Despite the fact that holiday commercials have been streaming since November 1 and stores decked their aisles before Halloween was over, the official start to the holiday shopping season begins next week. Once people recover from their Thanksgiving food coma, the search for the hottest products, deals, will begin.
What will this holiday season hold? For starters, Deloitte’s annual holiday forecast suggests that holiday sales will increase 3.5–4%, with digitally influenced sales impacting 64% ($434 billion) of all in-store sales. These projections coincide with the NRF’s projections of a 3.7% increase in holiday sales, totaling $630.5 billion in sales.
For retailers, understanding customer and market trends will be crucial for understanding how to best to acquire and grow customer relationships during the holiday season. Below are four emerging trends with some suggestions on how they can be leveraged by retailers to ensure that they have the best holiday season to date.
Insight: Digital influenced-sales are the new normal. According to 78% of respondents to Deloitte’s holiday forecast, they use the Internet to research products last year and 80% engage with retailers before even stepping in a brick and mortar storefront.
Action: Align to digital and in-store customer experience. It is imperative that retailers create a unified brand experience and whether customers are shopping online or in-store. This means ensuring that any messaging, visuals, or offers used online should align to what is been shared in-store. Moreover, by knowing that most customers buy online but return products in-store, retailers should be prepared to handle these exchanges and create as seamless of experience as possible.
Insight: Clothing and gift cards reign supreme. Once again, clothing will be the No. 1 gift that people give this year, with 48% of respondents saying they plan to give clothing as a gift in 2015. Gift cards, however, are a close runner-up with 46% planning on gifting them in 2015.
Action: Promote gift card purchase. In addition to promoting specific products and services, it is imperative that retailers also promote the purchase of gift cards. The call to action can be included in email and in-store communications.
Insight: Handmade gifts are a growing category. With the rise of Etsy and other handmade ecommerce marketplaces, handmade and specialty craft goods is a growing niche. In fact, one large online retailer that recently entered this market because of its desire to broaden its reach and also because of existing site visitors searches for words such as “handmade” and “hand-crafted.
Action: Broaden product strategy to incorporate handmade products and messaging. While we are not suggesting that every retailer should enter the handmade/craftsman market. For those retailers where it is a fit, this is a market that they should look to exploit as more than 60 million customers are believed to make arts and crafts products annually. This is a category that savvy retailers should consider embracing in their product and marketing strategy. This can be done by rebranding/marketing products and introducing key vernacular such as “handmade,” “crafted,” into their website keywords, product descriptions, and email copy and subject lines.
Insight: Subscription services a pathway to loyalty. While only 6% of customers plan to buy subscription services, these services provide retailers a low-infrastructure gift space. What’s more, subscription services have been found to cultivate loyalty and deepen the brand-customer relationship.
Action: Use subscriptions services to acquire customers. Subscription services are a good way of creating a reoccurring stream of income and are inducing customers to try new products. Retailers can leverage subscription services as a way to acquire customers during the holiday season and then look to grow this relationship throughout the year with complementary services and offerings.
In sum, retailers should be in the know about these emerging trends so that they can leverage them during the holiday shopping season to acquire and grow customers.