Something interesting happened as we spent countless news cycles prophesizing the demise of brick-and-mortar retail: 2017 Black Friday foot traffic at stores remained very high and barely saw any change from last year. Meanwhile, online shopping saw another 17 percent increase from last year, with mobile shopping accounting for almost 40 percent of those online sales. The 164 million Americans that spent innumerable hours online, on mobile devices and in-store shopping during Thanksgiving weekend proved once again that consumers aren't going away, but the way they shop has evolved.
So, how can retailers keep up with these rapid changes in holiday shopping habits? Here are a few tips and trends we've identified for the 2017 holiday shopping season.
The Mobile Journey
The convergence of commerce with a heavier reliance on mobile interfaces is continuing to evolve. As mobile devices become the primary interaction point between retailers and consumers, they need to be treated as brand extensions and become an integral part of the consumer’s shopping journey. The best mobile interaction experiences will eventually win, while those that don't invest heavily in this area will bleed shoppers and revenue.
Shoppers have enough tools at their disposal to price match their way to the best deal. Being able to use the latest in digital channels that combine multidimensional loyalty with contextualized offers can shift the needle in favor of retailers that adopt these techniques across all channels. A unified customer experience and focus on interaction using the platforms most familiar to shoppers will help in retention, loyalty and recommendation.
Emerging Digital Channels
A digital strategy can no longer be limited to an e-commerce website and a basic mobile app that mimics the website. Mobile social media platforms and a smattering of service-oriented apps are where users are spending most of their time. A commerce strategy needs to fully embrace these open platforms and look for ways to seamlessly combine them into the shopping journey. Combining profile-based data, peer recommendations, mobile financial credentials and cross-device user identification are just the first steps. What experience you create with it is where you can differentiate your brand.
For all the money being spent on advertising today, conversion rates are still either abysmal or not even trackable. Looking at techniques that can convert an ad to a purchase with the minimum number of steps not only improves the customer experience, but actually increases top-line revenue growth. One-click purchase techniques, such as those seen on Amazon.com, PayPal or Zapbuy, can have a huge impact on sales, while also justifying the ad dollars being spent.
The Extended Holiday Season
The holiday shopping season seems to increase in duration every year. By keeping mobile engagement going year-round, retailers can gather improved data on targeted user segments that they can then bring to use during the actual shopping rush of the holidays. Getting a mobile strategy in place that benefits holiday shoppers can help change shopping behaviors and attitudes for the rest of the year, allowing for deeper relationships with loyal customers and greater insights into buying patterns.
The Smaller Store
Last but not least, not everyone needs the goods they buy during the holidays to be in their hands immediately. If systems allowing for instant home delivery from warehouses can be implemented on most inventory, converting actual stores to experience zones, it may not only help eliminate long lines, but also increase the time available to shoppers to actually browse. Be it virtual aisles or self-checkout, each can have major impacts on overall flow of shopper traffic during the holidays, helping to overcome the No. 1 complaint holiday shoppers have — long lines and waits.
Many retailers are starting to experiment with some of these multichannel guidelines, and hopefully 2018 will see the fruits of these efforts in a more profitable holiday season for retailers and a more convenient and enjoyable experience for shoppers.
Amitaabh Malhotra is the chief marketing officer of Omnyway, an integrated platform for payments, loyalty rewards and offers that encourage consumers to use their mobile phone for all aspects of the buying journey.
Related story: The Changing Face of Retail: How to Drive Traffic and Sales