Everyone loves a good bargain, especially during the holidays when the pressure to find the “perfect gift” is at its peak. By now, many consumers have planned their shopping strategies and it’s not just about getting the best deal, it’s also about how efficient or expedient they can be. Retailers, of course, are maximizing all the data they’ve been mining in hopes that they can significantly increase revenue.
Looking back on 2013, there are a few things to remember:
- The shopping season was very short — only 27 days. Most shopping seasons are longer, including this year’s — which is music to any retailer’s ears.
- Black Friday’s importance is diminishing in lieu of a broader period of savings (starting on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and going straight through to Cyber Monday).
- Mobile shopping realized a huge increase in 2013, accounting for 14% of total online sales, with a peak of 26% on Black Friday.
- Tablets outperformed smartphones by converting at a much higher rate. Smartphones were primarily used for immediacy — to check prices and availability — while tablets were used more often in making actual purchases.
- Social media played more of a role as an influencer in 2013 than in previous years and even though referral clicks logged in at about 2%, a whopping 36% of consumers said that they consulted social media for a good portion of their holiday purchases.
Tactics aside, one of the most valuable strategies for a retailer to employ is to make sure that ads and emails are mobile responsive. Consumers want and expect this, yet many retailers still ignore using this format.
In short, mobile phone use makes reviewing/purchasing quicker, more efficient, and easier due to the device’s ability to pinpoint the best current sales and a product’s or service’s availability. There is no question that smartphones have had a positive effect on the in-store/retail industry. It is important for every retailer to make sure that all communications — whether it’s an ad, e-blast, sale, new product promotion, etc., are mobile responsive and optimized for the best viewing experience.
Looking at 2014 and beyond, “omnichanneling,” a term used to define the many interchangeable paths to purchase, will likely be the norm. Customers can comparison shop, order, and return in several ways, and that is exactly what they are doing; so it is more than a good idea to have a seamless customer experience, it is essential for retailers.
And even though consumers will still be using cash and credit cards for purchases in 2015, mobile payments will probably rise. According to Forrester Research, they will reach $90 billion in the next few years.
So how do retailers navigate the complex and ever-changing tides of marketing/sales?
- Communicate often and keep messaging consistent across all channels.
- Continuously monitor what consumers respond to — buying habits change over time — as consumer insights are invaluable.
- Create a seamless and enjoyable customer experience throughout the entire purchasing cycle — make things easy for your customers.
- Know your customer and be a good listener — read those reviews, both positive and negative, and respond to them.
- Keep social media promotions relevant and timely.
The future looks bright for those willing to adapt and be agile. Consumers may change their buying habits and strategies, but one thing remains the same over time, they want to have a good experience, and when they do, they share it with the world. Just remember, the reverse is also true.