By Adam Forrest, Senior Director, Americas Marketing

We’ve hit that point in the year where most news items explore the upcoming holiday shopping season. Just some of the things we’re seeing include discussion of shopping trends to be aware of, greater investments made in the digital shopping experience, and how social media channels can enable deeper engagement with customers.

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

1. Insights on Retailer, Consumer Intentions for Holiday 2014

Summary: According to the latest eHoliday 2014 Pre-Holiday Retailer and Consumer Study, more than half of U.S. consumers plan to make some of their holiday purchases online this year. And mobile continues to grow as the digital channel of choice.

My thoughts: The data points to two key themes, both of which illustrate the importance of assessing your entire digital presence (and not just the revenue your digital channels could drive). The first is the growing concept of the mobility of the shopping journey. The shopping journey can happen anywhere now because of mobile devices, and as a result, we’re seeing an increasing number of weird and bizarre places where transactions are happening (stay tuned for more data from us in the coming weeks). You need to be sure your mobile shopper has the same brand experience across any channel, regardless of device. The second theme is that consumers will continue to use digital channels to research a product before making a purchase. As the study states, mobile continues to grow as the digital channel of choice, and we’ll see this preference play a big role in the holiday season this year. For example, consumers waking up at 2 a.m. on Black Friday won’t be leaving the comfort of their own beds to wait in line. Instead, they’ll roll over, pick up their tablet or phone, make their desired purchase(s), then roll back over and go to sleep. So, as a retailer, ask yourself: does your brand’s digital footprint deliver the desired shopping experience? Think “easy” and “convenient.”


2. 4 smart social investments for the holiday season  

Summary: According to recent data from Offerpop, 67% of marketing departments have committed to a larger investment in social media for this holiday season. And one of those big investment areas is in social commerce.

My thoughts: I personally believe that investing in your social presence is a very smart move. For this holiday season, in particular, social media channels present a unique way to share real time promotions. Twitter, for example, can let you share the buzz around Black Friday sales to get customers excited earlier, and other social channels can give you the option to run various promotions to drive greater engagement, just like Deb Shops did with Instagram around their “Instant Prom Date” campaign. Social channels can also let you develop your brand’s voice to go beyond traditional marketing campaigns; you can use these channels to more deeply engage with your customers on an emotional level. An apparel retailer, for example, can play up what people should wear to holiday parties and can make their social channels – including their blog – reflect what’s happening during the holiday season, like family parties, corporate events, gift giving and more. But remember: you should talk to your customers through social channels as if they are a friend. “Here’s some cool stuff you can wear for the holiday party at work” is better received than “buy 2, get 1 free!”


3. Twitter to roll out its Buy button to general public in early 2015

Summary: Twitter is planning to officially launch the Buy button to all organizations in early 2015. Though Twitter originally stated that various organizations would slowly be added to the testing phase, no other companies have been announced to date.

My thoughts: Twitter’s Buy button makes it very easy for the impulse buyer to make a quick purchase. But this isn’t shopping; it’s a transactional thing consumers do on the fly and completely misses the relationship building aspect that most retailers strive to achieve with their consumers. I’m not sure why Twitter is pushing toward a Q1 2015 release of the Buy button (especially since we haven’t heard much around the success of the existing companies involved in the testing phase), but regardless of when this goes live, you have to ask yourself if leveraging the Buy button is a good thing for your brand. Does it really let you tell your story and connect with your customers on a deeper level to keep them coming back for more? I talked about this briefly in a previous post – I believe the long term impact for brands is to create a holistic experience and have a two-way conversation with their customers; it’s not about driving to a “point in time” transaction.


4. Retail in 2015: The age of uncertainty

Summary: The retail industry has completed changed, and it’s been tough for retailers to get their footing. Often pressured by their peers, retailers pursuePowering Modern Commerce in the Cloud various digital initiatives that might not make sense for their customers. Senior Editor James Bickers shares some initial data from two surveys that Retail Customer Experience completed for the publication’s upcoming Future Trends report, and the findings show there is still a disconnect between what customers want and what retailers deliver.

My thoughts: The big thing around this age of uncertainty in retail is that consumers are building a composite customer experience in their head that’s built from all the best experiences they’ve encountered across multiple vendors and industries. Though this composite experience isn’t completely realistic, it set an extremely high bar for expectations around every shopping experience, essentially setting retailers up to fail. And even though retailers may be doing the best they can, they still struggle with resources and budget, never mind the ability to innovate. This is why being on a continuously updated platform is so important for retailers; they can keep up with the pace of change and close the consumer experience gap by eliminating the number of uncertainties that exist. Check out this whitepaper on the benefits of leveraging a cloud commerce platform.


5. Accenture Says Online Gains, Earlier Shopping To Dominate Holiday Season

Summary: Accenture predicts that during the upcoming holiday shopping season, we’re going to see an acceleration of all the trends we’ve seen over the past few years. Just a few of these trends include consumers starting to shop earlier, looking for better discounts, spending more time researching products before making a purchase and buying more online.

My thoughts:
All of these trends point to one clear conclusion: consumers are in control. Consumers have become data and information carnivores, taking in as much as they possibly can to develop opinions and expectations – just think about the composite experiences I mentioned above. And based on multiple studies, consumers are using mobile devices at a rapidly growing rate, especially when it comes to doing research. Because of that, consumers are getting smarter when it comes to promotions and will hold out for special deals and discounts. Black Friday is just one of the typically big holiday shopping days that we’ll see change forever because consumers know promotions will run throughout the season; they won’t feel the urgency to make a purchase now. Though it could initially be seen as a challenge, retailers have a great opportunity to find new ways to engage with their customers and give them the type of information they’re looking for… ideally the information that will drive them to make their purchase with you.


Based on all of these articles, there are 3 clear takeaways for all retailers this holiday season:

  1. Think of ways to leverage your social channels to engage with your consumers on an emotional level.
  2. Dig into your investment in the mobile shopping journey to make it easier and more convenient for your customers.
  3. Find your voice and think about your target consumer to ensure you differentiate your brand experience and serve your customer the best way you can.