters trying out new techniques to drive those final holiday sales, like offering special online promotions that allow consumers to get gift wrapped products from curb side pick-up.