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6 Things Retailers Need to Know for the 2019 Holiday Season

Contributors: Sean Burke

Fall may still be in the air, but the holidays are already in full swing. These next couple months are extremely important for retailers; success during the holidays can not only make or break a retailer’s current year, but it can determine a company’s trajectory for the upcoming year as well. And, in a year that we’ve seen more store closures than ever before, the stakes are higher than ever. Pair that with the fact that Thanksgiving is later than normal this year, resulting in a loss of six shopping days this year compared to last, it’s crucial that retailers go into the 2019 holiday season prepared.

Despite the shifting retail landscape, the National Retail Federation (NRF) is anticipating above average sales growth during the 2019 holiday season. In order to capitalize on this sales growth, retailers need to create unique and engaging in-store experiences, optimize their operations and supply chains and create messaging that connects with today’s consumers and customers.

Below are six things retailers can do to win this holiday season:

1. Find ways to engage consumers early

You may still be stocking up on Halloween candy, but your consumers are already thinking about the holidays. 63% of US internet users start their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving and peak research time is in October.

To capture the attention of the early birds, offer early promotions and have product information and reviews readily available online. Consider launching messaging around key products early in the season and begin to optimize your store layout and displays for holiday shoppers. And make sure your SEO, social and paid media strategies align with the earlier start to the season. Keyword strategies should be optimized to take advantage of seasonal trends and social media messaging should align with the holiday shopping mindset of your consumers.

2. Bring brand values and corporate responsibility into holiday messaging

Conversations around social and environmental issues are getting louder every day, and brands and retailers need to join in. Consumers truly care about the social and environmental impacts of the items that they purchase, and it is influencing where and how they shop. In fact, 68% of US internet users deemed product sustainability as an important factor in making a purchase. And, 88% of US and UK consumers say that they want brands to help them be more environmentally friendly and ethical in their everyday lives.

The holidays are a great time for brands to share their values and corporate responsibility with consumers. Not only will this help consumers connect with brands and better understand their social and environmental initiatives, but it will also help build trust. Brand trust is increasingly important for consumers, it influences the buying decisions for nearly 70% of consumers.

3. Win the in-store experience

While more consumers are shopping online than ever before, the holidays still drive people to stores. 90% of holiday shoppers expect to make purchases in-store this year, although 87% of them of them will begin their research online. The in-store experience should mirror your company culture and cater to your consumers wants and needs.

While online shopping is convenient, it lacks the personal experience that a brick and mortar store can offer. Retailers should take advantage of this by creating memorable and personal experiences for shoppers in-store. This can be through creating unique and hands-on experiences in-store, embracing experiential retail through virtual or augmented reality, or even just having well-trained and friendly salespeople and a fluid checkout process. Knowledgeable associates can help guide shoppers through the purchasing process, educating them on products that they are not familiar with during the gifting season. Big box retailers, like Walmart and Target, are trying to win over toy-buyers by creating branded in-store sections. By making these areas more noticeable, they’re hoping to attract more consumers and win a bigger slice of the toy market.

4.       Take advantage of BOPIS

Buy Online Pickup In-Store (BOPIS) is attractive to holiday shoppers for a few different reasons: it extends their online holiday shopping window[BS6]  beyond the December 13th ground shipping deadline, offers a convenient way to complete holiday shopping, gives them an opportunity to touch and try merchandise and saves them money on last-minute shipping by cutting out shipping costs. BOPIS is increasing in popularity; nearly 70% of shoppers say that they’ve used BOPIS in the past six months and we anticipate that number increasing over the holidays.

Take advantage of this trend and use BOPIS to win more in-store sales. Optimize your store layout and take advantage of cross-selling opportunities. Target recently remodeled a few of their Chicago stores, relocating their order pickup stations to the center of the store. Not only does this give digital shoppers more time to browse the store as they go to collect their purchases, but it also gives the store more room for online orders. Convenience, however, is key. While you want to take advantage of your shoppers in-store time, you don’t want to overly extend it. Remember, they likely picked BOPIS for convenience, and a quick in-and-out trip will make them think of it as a positive experience.

5.       Deliver a native mobile experience

Mobile is becoming an increasingly popular way to shop. During the 2018 holiday season, mobile accounted for 51% of e-commerce site traffic and 31% of e-commerce revenue. This year, it’s predicted that 65% of shoppers will make online purchases using a mobile device. Mobile will also play a significant role in the in-store shopping experience. Consumers are predicted to use mobile devices to track orders, locate physical stores, and research product reviews.

To capitalize on the continued shift to mobile, retailers need to make sure that their sites are mobile-friendly. Retailers should spend time investigating how their shoppers are using mobile and customize the experience to align with their needs. Content needs to be easy to find and displayed in a device-friendly way and the checkout process needs to be optimized for mobile, including offering mobile-friendly payment options, such as Apple Pay.

6.       Prepare for returns

41% of e-commerce purchases are bought with the intent to return some or all the items. This holiday season, 77% of consumers expect to return a portion of their gifts this holiday season. It’s important for retailers to be prepared to handle the influx of returns during and following the holiday season.

While returns can be a headache for retailers and consumers alike, it does give retailers an opportunity to win consumer trust. 95% of consumers say that a smooth and easy returns process influences whether or not they’ll shop with that retailer again. Ensure that your returns process is easy for consumers to understand and follow. Additionally, optimizing your fulfillment centers to speed up reverse logistics will help ensure you’re able to get products back on the shelf quickly. This is essential for seasonal goods that won’t be able to be sold after the holidays and will help retailers minimize the amount of product that ends up being sold at a discount, donated or in landfills.

During the 2019 holiday season, retailers need to connect with today’s consumers and customers across a variety of different channels and with a variety of offerings.  With your holiday season plans in place, it is time for retailers to get the execution right. For more information on how to get prepared for the 2019 holiday season, contact us today.

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Tags: Retail Planning and Execution, Specialty Retail