Most brands have just wrapped up the most anticipated and stressful time on their retail calendar: the holiday season.
As the quiet of January sets in, many retailers take stock of seasonal hits and misses of the year gone by while planning for the months ahead. After all, holiday sales have the ability to make or break a company’s profits, accounting for as much as much as â€‹30 percentâ€‹ of total annual sales.
Marketing for the holiday season has its own unique challenges - from keeping abreast of evolving trends and unpredictable buyer behavior to addressing difficulties in managing product inventory and logistics.
In this post, we discuss emerging opportunities and lessons from 2017, which you should consider while planning and forecasting your marketing activities for the year ahead.
The Year of Mobile Shopping
An emerging ecommerce trend for the holiday season in 2017 was the rise in mobile shopping which contributed to online sales exceeding in-store sales for the first time.â€‹
According to findings from Deloitte’s Holiday Survey 2017, 51 percent of shopping budgets were expected to be spent online versus 42 percent in-store, compared to a 50-50 split last year.
Retailers need to ensure a top quality experience for consumers who are shopping from their tablet, smartphone, or desktop.
Points to consider
Is your website’s landing page optimized so that it looks and feels the same on different types of mobile screens?
Is your site easy to navigate, and is your customer able to locate your products easily?
Have you implemented a quick and convenient way to pay so that customers can select, pay and schedule a delivery with ease?
Have you optimized the checkout process with things like a single page checkout or touch payments?
An Omnichannel Shopping Experience
Over the holiday season, people took their time to research and shop around for the best deals across multiple channels. The modern shopper engages with multiple channels in the period before they make their final purchase - using a combination of the web, in-store visits, social media, apps and ecommerce websites.
For instance, customers may visit the store to test a product before ordering it online, or make price comparisons on their smartphones before using a click and collect service. They may also look at website reviews or ask for recommendations on social media before deciding to buy.
Companies that implementedâ€‹ omnichannel engagement strategies retained almost 9 out of 10 customers, compared to 3 out of 10 for companies who did not address omnichannel.
This means that retailers need to deliver an integrated and seamless experience across all sales channels, to guide customers at every stage in their journey to a final conversion.
Remember, even transactional emails can bring in sales.
Points to consider:
Are your customers able to check online if a particular product is available at a nearby store?
Are they able to reserve a product online, and able to collect it from the store?
Does the system record profile information and user shopping history to make it easier for the user to find the same items in case of repeat website visits?
Are they able to find and interact with your brand easily on social media?
The official start of holiday season usually begins with Black Friday, but 2017 saw a change in consumer behavior. A greater number of customers are deciding to spread out their spending (outside of the regular big sales) by beginning their shopping earlier in November.
This reinforces the fact that shoppers are ‘prepping’ for their purchases by spending more time researching features, comparing prices and trialling products before making their final decision.
Retailers and online marketers should recognize that the buying habits of the customer have changed. A good rule of thumb is to focus on your customer, and try to uncover insights about their buying behavior and needs, so that you can develop seasonal strategies that put the right message in front of the right target group at the right time.
Points to consider:
Where is your target audience spending their time online?
Which platforms and channels do they use?
What kind of content appeals the most to your target audience?
What light can data and analytics throw on the buyer’s journey and buying behaviors?
What other new stores are popping up in your niche, and how are they impacting the playing field? Could you maybe profit from buying an existing store with a readymade community to help support your retail efforts?
Personalization Is Key
Needless to say, offering a personalized shopping experience will not only give your customer a memorable experience, but will differentiate your brand in a season which sees them being frequently bombarded by a deluge of holiday ads, seasonal promotions and, early bird offers.
Knowing your target audience’s interests and motivations is key to offering personalized products and experiences. Nobody does this better than â€‹Amazonâ€‹, which uses its purchase and viewed product history to recommend similar products that are targeted to the individual on a granular level. In addition, Amazon uses your shipping address to give you customized results based on your location.
Points to consider:
Are you gathering customer information from multiple sources (first party data, email sign ups, website visitors, chat history, social media interactions) to know more about the primary needs and motivations of your target audience?
Are you applying analytics to create customer segments and targeted customer profiles so that you can collect data to personalize their shopping experience by understanding their browsing and buyer behavior?
Are you sending out personalized emails to make people aware about seasonal deals, price drops, and discounts over the holiday season?
Brick and Mortar Remains Relevant
Despite the age of ecommerce, the brick and mortar experience remains integral to the shopping experience. In fact, 50 percent of millennials prefer to go to a physical store as part of their buyer’s journey. Many shoppers enjoy the in-store shopping and enjoy the personal interaction and physical feel of products. Visiting the Apple store, for instance, feels less like customer service interaction, and more like a hip event/lifestyle experience.
Given that people are usually busy and hurried during their holiday shopping frenzy, it is challenging to draw people’s attention and deliver a great shopping experience. A brand that managed to do this well in 2017 is Target who hosted a few fun in-store holiday events: free treats (hot chocolate, cookies and milk), a free festive photo booth, pictures with Santa, a Star Wars event and toy demos.
From pop-ups shops and product demos to free kids’ workshops, personalized shopping services and well-timed promotional events, brands should consider creative and engaging ways to deliver a memorable experience for their customers.
Some points to consider:
Are you able to offer personalized services - help with finding the right product, time slots for appointments, trained customer service reps etc. ?
What in-store engaging experiences can you plan to create to cater to your shopper during the holiday period?
Can you go beyond your product and service to create a specific experience in terms of look, feel and smell - could you make changes to the lighting, sound, texture, color of your store to appeal to your customers?
Buying habits and behavior have drastically changed in recent years and they continue to evolve alongside developments in technology. The digital landscape has significantly altered the way people shop, and ecommerce and mobile shopping are here to stay.
There is no underestimating the modern shopper – they are highly informed, knowledgeable about their buying choices, and seemingly in control at various stages of their buyer’s journey.
The challenge and key then for every retailer is to develop an ability to adapt and evolve with changing times, and invest in smart and creative marketing strategies to boost brand loyalty and stay ahead of the crowd.