I don’t know about you, but I already have Jingle Bell Rock stuck in my head. If there’s one thing certain this holiday season, the holiday shopping window is going to be a long one. Santa Claus should have been a hot costume this Halloween.
The National Retail Foundation is predicting a 4.1 per cent increase in retail sales and Shop.org is predicting an 8-11 per cent increase in online sales this holiday season compared to last year. This tells me two things. One: retailers are going to be working hard to grab their piece of the pie. And two: shoppers are going to be relying more heavily on technology to get their holiday shopping done.
Retailers will be pulling out all the stops to reach their shoppers through their increasingly diverse digital channels and retail technology, and the most successful retailers are going to be the ones that focus on driving purchases while creating a truly engaging and useful shopper experience.
So let’s focus on a few areas where we can expect to see some innovation:
1) Integrated mobile experiences
Let’s just call it retail already. Online or off, retail is retail and you either have physical stores or you don’t. With a longer buying season and less price differentiation online, especially for big box retailers, shoppers will be looking for experience and service, not just the lowest price and fastest delivery. Integrated, mobile shopping experiences will continue to grow. Several iBeacon tests have rolled out this year and while the technology has promise, I don’t expect to see too many mind blowing experiences just yet. iBeacon + retailer app integration however should lead to a few interesting navigation and messaging innovations across physical stores this season, primarily helping shoppers find what they need faster or explore and discover special offers and other products.
2) Diverse delivery options
Free shipping has some new friends. Free shipping has been one of the big tools for grabbing those online sales in the past, but this year we’ll see more retailers offering options. Have it shipped, choose same day local delivery, pick it up in the store or even pick it up in the parking lot. Retailers will be pushing convenience and speed through their delivery options and we’ll see the messaging shift as we approach that magic order-before-it’s-too-late date. Keeping stock on popular products will be critical. May the best supply chain win.
“First Christmas display sighting of 2014 while shopping for end of summer lawn furniture deals at Home Depot…in August.”
3) Instant purchase options
Always be closing. This year we’ve seen a number of instant purchase options hit the market. Amazon introduced #AmazonCart and then Twitter followed with an actual, in-tweet, buy button. Walmart introduced Scan & Go. One click and buy as you shop options abound. I expect we’ll see more instant buy options as retailers try to bypass the cart and get your items directly into the box or bag. Mobile payment systems also hold promise here, but we’ll have to wait until next year for the most exciting developments.
4) Exclusivity to cut through the clutter
You’re always thinking of me. Whether through email, SMS, apps, search, or display, shoppers are already getting a huge influx of messages with early and ongoing views of all the hot items and deals. Shoppers are going to get overwhelmed quickly. Savvy retailers are going to be looking for ways to stand out in the crowd. Exclusivity is going to be big. Whether it’s exclusive access to products, deals, service, or experience, true exclusivity will win shoppers. Retailers with the best-coordinated, multi-channel efforts will have the biggest impact.
5) Informed, personalised messaging in the physical space
Let’s keep it real…time. Analytics isn’t new. Shoppers’ expectations are already high. They expect personalisation. This year we’ll see more sophistication in the physical store. Personalised alerts and digital displays will play a more prominent role. We’ll see at least a handful of retailers leverage mobile devices or interactive displays to identify shoppers, combine contextual data like weather, location, and time with personal data like purchase history, interests, and social feeds to provide real-time, personal messages that drive purchases.
6) Differentiated efforts to get shoppers in the store
Come in, we’re open. Finally we’re going to see a big push to simply get shoppers into stores, on and offline. For physical retailers we’ll see more physical-based, digital experiences such as interactive windows and product displays. Like past holiday seasons, price matching will continue to be a big tool for physical stores trying to offset online advantages. The big difference is that data will drive automatic price matching for some retailers, like with Walmart’s Savings Catcher. For online retailers, we’ll see more curated gift experiences and social integration. With continued access to detailed, real-time data on shopper behaviour, online retailers can and will create more personalised shopping experiences to help you find the products you want, even if you don’t know you want them yet.
Ken Madden is Head of Engagement at Shoptology