The holiday selling season is shaping up to be all about convenience and control for consumers. Successful retailers will deliver on this wish list by using the right strategies to capture holiday sales and win over consumers.
Based on our work with many of the world’s most recognized brands, Alliance Data recently looked at how retailers are making the most of existing technologies and testing new ones, which are detailed in the “Now, New, Next” trends report. Here are some insights that can benefit retailers this holiday season.
Make it Easy for Time-Starved Shoppers
Beyond a retailer’s merchandise, time is the commodity that every consumer craves. Retailers that focus on a seamless customer experience to give consumers back some of their time will earn their favor — and sales and loyalty.
Seconds count when looking for a product, and visual search is one way to help consumers find what they’re looking for faster and more intuitively. A consumer can snap a photo of an item, and the visual search functionality will deliver similar products that align closely to what the consumer is looking for vs. traditional text-based searches.
Another tool gaining traction is augmented reality (AR), which is a unique way to provide customers convenience. No longer do they need to hunt around and try pieces individually. AR is being used from “placing” jewelry or other accessories with clothing to seeing how furniture or accent pieces would look in a customer’s living room.
A popular gift-giving option is also getting a makeover. Instead of defaulting to gift cards, consumers can take advantage of e-gifting. A consumer can customize an e-gift online and present it to the recipient, who then can choose the size, color and where to ship it, saving time while giving an item that's more personal than a gift card. The recipient gets what they want, possibly saving the hassle that might have been spent exchanging something that wasn’t quite right.
Consumers Crave Control
Smartphones put customers in the driver’s seat throughout the shopping journey, and smart retailers are finding new ways to extend that control.
A perfect example is product personalization and customization. Sporting-goods manufacturers may have blazed the trail with customized sneakers, but other retailers have embraced customization as a way to drive sales at a premium price. For example, one luxury retailer now empowers handbag lovers to individualize their own bucket bags, selecting from colors, accessories, straps and handles to craft a custom creation.
Delivery is another area where consumers enjoy control. Last holiday season, overnight delivery was the gold standard. However, now retailers can offer ship to store, ship to home, curbside pick-up 24/7, and even cross-town delivery in an hour or less.
Loyalty is Key to Capturing Holiday Sales
At the end of the day, the key to driving sales and loyalty is removing friction from the customer experience across all channels along the path to purchase. Retailers that view technology as an enabler rather than just as a tool will be positioned to drive sales and loyalty with consumers during the holiday season. And consumers who have a good experience during the rush of the holidays will be more likely to return, proof that giving consumers the convenience and control they crave will reward retailers with increased sales and loyalty.
Shannon Andrick is vice president of marketing advancement at Alliance Data's card services business, and focuses on emerging trends in the retail landscape.