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How to optimize holiday strategy

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The retail industry is feeling positive as it heads into the 2018 holiday season. Last year was the strongest holiday period since 2011, the industry is forecasted to open 5,000 net new stores in 2018, and total retail spend is projected to increase by approximately 4% this year. Of course, these trends are coupled with rising customer expectations, with shoppers demanding more than ever before in exchange for their dollars and loyalty. As we head into the holidays, the brands that put their customers first and create convenient, seamless and engaging experiences stand to gain the most.

For retailers seeking to optimize their holiday strategies, the 2018 “Holiday Retail Outlook” report from Alliance Data’s businesses is full of data and insights about the motivations of holiday shoppers and the key behavioral trends that can help businesses better connect with them. Here are a few of the most effective ­approaches.

• Deliver a seamless shopper journey. The days of the linear path to purchase are long gone. Today’s consumers move seamlessly from channel to channel as they discover, research and purchase products. According to the Holiday Retail Outlook report, 58% of shoppers will start to research a product online and complete their purchase in-store. Nearly half, 46%, will start in-store and purchase online.

This means that it no longer makes sense to have separate, independent strategies for the digital shoppers and those who buy in brick-and-mortar stores. All channels — from website to mobile app to the in-store experience — should not just feel similar but work together to make the shopper journey as simple and seamless as possible.

• Prioritize loyal customers. Loyalty programs are also a major factor when consumers decide where to spend their money, with 39% saying they’re more likely to shop where they are part of the loyalty program. Retailers typically will see a 25% increase in loyalty point redemptions and an 18% rise in reward points earned by shoppers during the holidays.

Retailers should make sure that they’re using their loyalty program to offer members exclusive, genuinely valuable benefits during the holiday season. It’s also important to communicate with them frequently to ensure that they’re aware of holiday sales, specials and promotions. Loyalty programs also offer the chance to solicit feedback about shoppers’ experiences that can help guide real-time adjustments to the strategy.

• Make the most of mobile and technology. A steady increase in mobile transactions was one of the biggest holiday trends last year, growing by 58% from 2016. That trend is expected to continue, with 34% of consumers saying they expect to shop more on mobile for holiday 2018. As more and more shoppers research and buy via their mobile devices, it’s important to optimize the store’s mobile platform to be fast, simple and useful.

The full “Holiday Retail Outlook” report is available at www.alliancedata.com/news/holiday-retail-outlook-2018.

Heather Gouinlock is client lead at LoyaltyOne Global Solutions.


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