By Sue Chapman

Today, we’re kicking off our “Get Holiday Ready” blog series, where we’ll highlight some of the top merchandising tips I’ve acquired over my 14 years in the industry. Up first: planning your mobile and omni-channel holiday strategy.

During last year’s holiday season, retailers worked hard to create an omni-channel shopping experience. Retailers brought the online, in-store and mobile initiatives together to provide a seamless experience. And though not quite perfect (yet), this allowed shoppers to buy online, pick up in-store, make returns and price match with other stores and sites.

This year, we’ll see continued evolution of this experience as consumers demand even richer in-store experiences and omni-channel technologies continue to transform retailer operations.

Here are 4 areas to plan for to enhance your omni-channel holiday strategy.

Bring digital to the showroom floor

To deliver a richer in-store shopping experience, retailers need to explore ways to bring digital into the physical store to more effectively close the gap between the in-store and online shopping channels. Mobile devices, like tablets, give store associates the opportunity to more deeply engage with customers right on the show floor. This enables retailers to give each of their customers a more personalized shopping experience, while also reducing walked sales and driving in-store revenue.

Make your coupons flexible 

Flexible coupons are critical; your customers are likely not shopping via just one channel, so discounts and offers should extend across every shopping channel. Our client Michaels offers coupons that clearly state, “We accept coupons on smartphones” – this is a great way to remind customers that they can redeem the coupon wherever or however they choose to shop.

Mobile Offers

Planning specific mobile offers is also a great tactic. But these campaigns need to be easy, compelling and have a sense of urgency that encourage consumers to take the action now, rather than waiting until they get home to make the purchase from a laptop or desktop. Some tactics include:

  • Contests / Texting – Consumers love contests when it comes to holiday shopping, so encourage your customers to vote for the item they want a discount on via text message; the item with the most votes goes on sale. And explore the possibility of a “12 Days of Christmas” coupon; if your customers opt in, they’ll get a text message with a new coupon for 12 straight days.
  • Exclusive mobile deals – Consider exclusive mobile deals, offering your customers discounts on select items only available on the mobile site.
  • Mobile flash sales – Plan a mobile flash sale by putting items on sale for a limited time, only through the mobile site. This will drive traffic to your mobile site since your customers will consistently check in to see what new offers exist.

Buy online and pick up in-store

A final element that each of these components builds to is overcoming challenges around shipping. Can I get it on time? and How can I avoid paying shipping costs? are two of the most frequent questions consumers will ask. With an omni-channel strategy in place, retailers can give their customers the ability to buy the item now, without taking the chance that it will be gone later. Think about it: have you ever tried to find the most popular toy of the season? You could order it online and wait, if you have time. But being able to order it online – perhaps with a coupon – drive a few blocks to pick it up in a store, wrap it and be able to give it to your kid(s) on time gives shoppers significant peace of mind. (More on this to come!)

Have you tried one of these strategies, or deployed another tactic, that worked for you? Let us know!

And stay tuned for our next tip: Getting a head start on holiday SEO.