The only things that holiday shoppers want this year are personalization, convenience and mobile — in short, everything — but if you’re a retailer and looking for 2017 holiday season success, don't let that intimidate you.
Retailers that know what to expect can prepare themselves to meet those shoppers' needs and have a successful holiday season, all while building customer loyalty that will pay dividends throughout the year.
According to the National Retail Federation’s 2017 Retail Holiday Planning Playbook, people increasingly start their shopping journeys on mobile. So, retailers must not only be on top of their mobile games but also remember that shoppers still expect holistic, seamless experiences across all channels, from mobile to online to brick and mortar.
5 Keys to Holiday Season Sales Success
Retailers who support their customers’ quests to shop how they want, where they want and when they want will find success during the holiday season, especially when they take these five predictions into account.
1. Online sales will see another big jump, despite flat growth in sales overall
Although NRF predicts a 3.7-4.2 percent year-over-year growth in 2017 sales, eMarketer expects a 12 percent jump in online sales. That means that retailers that haven't evaluated their digital presences recently must do so now.
They can look for ways to leverage customer data to create targeted email campaigns suggesting great gift ideas, optimize SEO for better search results and ensure that their online shopping and ordering experiences work equally smoothly on both desktop and mobile. Mulichannel marketing allows for all of those pieces to organically flow and nurture your prospect in their natural habitats.
2. Mobile will be even more important
Because over 80 percent of shoppers say they research products that cost $50 or more using smartphones or tablets, according to the Retail Holiday Planning Playbook, the customer experience on mobile must be seamless or it will not capture these shoppers. The same research shows about half of those folks are doing that research before November, with a third even purchasing during that timeframe, so it is imperative for retailers to implement this part of their holiday season strategy before October.
Retailer apps need to convert searches to purchases by offering deals on what consumers are looking for and ensuring that online payments can be made quickly and securely. Retailers with dedicated apps can add some extra polish by offering special inducements at the shopping cart — discount codes or exclusive offers, say — to help close transactions.
3. Personalization will be the key to success
Knowing your customers better than your competition will give you an advantage. For example, if your records show that a shopper — let’s call her Gloria — buys new running shoes every six months, send her a discount code five-and-a-half months after her last purchase, along with a free pair of socks. Follow that up later with a guide to local running trails or a training video on the best ways to stretch and warm up.
Retailers can follow similar arcs with any product or service, taking advantage of the power of organized customer data. And remember that establishing a personalized relationship during the holidays...for the gift givers and self-gifters in us all... is a great way to build customer loyalty throughout the year.
NRF's survey also shows the power these loyalists can have as influencers too. 73 percent of respondents said they are likely to write a review when satisfied, with that number growing for "born-digital" Gen Zers and Millennials.
4. Convenience will differentiate retailers from their competitors
Woo customers by respecting their time and making life easier for them. According to NRF, a third of respondents surveyed said that same-day delivery was important to them, and not surprisingly, twice as many were convinced to make the purchase because of free shipping. Tie this in with a targeted list of last-minute gift ideas to grab the attention of busy or procrastinating shoppers.
What’s more, the ability to buy online and pick up in-store is increasingly influencing shoppers’ choices. Stores can take advantage of that preference by offering exclusive in-store specials when shoppers come to pick up their merchandise.
5. Shoppers will still love brick and mortar
Year-in and year-out, shoppers continue to spend a significant amount of their time and money in physical stores. The promise of instant gratification, the ability to test and try on products before purchase and the opportunity to talk to a real person about items being considered still create powerful advantages over the e-commerce world.
The key to experiential success for brick and mortar will be to look to technology to offer as much personalization and in-store convenience as shoppers can find online, using such tools as beacons with targeted offers, synchronized databases with complete shopper histories and mobile checkout.
Create a Converged Strategy
Retailers can optimize this holiday season by analyzing data to anticipate shopper behavior and manage expectations at a granular level. Retailers with the flexibility and systems in place when customers come into the store or onto the website will be able to leverage additional buying opportunities.
We predict that catching customers' eyes with digital channels, connecting with them over their mobile devices, offering them customized promotions based on their interests and needs, providing them with the convenience of same-day pickup at a physical location and handing them a coupon that saves them on additional in-store purchases that day, are all elements that will help retailers create the kind of converged strategy that will help them stand out during the busiest shopping season of the year.
Updated for the 2017 holiday season, originally posted on CMSWire November 22, 2016