Although the holidays are the busiest season, retailers must build and cultivate a network of relationships with their customers all year long, learning everything to know about their preferences and consumption habits. That way, retailers can reach out to customers with trusted recommendations and extend offers they’ll appreciate.
Let’s look at a few strategies that can elevate retailers above their competitors — especially during the holidays — as well as some retailers that are succeeding in the digital age.
Embrace Hybrid Shoppers
Ever noticed how some shoppers go straight to a specific store department to examine a particular item? Chances are they’ve researched the item beforehand. Nearly nine in 10 shoppers now prefer to browse products online or on mobile but buy in-store. This trend, known as “web-rooming,” is becoming the preferred consumer approach to shopping, as it allows people to browse products from the privacy of their own homes, and then pull the trigger when they arrive at the store.
How can retailers make that transition from home to store as smooth as possible? Web-rooming shoppers already know what they want to feel, try on or see in person. Cater to these customers by ensuring all prices and promotions in-store match those online, showing them if the merchandise they’re interested in is available in-store and making it easy for them to add items to wish lists they can access in-store.
Although the holiday season in particular is meant for buying gifts for loved ones, shoppers often stumble upon items they want for themselves. (I may or may not be guilty of this.) When a customer finds something they want, retailers should make it easy for them to share it with their friends and family. One effective example of this is a retailer that allows shoppers to send their friends and family a fun e-card that hints at a product they would absolutely love.
Optimize for Mobile
In 2011, 14%of consumers used a mobile device to visit a retailer’s site during Thanksgiving and Black Friday. In 2012, that jumped to 24% — nearly one in four consumers.
The consequences that can result from a non-optimized site loom large: one of the leading causes of customers not returning to a mobile web site or app is a bad first experience due to poor navigation or usability. According to Direct Marketing News, if page loads take three seconds or longer, 57% of viewers are likely to drop off. We live in an on-demand world — at this point, there’s no excuse for a site that runs poorly on mobile.
Focus on Tablets
Of course, mobile sites also need to be tablet-ready. That’s because shoppers who browse products on tablets are nearly three times as likely to purchase as those browsing on smartphones. There are a variety of reasons for this, including the increasing popularity of tablets and more room to explore with the larger screen. According to eMarketer, 63% of tablet users purchased a product or service on a tablet, compared to just 39% of smartphone users who purchased on their phones. Retailers would be wise to target tablets in marketing efforts.
Retailers Rocking Mobile App Engagement
We’ve talked a lot about strategies and tactics, but which retailers are actually executing well? I am a big fan of what Kohl’s has been doing. The Kohl’s iPhone app redeems Kohl’s Cash points and even lets customers take a virtual picture with Santa. At the same time, it’s offering geo-targeted sales to attract mobile consumers on the go.
I’ve also been impressed with Macy’s — the retail giant empowers shoppers to customize Black Friday shopping lists, knowing certain items may only be appealing due to sales and discounts. The app is designed to be location-aware, making it easy for customers to find items in stores and send personalized offers to specific customers.
In addition to web sites and stores, customers are increasingly visiting mobile apps. In December 2012, consumers spent approximately six times as many minutes in retailer apps as they did in December 2011. Retailers should make sure they’re making the most of this opportunity to provide an enjoyable app experience.
Mobile usage is transforming engagement between retailers and consumers this holiday season and beyond. Retailers can ensure they stay on the cutting edge by adapting to changing consumer behavior and making the most of mobile.
Joseph Pigato is the Managing Director of Sparked, a mobile-first customer engagement platform, where he heads marketing strategy and product development. With more than 14 years at b2b and b2c web companies, Pigato has worked with clients such as Google, Sony, HP, Toyota, Intel, HSBC, Qantas, China Unicom and others to build and lead innovative technology startups in seven cities across four continents. Sparked was founded in 2009 to connect people with their favorite organizations, working with companies like LinkedIn, Google, SAP, and Kraft. Follow Joseph on Twitter @josephpigato.