By Adam Forrest, Senior Director, Americas Marketing

It’s only been a few days since Halloween, yet there are a number of holiday promotions already available, and shipping companies are setting order deadlines for holiday packages. The Christmas Creep is alive and well!

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

1. Consumers Say Mobile Payments Will Be Mainstream in 3 Years

Summary: A recent survey conducted by the Mobile Commerce Press revealed that the majority of consumers expect mobile payments to become mainstream sometime between 2017 and 2019. Reporter Julie Campbell explains that credit cards were first introduced in the 1920s, but didn’t become a popular form of payment until the 1950s. So maybe the 5-10 years for mobile payments to reach mainstream might not seem so bad after all.

My thoughts: As a clarifier, I approached this article assuming that “mainstream” is defined as adoption by at least 50% of consumers. With that in mind, I think the adoption of mobile payments will actually happen faster than the 3 year window predicted in this article. Our phones have essentially served as wallets for a while now, storing credit card information, tickets and loyalty cards, and people already complete transactions on their phones on a regular basis – think apps, music and videos. The introduction of Apple Pay brought mobile payments to the forefront again, and encouraged others to push their own offerings. The reality is that consumers are equipped with the devices and the technology they need to make mobile payments mainstream. It’s now up to retailers to enable the consumer’s shopping preference.

 

2. Retailers Preparing for Surge in Online Shopping with Re-Focused Shipping Calendar

Summary: If you want to get your online orders by Christmas, you’d better order at least 1 week in advance. According to Shop.org’s eHoliday survey, 79% of retailers will set standard shipping deadlines for that 1 week mark, compared to 74% who said they would last year, likely due to the shipping challenges retailers faced last year.

My thoughts: We’ve talked about this before – a change in shipping capabilities will most certainly change buying habits because consumers can take advantage of super deals that happen late in the shopping season, and still get their packages on time. It’s even further exacerbated this year since Christmas falls on a Thursday, giving those last minute shoppers an extra business day over last year to get their packages delivered. Shipping companies are aware of the inevitable increase in demand; UPS predicts that last year’s one-day record of 31 million packages will be surpassed on six different days this year. This is why they’re introducing these new deadlines to guarantee delivery. I think these deadlines have the potential to be a significant driver in consumers preferring to “pick up in store,” especially in the last 2 weeks of the holiday shopping season.

 

3. Retailers Like Lowe’s Are Getting a Jump on the Holidays

Summary: Black Vines will start rolling out this week to promote sales and deals for Black Friday, highlighting the growing role of social media in promotional activities. It goes beyond Vines, too; retailers like Big Lots are creating new hashtags to engage their customers across all social channels.

My thoughts: To engage and inspire consumers today, it’s really all about making yourself memorable. Short ads allow retail brands to do this by showcasing more personality to help them connect with their customers on a different level, beyond promotions and offers. Lowe’s has been doing this since Spring 2013 with its #lowesfixinsix theme. We’re going to see a lot more in the world of social commerce and social engagement throughout 2015, and we’ll get a glimpse of some of the benefits from the early adopter retailers that dip their toes in the water this holiday season.

 

4. Amazon Enlists Moms to Rate Toys to Woo Holiday Shoppers

Summary: Amazon is giving Moms a voice by leveraging feedback obtained through social channels to create a “Mom Picks 2014” list of the top 50 toys and games for the end-of-year period. Last year, Amazon’s “Mom Picks” was one of the most popular holiday shopping tools; people used it more frequently than price and discount filters to look for gift ideas.

My thoughts: Amazon has, for all intents and purposes, been a faceless brand that offers great deals and fast delivery. But in today’s world of highly connected and engaged consumers, cheap and fast won’t always win. By creating social communities, it seems like Amazon is working to build brand rapport with their customer segments, particularly moms. Though this approach could be a great way to explore new ways to engage and serve consumers, Amazon may encounter unwanted brand recognition – this is a phenomenon that some consumers may encounter when presented with the option to shop at specific retailers. For example, when asked to shop at Walmart or Target, many consumers may pick Target because the brand seems more appealing. It might be easier for Amazon to remain the cheap and fast method for online shopping, but they seem to always find a way to reinvent expectations in the industry.

 

5. It’s 2017: Is Any Retailer Completely Omnichannel Ready?

Summary: Planning, architecting and implementing an omni-channel database analytics solution for an organization is no small task. There are a number of foundational elements that need to be in place, each of which can take years to develop and effectively implement.

My thoughts: Asking if any retailer will be omni-channel ready is a loaded question; every retailer defines omni-channel differently. This is, of course, part of the problem. I think there are 3 steps retailers need to take in order to explore omni-channel enablement:

  • Step 1: Define what omni-channel means to you.
  • Step 2: With your definition in mind, look at your organization to determine where or how it needs to be restructured. Part of this effort also includes reviewing your processes, especially as it relates to revenue reporting and attribution. Make changes to your organization and processes.
  • Step 3: Evaluate, select and implement the right technology to capitalize on omni-channel capabilities.

There may be some outlier early adopters that can achieve omni-channel readiness by 2017, like Pier 1 or Nordstrom, but I think 2020 is more accurate.