The National Retail Federation (NRF) reports that holiday sales during November and December 2017 increased 5.5 percent over the same period in 2016, and they expect another increase between 4.3 and 4.8 percent this year. This is a crucial opportunity for retailers, as the NRF predicts holiday sales could reach as much as $720.89 billion in 2018.
Factoring in NRF’s claim that the holidays can account for up to 30 percent of a retailers’ annual revenue, this is not just an opportunity – it’s a make-or-break moment. The retailers that find the most success this upcoming holiday season will have a few things in common, all centering around technology enabling a best-in-class consumer experience that they can trust.
Technology as a Differentiator
As the holidays are such a crucial time for retailers, it’s imperative to be up-to-date on the latest trends to see success. Consumer behavior is constantly evolving, and while it is important to keep a consistent brand experience, simply repeating last year’s strategy does not guarantee success.
In order to understand and make the most of trends, retailers need agile technology and actionable data in order to drive real-time decisions. For example, ULTA Beauty implemented technology that provides employees with data at their fingertips, essentially equipping staff with the tools they need to be effective. A portion of the strategy incorporates a clienteling app that allows store associates to see a consumer’s profile with past purchases, preferences and what items they may need or want, as well as real-time visibility on inventory.
With this approach, employees are not only more successful in meeting consumer demands with personalization, they are also able to make effective recommendations on what items to upsell – directly impacting the bottom line. But more importantly, they continue to reinforce their status as a trusted advisor to the consumer – cementing ULTA’s already strong Brand promise.
By equipping staff with the tools needed to be effective, ULTA has lowered the learning curve for employees – especially those that may have been hired seasonally – as they are able to rely on technology as an enabler.
Commitment to Meet Consumer Expectations
An engaging shopping experience and fast, consumer-controlled delivery options rank high on every consumer’s wish list, and the holidays only accelerate these demands – especially with last-minute shoppers. Orders coming in on Black Friday? They’d better be fulfilled and in the consumer’s hands by Cyber Monday.
This increasing pressure can be difficult to manage for some retailers, especially if the business isn’t built as an intelligent enterprise to break down siloes and enable visibility, focus and agility across all facets of the company.
The retailers that make this a priority are the ones that have enjoyed success in meeting consumer demands and delivering a consistent, trusted brand experience during the holiday season. Those that are agile enough to respond to changes in real-time, based on a fundamental understanding of consumer data, are able to address needs that will inevitably arise. To meet today’s increased consumer expectations, retailers need to be prepared to execute on a variety of actions, from quickly restocking inventory and shifting merchandise between locations to scaling staff so that customer service never wavers. While having flexibility within an organization is critical to meeting consumer expectations, these must be data-driven decisions.
Strategies for Return Consumers
Yes, the holidays are often the biggest revenue season for retailers – but that doesn’t mean retailers should take a singular view of the opportunity. The most thoughtful retailers are executing strategies to turn one-time holiday shoppers into loyal and brand-aware consumers.
It’s all about creating personal experiences. Shoe brand Aldo does a fantastic job enhancing the consumer experience by creating an omnichannel environment each time a shopper enters a store. Aldo has created an interactive and integrated store touchpoint that links to a mobile app using IoT and mobile technology. This innovative consumer experience includes high-resolution product images with descriptions, product wish lists and social media sharing capabilities. By offering an adaptive consumer experience, Aldo is providing high levels of engagement to shoppers, which has resulted in 20 percent year-over-year increase in sales. This experience, too, is all about fostering trust between Aldo and their consumer.
Consumers continue to demonstrate their preference for immersive and personalized experiences made easy. By investing in technology that can make each experience unique, retailers can catch consumers’ interests and keep them coming back all year – not just during the holidays.
Ready for the 2019 Holidays?
The most prepared retailers have been working on strategies like these over the past year and are already taking notes for the 2019 holiday season. They’ve mastered these traits to empower a best-in-class consumer experience and are agile enough to evolve with fluctuating consumer preferences.
With this year’s holiday season upon us, we’ll soon discover which retailers have done their homework and are prepared to meet their consumers throughout all phases of their path-to-purchase. Utilizing the advanced technology available at their fingertips is key for retailers to differentiate themselves among competitors who are missing the mark. By providing an engaging and connected shopping experience – one that consumers can truly trust – retailers can ensure that they are not only ready for the holiday rush, but prepared to meet consumer needs and expectations throughout the entire year.