It’s that time of year again: the holiday season. And retailers can be glad that consumers are feeling jollier about the current economy than in years past. According to Deloitte’s 2012 Annual Holiday Survey, 50% of those surveyed said that they expect the economy to improve in 2013, a significant increase from 33% in 2011. More survey respondents also feel their own financial situations have improved, with 28% of respondents saying their situation is better than the previous year, compared to 21% in 2011.
But just because shoppers are feeling more positive about finances this year, don’t think they’ll be spending their money willy-nilly. Lessons from the recession are still fresh in everyone’s minds, and people are better prepared for how they spend their money. According to Accenture’s Holiday Shopping Survey, 51% say they will be paying for their holiday shopping with cash put aside for that purpose, compared to 45 percent in 2011. Also, only 5% of survey respondents expect to be “extravagant” in their holiday shopping.
So what’s the best approach for reaching these cautiously optimistic, budget-conscious shoppers? The answer: a multi-channel approach.
According to Deloitte’s 2012 Annual Holiday Survey, the average gift spend among consumers who plan to hit the Internet, their smartphones, and stores this holiday season is $600 – an amount that is 71% higher than those who plan to shop only in stores.
By offering consumers a retail platform that combines the Internet, mobile devices, and brick-and-mortar stores, merchants gain valuable footholds into important retail channels. And with these footholds, merchants encourage cross-channel jumping – increasing presence means increasing the potential customer pool.
In keeping with the holiday spirit, we’re giving you four tips on how to improve your different retail channels to lure in those existing and potential customers.
- Enhance the Usability of Your Online Store
The Internet remains one of the primary shopping destinations for holiday shoppers. According to a study by the National Retail Federation, 51.8% of U.S. consumers will shop online this holiday season – which is up from 46.7% last year. These results represent the first time with this annual survey that more than half of shoppers plan to buy gifts and other items via the web.
It’s no secret why people prefer the web – online stores provide shoppers convenience and ease. Who wouldn’t prefer buying the top sellers of the season from the comfort of their own home instead of fighting the crazy holiday crowds at the mall? Online stores are a significant, lucrative driver of holiday retail sales for merchants. According to a forecast by Shop.Org, the National Retail Federation’s digital division, online holiday spending this year would increase by about 12% from 2011 to reach between $92 and $96 billion.
To capture a slice of these online revenues, merchants need to make sure their web store can handle higher volumes of traffic. Make navigating around your store simple, smooth, and intuitive – clearly and prominently mark the different areas that customers typically want immediate access to (such as a search box, new product arrivals, promotions, shipment information, etc. – see the image below for an example). Holiday shoppers are in a time crunch – they don’t want to think about where they need to click to find out what your top selling item is; they just want to click it.
By placing clear and distinctive labels on your site, customers will be able to easily navigate around. The less effort it takes for them to find what they’re looking for means the higher the chance they’ll return.
Remember that nothing says “don’t come back” like a buggy, confusing, non-functional site. Be sure you’re constantly on the lookout for any broken links, errors, or other undesirable features.
- Optimize Your Store for Mobile Devices
With mobile devices being one of the foremost consumer technology platforms, retailers need to have an online store that caters to the mobile-based shopper as well as the desktop computer-based shopper.
According to the National Retail Federation survey, 46.1% of respondents owned smartphones while 22.4% owned tablets. Of those respondents who own mobile devices, 52.9% of smartphone owners and 64.1% of tablet owners will use their devices to research products and buy.
Making a sleek, user-friendly interface for mobile devices makes mobile shoppers keep coming back.
When creating a mobile store, remember to keep it simple and clean – resist the temptation to clutter up your storefront. This shopping medium is different from a regular online store in that you have a far more limited amount of screen space, so you need to fill it with the right stuff. Mobile shoppers want instant access to information about products and prices, and they want the ability to purchase items as easily as purchasing from a desktop computer. Also, just like with your regular online store, continually check your mobile offering for any bugs or issues.
Of critical importance: make sure your mobile store supports all the popular mobile devices, such as iPhone, Android phones, Windows Phone 7, iPad, HP Slate, and all Windows 7 Tablets. People are connected to the technology world through a bunch of different hand-held machines these days; you want them to be able to access your store no matter which of them they are using.
For more information on what customers are looking for in a mobile store, and what you can do about it, read our article Mobile Commerce to Get Ahead of the Retail Game.
- Enhance the In-Store Experience
Although consumers are becoming increasingly more reliant on technology, do not think that brick-and-mortar store locations are simultaneously becoming obsolete. Physical retail locations present their own unique advantages to both the retailer and the customer, and customers will still be flocking to them this holiday season. For example, according to Deloitte, 51% of consumers plan to visit discount stores this holiday season, with 45% planning to shop on the Internet – making discount stores and the Internet the top two holiday shopping destinations.
However, brick-and-mortar store retailers need to be aware of “showrooming” – a trend where shoppers see a product in a physical store, and then search online for the best price and purchase online. The best way to tackle this is by keeping in mind that consumers essentially want a simple, seamless, convenient shopping experience that gives them value for their dollar. Retailers can do this by price matching against online competitors, and by strengthening customer service and product availability. By showing that you’re actively involved in giving your customers the best experience – with helpful, attentive store associates and systems that deliver – shoppers will recognize it and return.
- Offer Discounts, Giveaways, and Gift Cards
Because it can’t be reiterated enough – people don’t want to part with their hard-earned cash these days. Even though there’s more optimism with the economy, and even though people are spending more, that doesn’t mean they want to pay full price. And consumers not wanting to pay full price is becoming a key part of their shopping strategy.
According to Accenture, discounts and promotions on holiday gift items remain a driver for the vast majority of shoppers, cited by 82% as important. Also, 78% of respondents say that at least half of their holiday shopping purchases will be discounted items, and 50% will be looking for a discount between 20 – 40% off the original price.
With more customers seeking out bargains and discounts, make sure your deals are front-and-center on your stores – both brick-and-mortar and online.
Another thing to keep in mind when issuing discounts is to make your discounts enhance and add value to the purchase. For example, follow up with the customers who abandoned their shopping carts during the purchase process, and offer them a discount if they come back and complete it. Unfortunately, many online retailers are not doing this. According to a 2011 study by email marketing firm Listrak, only 14.6% of the Top 1000 web retailers use email campaigns as a way to retarget shoppers that have added items to their carts and then left. Don’t be like your apathetic competitors – make the effort to re-capture this important customer segment, and reap the benefits.
One more thing to keep in mind is the hottest must-have of the holiday season: gift cards. According to Deloitte, 45% of surveyed consumers say the gift they wish to receive is gift cards/gift certificates. With gift cards topping most consumers’ wish lists, and therefore topping most consumers’ to-buy lists as well, make sure your customers can easily and painlessly purchase gift cards either online or in your store.
Multi-Channel Retail = Larger Consumer Outreach
As consumers become ever more technologically savvy, they are increasingly taking charge of the shopping experience. As they identify and utilize different sources of information and retail channels to achieve their shopping goals, merchants need to keep their finger on the pulse of customer needs and expectations. By finding the right systems for keeping you on top of shifting retail trends, your company will continue to grow and evolve with the customer.
To learn more about important strategies that can help improve your retail operations, check out our infographic 10 Multi-channel Strategies to Keep You On Top.
If you have any questions, or if you would like more information on which retail systems can benefit your company, email us at email@example.com.
Ashley Harbaugh is a Product Marketing Specialist at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of CRM, eCommerce and ERP, software solutions to businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 5 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine and ranked as one of 100 most innovative companies in the world in the Red Herring Global 100 in 2011.