Editor's Note: Looking Ahead
As I write this in mid-November, retail sales are staging somewhat of a comeback. On Nov. 15, for example, the Department of Commerce said retail sales (excluding automobiles) increased 0.4 percent in October, in line with expectations heading into this crucial holiday season. As you read this, however, you're probably smack in the middle of your holiday season — and hopefully you're having a great one. But you also must be mindful of what's on the horizon. As you begin to look forward to the year ahead, I've put together a list of predictions for what cross-channel retailers can expect come 2011:
1. A continued focus on e-commerce. While you're all cross-channel retailers, let's face it: e-commerce is becoming a larger piece of your sales pie. This is expected to continue through 2011. While the annual average growth rate for e-commerce sales will slow to 17.5 percent next year, according to eMarketer, there will be increased spending by existing online buyers rather than new buyers coming online. Sharpen up on your retention skills.
2. This just might be the year of mobile. Over the past year, we've all seen increases in traffic and transactions for retailers' mobile sites. This trend will grow in 2011. What's more, mobile devices' GPS capabilities became sexy in 2010, ushering in exciting location-based cross-channel promotion capabilities. Look for this to continue next year as well.
3. Social network integration. Sure, most of you have already begun experimenting with social networking, and have most likely tweeted a promotion or two, or integrated a "Share" button or Facebook "Like" button functionality. This trend will continue and, in fact, be ramped up a bit, as more and more retailers use integration tools such as Facebook Connect.
4. Dynamic personalization on websites will grow. Many of you have been collecting analytics data from thousands of your site visitors every day for years. Well, 2011 will be the year you finally use this information. Thanks to this data and some pretty cool dynamic personalization tools out there today, you'll be able to create a site that enables each visitor to view relevant content and functionality.
5. Back-to-the-future best practices. No matter what year we're in, quality web design is always a hot trend. Why? Because it works. And with the launch of Google Instant Previews this year — which gives users the ability to see websites on search pages before they click through to them — good, clean, easy-to-read web design will be more important than ever.
Happy holidays and good luck in 2011.