Summer is just getting started, which for many means a time to kick back, relax and enjoy the beautiful weather. For retailers, though, it’s a much different story. For them, the annual holiday clock is already ticking.
It’s June, and that means retail marketers have just a few months left to get their new technologies up and running and iron out their strategies before they lock down for the 2016 holiday rush. This is especially important because it’s going to be a very competitive holiday season. According to eMarketer, total retail holiday season sales will only increase 1.8% from last year, which means retailers have to up the ante when it comes to planning for this profitable time of year.
Additionally, successful companies like Amazon set a high bar last year that will likely have an impact on consumer expectations and shopping habits this coming holiday. According to research from BloomReach Corp., 47% of U.S. and 46% of U.K. consumers said they planned to check Amazon for 50% or more of their holiday purchases in 2015. Moreover, 73% of U.S. and 80% of U.K. shoppers planned to make a purchase on Amazon over Thanksgiving weekend.
And while overall retail sales are expected to remain flat, e-commerce retail sales are projected to grow 13.3% this year. This means retailers must ensure they can offer excellent digital shopping experiences that are on par with e-commerce giants like Amazon.
Holiday season isn’t just about sales and profits. This high-traffic time is also a prime opportunity for retailers to earn customer loyalty by providing memorable experiences that make a lasting impression on shoppers. So what are the key ingredients to success this year? Here are three worth noting:
1. Know Your Customers Better Than the Competition
During holiday season and beyond, the best retailers know and are able to recognize their customers across channels and devices by collecting and acting upon first-party data in real time. Today’s consumers have high expectations that have been tailored by e-commerce leaders like Amazon and Zappos that are able to immediately customize the shopping experience every time a shopper visits their site or app. In fact, a survey conducted by MyBuys found 83% of consumers saw value in being recognized across devices by online retailers in order to receive personalized and consistent shopping experiences. The key to success for retailers this holiday season is to leverage their first-party customer data to know their customers as well as, if not better, than their competitors.
2. Create Memorable Experiences
Holiday season is a time when retailers can make a lasting impression on their customers that can either make or break their long-term success. Amazon does a great job delighting its customers by ensuring the entire online shopping experience is personalized, from tailored recommendations to advertisements that are actually relevant and helpful. As eMarketer pointed out, 81% of consumers want their online shopping experiences to be easy, customized and relevant. Retailers that succeed at this by using their first-party data effectively will earn both greater revenue and increased customer loyalty this year.
3. Make Life Easier for Shoppers
Holiday shoppers are time-crunched and eager to check all the gifts off their lists. Sophisticated retailers understand the importance of offering quicker, simpler and more convenient shopping experiences that empower customers to shop the way they want to and blend the best of both digital and in-store experiences. This means the entire shopping experience should be seamless and full of options that bring much needed convenience to such a hectic season. For example, a study by Listrak found 60% of consumers either strongly agree or somewhat agree that the ability to purchase items online and pick them up in-store influences where they make holiday gift purchases. Retailers can go above and beyond by offering a variety of options including same-day delivering or ship-from-store.
Each day of summer that passes brings retailers one step closer to the most important season of the year. According to the National Retail Federation, holiday revenue can account for 20-40% of a retailer’s annual sales. Beyond that, the holidays are a chance for retailers to flaunt their strengths and earn customer loyalty long after the last gifts have been unwrapped. Now is exactly the right time for retailers to begin preparing, and by working toward these three key ingredients, 2016 is bound to be a success.
Originally published June 15, 2016