Founder and CEO of em data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.wildfire-corp.com/"">>Wildfire Systems.
As summer winds down and we shift to the fall and winter seasons, so too does the mindset of consumers and retailers as they look ahead to the holiday season. Despite some indications of returning to “normalcy,” we’re still in a state of flux, with health concerns ongoing. With this backdrop, patterns are emerging for retailers looking to optimize and grow their holiday sales. Even though it may be too late to effectively put new marketing and promotional tactics in place, retailers should be aware of three macro trends as we move into the 2021 holiday season.
People start the shopping season well before 'the season.'
In 2020, Amazon moved Prime Day into October, forcing retailers to shift their promotional tactics earlier to match. While Prime Day this year was held as usual in June, rumor has it that Amazon could potentially also stage a large-scale promotional push in the fall of 2021, which would again force retailers to match their efforts. While not confirmed, this change would further pressure customers to make their holiday purchases earlier than the traditional holiday kickoff period of Thanksgiving weekend to capitalize on big discounts.
In addition, the multiplier effect of pent-up customer demand that has persisted since early 2021 may contribute to stronger early-season sales too. With supply chain issues persisting, retailer inventories may not be where they should be. This trend, as evidenced by headlines like this recent Vox.com article titled, “You can buy stuff online, but getting it is another story,” is likely to spur customers to shop earlier than ever so they’ll receive their gifts on time. Retailers must keep a close eye on their inventories and set customer expectations accordingly so they don’t disappoint and alienate shoppers who need their purchases in time for holiday dates.
Customers expect more from their e-commerce experience as online sales continue to grow faster than brick and mortar.
With the continued uncertainty around in-person shopping, more and more customers turn to online shopping first. The pandemic has changed the way people shop, with a survey from the research firm Escalent revealing that 56% of survey respondents shop online more now than they did pre-pandemic.
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As major retailers such as Target, Walmart and Best Buy promise to keep their physical stores closed again on Thanksgiving Day 2021, this will undoubtedly contribute to customers rushing online to take advantage of sales they’d normally pursue in-store. Today’s customers seek convenience and frictionless shopping and have high expectations for their online experience. It helps that many stores have successfully pivoted and many can now offer a smooth “buy online, pick up in store” experience; but, the unintentional outcome is that many physical stores are now effectively fulfillment centers and more dollars are shifting to the online purchase arena. Retailers must continue to meet the expectations of today’s savvy online shoppers and work hard to provide the best multichannel experience possible to retain them. (Full disclosure: Walmart and Best Buy are merchants in the Wildfire Systems network.)
Rewards for shopping are now 'baked in' to consumer expectations.
Cashback and loyalty programs have grown in popularity to a point where consumers have come to expect cashback, coupons and other rewards for shopping. In effect, shoppers take for granted that their purchase will in some way be “rewarded” by a retailer or a credit card company. Shopping “assistants” such as PayPal’s Honey, Capital One Shopping, the Acorns Earn program and the built-in discount alerts offered by the Microsoft Edge browser help steer customers to coupons and discounts and provide cashback offers. Furthermore, these programs have innovated with technologies such as browser extensions that embed within the natural flow of how users shop online rather than requiring users to detour through shopping portals and rewards apps. (Full disclosure: Acorns and Microsoft are clients/partners of Wildfire Systems.)
As a result of the broadening adoption of e-commerce and rewards and loyalty programs, consumer behavior has evolved. Retailers must recognize this and ensure they have exposure in the networks that enable their brand to participate in these rewards platforms in order to capture shoppers before they look elsewhere for rewards from competing merchants. Likewise, financial service, travel and other rewards programs need to stay competitive with the newest crop of loyalty platforms and extend outside the shopping portal to meet the consumer where they are.
The bottom line is that savvy retailers are preparing for the holiday shopping season even earlier, and those preparations look a little different this year. Driven by shoppers who have come to expect frictionless, delightful shopping experiences, both online and offline, retailers need to constantly get smarter about delivering products while setting consumer expectations in a period of relative instability around inventory and shipping. Those retailers that are using all the tools in their arsenal and being creative about how they are deployed are the ones that will keep their customers happy and, most importantly, coming back long after holiday shopping is over.
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Source : https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2021/10/22/what-retail-brands-can-expect-this-holiday-shopping-season/1442