By Adam Forrest, Senior Director, Americas Marketing

NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay recently compared today’s retail holiday outlook to where we were last year, and with weather cooperating so far and no government shutdown, forecasts are looking good. There’s a very real opportunity for retailers to capture additional wallet share this holiday season when it comes to customer engagement and customer experience, so what are you doing to get their attention – and keep it?

Here are some of the top items I read to help inspire new thoughts for you this week.

1. The Black (Friday) List

Summary: Accenture’s Holiday Survey data is out and it looks like more consumers (66% of respondents) are planning to shop on Black Friday, compared to 55% in 2013 and 44% in 2011. But the data really points to millennial shopping behaviors. 86% of millennials report they’re likely to shop on Black Friday, 54% said they’d be willing to give up personal information to get more targeted offers, and though free shipping is the biggest driver for all age groups, millennials are more concerned about getting their purchases on time for Christmas.

My thoughts: The official kickoff to the holiday shopping season has undergone some drastic changes over the last few years. The more recent trend – stores opening on Thanksgiving Day – has generated a lot of backlash from consumers who want Thanksgiving to stay focused on family. What I find most interesting is that there is a clear win-win scenario: retailers that offer Thanksgiving Day promotions through digital channels can still reach consumers throughout the day, and people can avoid long lines and stay with their families. I think we’ll see more retailers explore this route going forward, as well as launching week-long deals, like Walmart’s 5 days of Black Friday Deals.

2. Forecast: 30 Percent Of Cyber-Monday Transactions Will Be Mobile

Summary: It’s predicted that Cyber Monday sales could exceed $750M – from just mobile devices. At least that’s according to mobile ad personalization platform AppLovin. This is a significant bump; in 2010, mobile Cyber Monday purchases only accounted for 2% of transactions.

My thoughts: I wouldn’t be surprised if more than 30% of Cyber Monday transactions are done through mobile devices, especially with millennials. The hyper connectivity of today’s consumer has created a multitasking shopper, constantly connected with mobile. For example, data from a recent Google Survey we completed of more than 300 U.S. consumers showed that shopping in the car or in the bathroom (two locations specific to other activities) were reported 50% higher than any other location, illustrating that consumers are likely to shop almost anywhere while they do almost anything. And though nearly 25% of respondents reported they prefer to shop during evening hours, data showed that consumers engage with their favorite brands pretty evenly throughout the day.


3. Alibaba’s Singles’ Day sales exceed predictions at $9.3bn

Summary: Alibaba reported $9.3B in sales from this year’s Single’s Day, shipping more than 278 million orders. This is a significant increase over last year, when the company recognized $5.75B in sales and shipped 150 million packages. Perhaps most interesting is that 43% of orders this year were placed on a mobile device.

My thoughts: This data shows just how quickly the Chinese market is adopting digital commerce. There is clearly a huge opportunity for retailers to get their share in the soon-to-be largest ecommerce market out there, especially for those that can establish local brand recognition. According to a recent STORES article, where our own Rob Garf is quoted on the Chinese market opportunity, brand prestige is a big part of retailer success. Chinese consumers want global and luxury brands, and their desire for Western brand recognition means they’re willing to part with more of their income to acquire these status symbols. As an example, our client CLARINS had a very successful expansion into the Chinese market.


4. Magazine Are Trying To Turn Readers Into Shoppers

Summary: Allure is working with MasterCard to blend editorial content with commerce. Starting this month, readers no longer need to circle items they want as they read through the product reviews and then embark on a search to find them. Instead, they can add items to a shopping cart as they read through product reviews online. But despite the great promise of convenience, publishers are still struggling with the adoption of shoppable magazines and videos.

My thoughts: Lines are increasingly blurring between content and commerce. The use of content in any shopper’s journey is increasingly critical in their final purchase decision. And this type of engagement is coming from multiple sides – retailers are trying to infuse more content into conversations to increase stickiness with consumers, and publications, like Allure, are trying to put commerce into their existing content. They know they need to find other ways to engage with the consumer, so by infusing content and commerce together, it ensures consumers can make more informed decisions. For more information on this trend, check out the Q&As we did with Rob Garf and L2’s Founder Scott Galloway.


5. Building Customer Loyalty Through Technology

Summary: Winning customer loyalty is a fierce competition, and many marketers believe real-time personalization can drive positive results.

My thoughts: Retail success is ultimately dictated by giving your customers what they want, from the right products, to the right information, to the right delivery mechanism. If you miss this opportunity to engage, they’ll quickly forget about you and move on to someone else. A new challenge for retailers is to deliver better recommendations to consumers based on their past shopping behaviors. Predictive intelligence is all about understanding what types of products your customers want and finding ways to share that information with them. Check out Graeme Grant’s intro here, our new VP of Predictive Intelligence.