The upcoming holiday season promises to be big for retailers, at least according to National Retail Foundation (NRF) forecasts. Even though the outlook is good, the competition is tough, and the shopping process increasingly complex.
Retailers who wish to reroute customers from the competition to their own doors will need a clear and effective game plan to succeed this holiday season.
Here are five key shopping trends that will characterize this holiday season, with our suggestions on how to use them to your advantage.
1. People start holiday shopping long before December
According to NRF research, more than a half of all consumers start researching potential holiday gifts in October or earlier. One third of all shoppers have already started making their holiday purchases by October!
Be ready for the early birds:
- Make sure your in-store and online displays are up well in time.
- Offer clear and generous return policies. If your return process is strict or unclear, you risk having people back out of purchasing from you – or buy once in your stores, and never again. NRF reports that more than 60 percent of shoppers who had a difficult experience returning a purchase would be hesitant to shop with that retailer again. During the winter holidays at least, it pays off to be generous!
2. Consumers research and shop across channels
Consumers are increasingly browsing and buying products across channels. A UPS study revealed that 55 percent of shoppers look at products online before buying in store (“webrooming”); at the same time, but in the opposite direction, 54 percent of consumers go showrooming, browsing products in physical stores before heading online to find the best deals.
To retain customers throughout the path to purchase:
- Offer options that connect the channels. A popular example is click & collect, which enables customers to buy online and pick up in-store.
- Use browsing and shopping data to offer personalized product recommendations.
- Give clear and complete product information in-store and online. Technology like mobile Point of Sale devices can support your staff during the holidays, enabling them to quickly check where products are located, what the item specifications are, and how many units are left in stock.
3. e-commerce keeps on growing
The popularity of online shopping shows no decline. As more consumers head to digital stores for their holiday shopping, it is important that retailers have a clear online strategy in place.
A few must-dos:
- Make sure that your website is mobile-friendly. Shopping from mobile phones is already commonplace, and it is expected to become even more important this year. Your website should be programmed to adapt to whichever device customers decide to use. All buttons, links and calls to action should be clear and large enough to tap easily. All phone numbers should be included as text, rather than images, so that users can easily tap them and call.
- To increase the chances of a purchase, include high-quality product information on your website. Have a clear and complete item description, with plenty of high-quality images. Extra points if you include a video that better shows the product, or demonstrates how it works.
- Offer free shipping: 6 out of 10 shoppers say that free shipping convinced them to make a purchase they were hesitant about, reports NRF.
- Include product reviews. According to NRF, a whopping 96 percent of shoppers say they read reviews on the retailers’ site – with a quarter of them saying reviews are the top factor when making a buying choice, even more important than price comparisons or advice from friends.
- Allow shoppers to save items in a wish list. According to NRF research, nearly two thirds of holiday shoppers say they would like to be able to save online finds and gift ideas in online wish lists or registries.
4. Consumers make impulsive shopping decisions
Unplanned purchases are common, and growing, reports NRF. Younger generations are especially prone to making impulsive buying decisions.
Leverage this tendency online and offline:
- Aid product discover by making it easy for customers to share products on social media.
- Implement recommendation engines in your webstore (“you might also like…”), and in your brick-and-mortar stores, at the register: the best recommendation software solutions enable you to deliver personalized product recommendations at the POS – essentially, a more effective, AI-powered version of traditional upselling.
- Strategically place complementary items close to each other in-store.
- Increased the chance of an impulsive buy by sending online shoppers promotional offers based on their browsing history.
5. Other people’s opinion matters
For modern shoppers, it isn’t enough to bring a family member or friend to the store to get a second opinion before making a purchase. Today’s consumers like to hear what other people say, regardless of whether they know them in person or not. They read and watch product reviews. They share new purchases –or purchase ideas- on social media. A Google research showed that a growing number of consumers now rely on YouTube gift guides; when it comes to buying consumer electronics, for instance, 68 percent of smartphone users watch YouTube videos to get ideas about what to buy.
Enable customers to be social:
- Don’t ignore the social media channels: have a clear presence, foster interaction and acknowledge loyal customers who share and love your products.
- Feature product reviews on your website, and make sure that the reviews can be easily found next to the relevant product.
- You can leverage reviews in your physical stores, too: for example, you could label your “most popular” items based on customer feedback; consider including a line from a useful (real!) review.
- Set up a social media influencerstrategy: increasingly, consumers consult social media stars for gift advice.
This holiday season, you can attract and retain customers by offering great product content in your e-commerce site, a digitalized store, and a great, unified experience online and offline.