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What to Expect For The 2013 Holiday Shopping Season

Written by: Laurie Cutts, Director of Marketing

The 2013 holiday shopping season is right around the corner and retailers are feeling optimistic.  Shop.org is predicting that sales in November and December will grow between 13-15% over last holiday season to as much as $82 billion.  As the cash registers and shopping carts start to rack up holiday sales, savvy retailers are reviewing their marketing plans to prepare for how their customers will shop in 2013.

We’ve gathered some predictions, trends and expert recommendations to help you make the most of your holiday campaigns.

1. Start spending early.

It would be wise for retailers to kick off the holiday season early.  There are fewer shopping days this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the peak holiday shopping period.  Last year buyers and sellers had 31 days of shopping compared to this year which is only 25 days. This gives people only 4 shopping weekends instead of five. The second consideration is Hanukkah.  In 2012, the holiday started on December 8. This year, Hannukah starts before Thanksgiving on November 27.  So it is essential to ramp up for the holidays now!

Recommendations:

  • Engage your customers early, so you can be sure to attract the people who aren’t waiting for Cyber Monday. Many shoppers skip the Black Friday madness by staying home and purchasing their holiday finds online as early as Thanksgiving.
  • Analysts are predicting a huge increase in deals and an increase in shopping starting on Thanksgiving Day.  Create a sense of urgency for shoppers by offering a week-long cascade of discounts, flash sales, and other promotions.

2. Celebrate the mCommerce opportunity.

The proliferation of mobile device usage has extended the reach of retailers. Whether at home or on the go, people will be using their mobile devices to shop this holiday season. According to predictions by Juniper Research, sales via smartphones and tablets will hit the $1.5 trillion mark by the end of this year and Forrester Research reported that most retailers are seeing 10-20% of sales come from mobile and some retailers are seeing more than 50%.  Over the past few years, retailers have made significant investments in mobile and will continue to see increasing shopper activity through this channel during the holidays.

Recommendations:

  • Ensure that your holiday shopping content is accessible and consistent across a variety of smartphones and tablets.
  • Consider updating your mobile app so it includes robust product search capabilities, targeted push notifications to support promotional campaigns, store location information, and a simple checkout process.
  • Integrate your app into the store experience with the ability to scan bar and QR codes, use mobile coupons, redeem offers, participate in loyalty programs and make payments.

3. Make the holidays social.

Retailers are harnessing the power of social networks to drive branding and direct response during the holiday season.  During the holiday season, people are inundated with messaging so it will be crucial for retailers to tailor their interactions to specific consumers.  Facebook, for example, offers the most comprehensive source of customer information ever.  From demographics and psychographics to affinities and behaviors, marketers have a wealth of targeting data and combinations to achieve their marketing goals.

Recommendations:

  • Provide value to consumers for interacting with your brand such as promoting and sharing exclusive offers and in-store events.
  • Organize your holiday targeting audiences early so you can promote gifts for each customer segment  (gender, age, purchase behaviors, price point).

4. Consider an Omnichannel approach.

Omnichannel is on the minds of many retailers as they head into the busiest season of the year.  A Thomson Reuters study showed that more than 1/3 of U.S. Internet users plan to shop equally online and in stores this holiday season. Delivering a consistent customer experience across channels is one of the most critical factors for success.  Consumers don’t differentiate mobile from web or in-store experiences.  They expect consistent pricing, product information and inventory information across channels. Retailers that have found success with omnichannel strategies claim that multiscreen users are significantly more valuable than single-screen users.

Recommendations:

  • Program relevant or related messages on multiple platforms including smartphones, tablets, desktops, TV, Print.
  • Adopt all-in-one mobile solutions as part of the sales process such as making sales away from the checkout counter and checking inventory at other locations.

5. Plan for post holiday sales.

Retailers are increasingly depending on the days after Christmas to bring in sales.  The final week of December can account for 15 percent of the month’s sales and the day after Christmas for some retailers is one of the biggest shopping days of the year.  Gift cards have become popular gifts and when shoppers show up to redeem gift cards or return or exchange gifts they often spend more than the value of the gifts or cards.

Recommendations:

  • Continue to offer promotions after the holidays to inspire people to spend.
  • Target gift cardholders and encourage them to shop.

It’s no surprise that consumers’ holiday shopping expectations have surged in recent years.  Mobile, social, and omnichannel will continue to gain momentum this year and by capitalizing on these latest trends you’ll be in the best possible position to make 2013 your most profitable holiday selling season ever.

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