Shoppers are feeling the crunch. Analysts are anticipating just a minor bump in spending as we close out the year with interest rates and prices continuing to climb. Factor in the deluge of discounts and offers available to consumers — plus the expansion of omnichannel options for anytime, anywhere shopping — and winning wallet share only looks more and more complex for brands.
On top of the fierce competition for limited dollars, shoppers are hitting stores earlier than ever. Fifty percent indicated they would begin holiday shopping before Halloween, while 24 percent reported that they would begin before the end of September. Retailers need to act. But how do you cut through all the noise to win customer attention?
Live shopping, retail gamification, and exclusive offers are three tactics retailers should consider this holiday season.
Live shopping, which is expected to grow to $68 billion by 2026 in the U.S. and $843 billion by 2025 in China, is the practice of selling products directly via livestreams. Walmart, YouTube, and eBay have launched live shopping features. Amazon.com has its own Amazon Live platform.
In a crowded online environment, live shopping offers retailers the opportunity to transform shopping into entertainment and casual browsing into action. It capitalizes on the connections between influencers and their audiences, who may be more likely to buy with a trusted authority’s encouragement. It also fosters a sense of urgency.
Retailers can double down on the instantaneous dimension of live shopping through limited-time offers. These incentives drive a sense of FOMO — i.e., buy right in the moment when a brand representative is urging you to do so or miss out. This is just one way to take the persuasive power of in-store experiences, where sales associates explain why customers need a product right now, and translate it to the online environment where one in every five dollars went online last holiday season.
Live shopping also allows brands to communicate their environmentally conscious credentials to increasingly sustainability-minded consumers. Brands with active green investments and policies can partner with sustainability-forward influencers to communicate their values and engage consumers in a way that static text and imagery can’t. Crucially, though, brands should only do this if they’ve made actual sustainability investments; otherwise, they open themselves up to charges of inauthenticity.
Gamification offers retailers another opportunity to make shopping an enjoyable experience instead of another chore on their holiday to-do list. By infusing game-like elements such as competition, rewards and milestones into the retail experience, retailers can capture the imagination of shoppers and differentiate themselves from more staid competitors.
For a classic example, look no further than eBay. The platform’s bidding system generates the thrill of competitiveness to win an item by outbidding rather than just purchasing products. Nike’s suite of apps is another example: Nike’s digital programs allow users to track their fitness progress and challenge friends and family to meet their own goals. Nike rewards these actions with early access to products and events, customized workouts, free shipping, and more.
To engage more holiday shoppers with gamification, retailers can start by tying purchases to points that unlock free items, discounts or promotions. They can also offer games like puzzles that unlock exclusive items, incentivizing time spent in-app. Finally, updating mobile and web interfaces with features like a milestone tracker fosters the feel of a game progress bar, motivating shoppers to become repeat customers.
Live shopping and gamification may draw in any shopper, but retailers can get more targeted with exclusive (i.e., gated) offers. These promotions focus on an identity group essential to the brand, rewarding customers for who they are and incentivizing them to see the brand or retailer as their champion.
For example, ASICS might run a promotion for shoppers involved in sports, be they coaches or parents of athletes. By showing proof of their connection to athletics, the shoppers might get 20 percent off athletic apparel, showing ASICS’ customers that the company values the adults who keep kids moving and capitalizing on an intuitive connection between the brand and its audience.
Teachers are another constituency retailers might choose to support during the holidays. Teachers often decorate their classrooms and are the backbones of their communities during the exciting and emotional holiday season. By offering them a discount, a crafts retailer like Michaels shows teachers it cares and incentivizes them to flaunt their purchases, engendering a virtuous cycle of brand advocacy.
At a time when consumers are literally crunching the numbers on the value of their purchases, exclusive offers allow brands to show customers they value them and not just the other way around. That, plus tactics like live shopping and gamification that make the shopping experience exciting, may just be enough to compete in an unusually competitive holiday shopping season.
Sai Koppala is the chief marketing officer of SheerID, offering identity attribute verification and providing the best converting verification solution for commerce.
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