If there’s any reliable barometer for the picture of retail throughout the year, it’s Black Friday — the day retailers plan to bring in their biggest sales figures and customers in droves. At close of Black Friday last year, in-store sales were down less than 1 percent year-over-year, according to ShopperTrak, considerably better than the washout analysts had predicted.
Consumers are clearly ready to spend, however, they just prefer to do it online. Adobe data showed a new Cyber Monday record $6.59 billion in sales, a 16.8 percent year-over-year increase. Overall web traffic to retail sites increased by 11.9 percent on Cyber Monday, with mobile representing 47.4 percent of those visits, another record.
As retailers look toward 2018 and this year's Black Friday, it’s important to build new year-round strategies for integrating the in-store experience with the new realities of global, mobile commerce. This means implementing an onmichannel solution and seamless payment methods based on the latest technology (e.g., artificial intelligence, virtual reality) as well as creating loyalty programs and incentives that drive customers into the store. Whether it’s VR, AI or IoT, retailers must ensure seamless payment processes.
Think Global, Act Mobile
This year could bring a breakthrough in global, mobile commerce as more U.S. retailers integrate Alipay and WeChat Pay capabilities into their existing payment offerings. In recent years, merchants worldwide have been taking cues from China, where more than 600 million consumers actively use the mobile payments app WeChat Pay each month. Retailers in Europe and Asia that have begun accepting this payment method (along with Alipay, which has 520 million users worldwide) are seeing impressive results. At the Munich Airport in Germany, for example, sales from Chinese consumers nearly doubled in the first three months after Alipay was implemented. U.S. retailers that start accepting these global payment services can look forward to a comparable uptick.
Give Customers Rewards for Shopping Online … and Incentives to Come In-Store
Looking again at the success of WeChat Pay and Alipay, we can see that consumers want their payments, messaging and social experience to live in a single ecosystem. With just one app, consumers can chat with friends, pay at the supermarket, shop online, conduct their banking, book a hotel room, and more.
Expect more retailers to adopt integrated solutions for physical stores and online during their digital transformation. Forward-looking retailers such as Starbucks are driving this integration in the U.S. The coffee giant now receives 33 percent of purchases through its app, which combines loyalty, experience and commerce into a single digital portal. This creates a truly seamless experience in which customers benefit from mobile ordering, an easy-to-reload account, automatic personalized rewards, and convenient pickup — all designed to draw customers into its stores and build loyalty.
And as American retailers make apps like these available, along with increasing mobile wallet functionality, customer adoption will keep climbing. A report by Business Insider Intelligence anticipated that 56 percent of U.S. consumers will make $503 billion in mobile transactions by 2020. When implemented together, strategies like these will help boost sales across all channels, facilitating ongoing customer engagement and drawing customers toward both Cyber Monday and Black Friday sales come November.
Kevin Brown is the vice president of marketing and product at Wirecard, a payment processing company.
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