Fall is my favorite season. Cooler weather, changing scenery and the start of holiday decorations and preparations for retailers everywhere. While it may seem early to start thinking about the holidays, if you are an entrepreneur in the retail space, you started your planning months ago.
For years, holiday planning was fairly routine, but the rapid adoption of ecommerce and the proliferation of smart mobile devices -- the combination of which seemingly gives us anything, anytime and delivered anywhere -- has fundamentally changed consumers’ shopping habits and expectations.
The consulting firm Deloitte went further and recently forecasted that digital interactions will influence 64 cents of every dollar spent in stores in the fourth quarter. Moreover, nearly 80 percent of shoppers say they engage with a retailer or brand through digital channels before ever setting foot inside the store. Clearly, the purchase path of a typical consumer is now driven by a fundamental need for knowledge and information.
While many retailers continue to struggle to deal with this evolving threat, some have adopted strategies to integrate online tools, such as social media, to their benefit. Regardless, all retailers need to consider a unified digital and in-store strategy to be successful this and future holiday seasons.
Monika Kochhar, an entrepreneur, ecommerce expert and co-founder of SmartGift, a leading provider of gift-card technology for ecommerce businesses and loyalty and rewards providers, has a vested interest in retail and leveraging the changing mindsets of online consumers. Here are three trends in the retail space Kochhar feels entrepreneurs need to pay particularly close attention to.
1. Micro-moments and multi-channel touch points
Marketers need to aggressively put strategies in place to map consumer journeys, then deliver on the moments of need with relevant offers, products and services across various channels. Along the way, retailers will see more dynamic clustering as ecosystems with distinctly different consumer segments emerge from significant points of commonality.
For instance, a consumer might want to hear from a favorite brand about how to wear a fashion-forward, edgy look for a particular occasion. In that distinct moment, that consumer is primed and ready to be engaged on a deeply personal level. When brands and retailers can identify these key costumer moments and service them instantly with high-quality content and offerings, they stand a better chance of converting that interaction to a sale instantly.
2. People conversions
With changing consumer expectations, retailers are transitioning from traditional brands to a series of consumer experiences and relationships. What’s emerging is an exciting field of “clienteling.” This transition is changing retailers’ emphasis from sales conversions to people conversions and giving the consumer a unique sense of value and frequent shopper status everywhere he or she explores or purchases products.
Within clienteling, retailers will add amenities, such as delivery and in-store pickup to online social-media advice and customer service, on top of primary products and services as a differentiating factor. In the end, these amenities, combined with a strong company story, a respected philosophy and sincere customer engagements, create and encourage not only a converted sale but also a brand ambassador.
3. Flexible alternatives
The $200 billion gifting industry is going through some much needed innovation with the adoption and integration of “egifting,” or using ecommerce to send gifts and gift cards. More retailers and consumers are embracing product level egifting as a flexible convenience rather than an impersonal gesture. It marries the thoughtfulness of, “I wanted you to have this dress” with a flexibility where the recipient can choose her size and color preferences or apply it to a future purchase.
Today, an “E-Gift” button next to the “Add To Cart” button is helping retailers provide a value-add service that converts gift browsers into gift buyers and makes retailers and brands more “gift-centric.” Smart retailers will use these opportunities to engage with their shoppers and create unique and personalize moments online.
Retailers are on the tail end of a rapidly evolving shopping experience. Innovative retail entrepreneurs who understand this new shopping mindset and embrace, engage and encourage these changes will be best positioned to capitalize this holiday season.
What other ways can retailers prepare themselves for the evolving holiday consumer experience? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.