By Graeme Grant

The holidays are fast-approaching and retailers should take heed. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security because the 2014 holiday shopping season is a few days longer than last year’s. Any retailer that hasn’t prepared for the shopping season at this point will have some serious catching up to do, and they’ll have to work overtime to meet increasing customer demand for personalized messaging and omni-channel offers (e.g., ship to/pick-up in-store, online order, in-store returns).

Shop.org’s recent 2014 eHoliday survey emphasizes that the race is on! After surveying retailers and consumers for their thoughts on the marketing, promotions, personalization and paid search elements of holiday shopping, the results show that everyone is gearing up for another omni-channel focused season, with ecommerce as a predominant channel. According to the survey:

  • 56% of holiday shoppers expect to do at least some part of their holiday shopping online
  • Online holiday shoppers plan to spend 16% more than all holiday shoppers on gifts, decorations and food for the holidays
  • 41.3% of online retailers have invested significantly in ecommerce live chat capabilities

While it’s not surprising that ecommerce is gaining in popularity, especially around the holidays, the findings suggest something more than that: the normal customer interaction has changed. It’s no longer enough to just respond to customers with additional product suggestions, blast out seasonal promotions, or provide mobile friendly ecommerce sites. Retailers must take a proactive, customer-centric approach to help consumers find the perfect gift at the right price and at the right time.

To do this, retailers should leverage their existing customer data to paint a complete picture of each individual customer. In doing so, retailers can deliver valuable messages and offerings across every shopping touchpoint.

Online promotions, live web chats, “ship to store” functionality and flexible shipping calendars are great pieces of technology, but to thrive this holiday season and create true, lasting customer relationships (not to mention higher profits), retailers need to focus on understanding customers’ individual preferences, behaviors and tastes. Then, with that insight, deliver valuable, personalized shopping experiences, even after the holidays are over.

Want to double check you have all the right pieces in place for your holiday shopping season strategy? Check out our full Get Holiday Ready series.

Shop.org and NRF members can download the full Shop.org 2014 eHoliday Survey here