Three Ways Retailers Can Succeed during the 2020 Holiday Shopping Season

Three Ways Retailers Can Succeed during the 2020 Holiday Shopping Season

Retail

The 2020 holiday shopping season will be unlike any other as people plan amid the reality of social distancing. And yet in a few important ways, the season will reflect the direction that consumer shopping behavior has been headed already, especially with people putting digital at the center of their shopping experience. Here are three ways retailers can prepare:

1 Be Digital-First

A Google-commissioned Ipsos survey found that 74 percent of U.S. shoppers said they plan to do more online shopping than they did in previous seasons. These findings should surprise no retailer. The holiday shopping season has been going increasingly digital for years. According to Salesforce data, there was an 8 percent increase in digital spend overall for the 2019 season, with $723 billion in digital revenue worldwide. The difference in 2020: digital will dominate.

If more people are buying online, that means they’re spending more time online searching for things to buy. In the past, we’ve counseled retailers to aggressively embrace digital advertising tools to prepare for this shift in behavior (for more insight, see this post from 2018 and a sample post of mine from 2019). What’s different about this year is that online advertising where your audience is – such as on Amazon, Facebook, and Google  – is essential, not optional, especially as social distancing has created a surge in people spending more time on digital.

2 Level up Your Mobile Game

Consumers prefer digital, but they have not abandoned in-store shopping by any means. According to a new survey of more than 1,400 U.S. consumers by CodeBroker, 53 percent of shoppers intend to shop at physical locations. Among those who said they were not planning to shop at their favorite stores’ locations, 61 percent said they would change their mind if they received a high-value mobile/digital coupon for a product in which they were interested.

In addition, the Google/Ipsos research says that 53 percent of shoppers that plan to shop this season said they’ll choose to shop at stores that offer contactless shopping. And 47 percent of said they’ll use options to buy online, pickup in-store, or use curbside pickup.

These findings tells us that retailers that use mobile wisely to improve the brick-and-mortar shopping experience will win. Here again, this trend is not new. Holiday shopping has been going mobile for some time, and as we blogged in 2019, retailers that had already responded to the rise of mobile orders were already enjoying a distinct advantage over those that had not. What’s different about 2020 is that retailers need to prepare for a surge in curbside pick-up orders with consumers using their mobile phones to manage the process of ordering and picking up their purchases. Moreover, retailers can and should deploy advertising strategies that use mobile coupons where possible and appropriate.

3 Adapt to a Different Shopping Mindset

How shoppers feel about the holiday season will be radically different. Consider these realities:

  • Many shoppers will be planning for a holiday apart from their extended families as they practice social distancing. As shoppers inevitably order gifts for shipping abroad to their socially distanced loved ones, their moods will be affected.
  • Shoppers are already planning amid a threat of COVID-19 cases spiking again during the winter and possibly triggering state-by-state lockdowns. The ongoing news reports about COVID-19 are likely creating a sense of urgency among shoppers as they work around the possibility of their favorite stores closing. Moreover, shoppers are likely experiencing understandable anxiety and fear.

Retailers should respond by:

  • Activating holiday shopping campaigns now. If ever there was a year when shoppers are planning ahead and are receptive to holiday campaigns that promote services such shipping and curbside pickup, 2020 is that time.

In addition, be ready for a surge in queries from shoppers about details such as product order status as people shop with caution. The Google/Ipsos survey found that 67 percent of holiday shoppers will confirm online that an item is in stock before going to buy it. This means retailers should expect more customer queries everywhere you interact with customers, including email and your socials.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed this holiday season with online advertising, contract True Interactive. We have extensive experience helping businesses thrive with digital.

Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

Three Trends from Black Friday Weekend 2019

Three Trends from Black Friday Weekend 2019

Retail

Black Friday weekend (aka Thanksgiving weekend) 2019 gave many retailers to celebrate.

According to the National Retail Federation, a record 189.6 million U.S. consumers shopped from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, a 14 percent increase over 165.8 million in 2018. Consumers spent $361.9 billion, a 16 percent increase over $313.29 billion spent in 2018. Adobe said that online sales during the weekend totaled $28.4 billion. At True Interactive, we watched spending trends, took a close look at how we’ve worked with our clients to prepare for Black Friday weekend, and analyzed reports to understand the big trends affecting the weekend. Here are three trends that stand out:

1 Black Friday Weekend Isn’t Just for Retailers

You don’t have to be a shopping expert to see how big Black Friday weekend has become. On Black Friday, if you happened to be doing a Google search, you would have noticed a message on Google’s home page inviting you to check out deals on the Google Store online – and on Monday Google was back at it hawking deals on Pixel phones, the Nest Learning Thermostat, the Nest Hub Max, and a host of other Google products. Everyone seemed to be offering a deal – a Hulu Black Friday streaming deal, a discount for Helium 10 software, $700 off tickets to attend a CB Insights Conference, a Cyber Monday sale from the Rockettes . . . the list goes on and on. Many businesses relied heavily on email to serve up deals, resulting in a flood of offers that were difficult to tell apart (judging from their email headers).

The challenge for retailers: it’s getting harder and harder to stand out with online offers as nonretailers compete for your customers’ attention spans. Retailers are under more pressure to create compelling ads with stunning visual imagery, compelling calls to action, and effective use of targeting to reach the high-value customers who are more likely to see and respond to your offer.

2 You Have to Invest Early to Win

Earlier in November, I blogged about how the big bellwether retailers were promoting Black Friday deals weeks before the big weekend. This is the reality of winning shoppers on Black Friday weekend: you can’t wait until the run-up to Black Friday to win audiences unless you want your efforts to get lost in a sea of promotions that I just described above. You have to start weeks, even months, in advance to develop a comprehensive strategy that encompasses online advertising and organic content.

As we have blogged, we recommend a phased approach that includes building brand awareness well before the holiday shopping season begins to kick in, then promoting more specific deals as the holidays approach. Meanwhile, prepping your website to prepare for an expected increase in traffic is crucial. The masters of this approach, such as Amazon, Target, and Walmart, create special landing pages where they showcase their deals (naturally optimized for search) as part of integrated advertising roll-outs. But you don’t have to be a big-spending retail giant to succeed. Any retailer can do these things by using advertising tools such as Google’s Black Friday promotion extensions.

The challenge for retailers: winning during the holidays means spending earlier – and smarter.

3 Go Mobile or Go Home

Mobile has been becoming a bigger part of the Black Friday weekend for the past few years. In 2019, mobile was the story. As reported in Retail Dive (citing Salesforce data), mobile orders increased 35 percent on Black Friday in 2019; 65 percent of all e-commerce went through a mobile device. And smart phones continued to drive revenue into the weekend.

So what’s going on here? Well, the uptick reflects people simply getting more comfortable using their phones to make complex purchases. But in addition, offline retailers are making it easier for people to order on their phones and pick up in the store. As Retail Dive reported:

One out of every five online purchases will be picked up in the store, according to The NPD Group’s Holiday Purchase Intentions Survey. That’s good news for retailers that have rapidly scaled their in-store pickup options for online purchases, because many of those customers buy even more when they get there, according to NPD chief industry advisor Marshal Cohen.

The challenge for retailers: this development is not necessarily a good one for online merchants. If you have no brick-and-mortar store to act as a fulfillment center for click-and-collect orders, you’ll need to find better ways to compete. Winning now means offering deals well before the weekend with liberal expedited shipping policies to make shoppers reconsider click-and-collect.

Contact True Interactive

Black Friday weekend is the centerpiece of the holiday shopping season. But there are many days left for you to attract shoppers. Contact us. We can help you succeed with online advertising.

Photo by Justin Lim on Unsplash

3 Ways That Retailers Can Win During the 2019 Holiday Shopping Season

3 Ways That Retailers Can Win During the 2019 Holiday Shopping Season

Retail

The holidays are always in season for retailers. Even though holiday shopping traditionally does not begin until the week of Black Friday, advertisers need to constantly anticipate and respond to shifts in consumer behavior and any factors that affect how people shop during the holidays. Here are three ways retailers can succeed in the 2019 holiday shopping season, based on our experience:

1 Be Mobile

According to Adobe, the 2018 holiday season marked the first time that smart phones accounted for more than half of all visits to websites during the holidays. With 51 percent of shoppers using their phones to address shopping needs, retailers better have a strong mobile advertising presence.

To be mobile, brands need to first and foremost capitalize on tools that maximize the value of the mobile format. For example, Google Gallery Ads, available in beta, consist of swipeable images that display on multiple pages on a user’s mobile phones. Shoppers can swipe through the images or click one to expand the gallery into a vertical view that users can then swipe down. At the end of the gallery, a call to action to visit the advertiser’s site appears. A company such as ours that has access to Google can fast track you into using tools such as this one.

In addition, Google has launched tools that make it easier for brands to make your inventory sparkle, such as Google Showcase Shopping Ads. These types of tools are especially useful for making inventory more attractive (and literally shoppable) as people are using their mobile phones to browse for holiday ideas before the season officially kicks off.

Being mobile also means providing a great follow-through experience on your site, whether that site is accessed from a laptop, a PC—or from a smart phone. As I blogged last year, a number of businesses encountered turbulence because their online experience didn’t deliver well after shoppers clicked through on ads to buy things.

Be ready – across the entire mobile journey. (Note: check out this case study about our work with Snapfish for more insight into how we’ve helped a business succeed with mobile advertising.)

2 Prepare for Black Friday Week

Black Friday not just a day anymore. It’s a shopping state of mind.

Black Friday remains the single most important shopping event of the year. But winning retailers understand that Black Friday has become, in fact, an entire week. As the popularity of Cyber Monday shows—four hours on that day were, in 2018, the busiest period of the entire year. People are in Black Friday shopping mode hunting for deals during Thanksgiving Week and immediately afterwards. That shopping rush includes Thanksgiving Day, which incidentally shows buyers relying more on smart phones than they do on Cyber Monday or even Black Friday itself.

To maximize the opportunities afforded by an expanded Black Friday phenomenon, online retailers need to be ready with advertising strategies—paid search and display, for example—that attract customers to buy during the entire week.

3 Compete with Shipping

One of the major stories of the 2018 holiday season was the rise of shipping as a competitive tool: Amazon, Target, and Walmart all tried to outdo each other with attractive shipping offers. Amazon, for example, famously extended free shipping, with no minimum purchase required, for a limited time starting November 5.

Shipping will be a big story for the 2019 season, too. With Thanksgiving taking place later in November, the official holiday season will be shorter. And a shorter season usually means a sense of urgency, as consumers try to make up for lost time by having products shipped to them faster. While smaller retailers may have a harder time matching the efforts made by behemoths like Amazon, it’s important to stay competitive by having your act together and your shipping strategy sorted. Achieving more efficient product fulfillment and shipping may involve hiring more labor. It might also demand tweaks to your online advertising.

Contact True Interactive

Bottom line: brands want to stay abreast of the trends in order to maximize the holiday shopping experience they provide for customers. If you need help, contact us.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/photos/woman-shopping-lifestyle-beautiful-3040029/

Online Holiday Shopping Season Hits $126 Billion

Online Holiday Shopping Season Hits $126 Billion

Retail

Winning the hearts and minds of consumers during the holidays increasingly means having a digital strategy to attract and convert them. According to Adobe Analytics, consumers spent $126 billion online during the 2018 holiday season, an increase of 16.5 percent year over year. For the first time ever, smart phones drove half the traffic, amounting 31 percent of revenue (34 percent growth year over year).

The numbers do not surprise me. By early December, the holiday season was already well on its way to achieving strong results. The final numbers suggest a number of lessons for retailers:

1 Start Early to Win Online

Our own clients were working with us to start raising awareness online for their holiday sales long before the holiday shopping season began. Businesses that began building awareness for their holiday inventory via online advertising were best positioned to attract the surging traffic from shoppers going online looking for deals.

2 Respect the Power of Thanksgiving Weekend

Reports of Black Friday’s demise are exaggerated. Black Friday achieved a 23.6 percent increase in online traffic. But Black Friday is now part of a bigger five-day Thanksgiving weekend shopping extravaganza. The period between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday generated 19.2 percent of all online holiday spend. In particular, Cyber Monday saw a surge of buying. A four-hour time block on Cyber Monday (7:00 pm to 11 p.m. PST) was the most active period of the year. These four hours recorded more than $2 billion in sales. Conversion rose sharply through the evening, as consumers rushed to take advantage of deals. Businesses that invested in a strong Thanksgiving Weekend digital media spend were in the driver’s seat to win, especially if they capitalized on Cyber Monday by spending on ads with strong calls to action during the waning moments of Cyber Monday.

Go Mobile

The increase in smartphone traffic clearly shows that businesses need strong mobile-centric advertising strategies, including investments across mobile display networks. But going mobile means more than having a mobile presence. Going mobile means:

  • Promoting your app effectively. Mobile apps are now driving more revenue than ever. Having a strategy to promote your app is more important than ever.
  • Formatting content for mobile viewing and including an easy conversion path on mobile.

At the same time, it’s important to ensure that your messaging on mobile is consistent with your messaging on other channels.

Start Succeeding Now

You don’t need to wait another year to apply these lessons. They hold true with other major events that attract a surge of shopping and advertising, such as Presidents Day and Memorial Day. True Interactive can help you prepare. Contact us.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/holiday-shopping-smartphone-phone-1921658/

Online Retailers Are Winning Big This Holiday Season

Online Retailers Are Winning Big This Holiday Season

Retail

We’re off to the races with the 2018 holiday season, and retailers are showing some strong results with online sales. Here’s what Adobe Analytics reported:

  • Cyber Monday hit $7.9 billion in sales, making it the largest online shopping day of all time in the United States — a 19.7 percent increase year-over-year.
  • Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday brought in $3.7 billion (28 percent growth year over year) and $6.2 billion (23.6 percent growth) in revenue.
  • Saturday and Sunday, November 24 and 25, set a new record as the biggest online shopping weekend in the U.S. ($6.4 billion) growing faster than Black Friday and Cyber Monday with more than 25 percent on each day.

Not every retailer is winning this holiday season. Only retailers that do these things are reaping rewards:

  • Focusing on mobile. As we have shared on our blog, technology giants such as Google have been launching tools that make it easier for businesses to showcase inventory with shoppable ads. That’s because shoppers are using mobile as a tool to buy, not just search for places to buy. PayPal, for instance, processed more than $1 billion in mobile payments on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday (a first for PayPal on either day). On Thanksgiving, mobile accounted for 54 percent of online sales, surpassing desktop for the first time, according to Salesforce.
  • Prepared their websites. According to Multibriefs, more people were hit with “out-of-stock” messages on websites than they were last year. “Even worse, some didn’t even make it to the company website,” wrote Multibriefs. “Lowes, Target and PayPal all experienced crashes on Cyber Monday.” The companies that failed to prepare for the online buying spike lost out to sites such as Amazon, which reported its biggest shopping day in history on Cyber Monday. Who says websites are dead? If you were ready as Amazon was, you won big.
  • Moving products quickly. Amazon long ago set the standard for speedy product delivery. But many retailers such as Best Buy are catching up. This holiday season retailers are using free shipping and convenient returns as a proving ground, as this news report discusses. Last month, I predicted shipping would provide an edge to retailers this holiday season — but this prediction applies only to those who have figured out how to fulfill the uptick in demand that online ordering brings. Walmart struggled to fulfill online orders during the 2017 holiday season – let’s see how the retailer does when the dust settles on 2018.

If you took steps to prepare yourself for the onslaught of online holiday shopping – especially by attracting mobile shoppers with a strong investment into online advertising and digital commerce – the 2018 holiday season is looking very bright. For more insight into how to win with mobile shoppers, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/holiday-shopping-smartphone-phone-1921658/

Retailers Ramp up Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

Retailers Ramp up Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

Retail

Last March we wrote about the increasingly important role that technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have in the marketing field. Since then, major businesses have continued to apply AR and VR to support a number of functions. Retailers have been especially keen to use these technologies for shopping. For example:

  • To capitalize on the uptick in mobile holiday shopping, Macy’s has launched an AR app that lets shoppers see pieces of furniture virtually within their homes, following the successful pilot of a VR experience to make furniture shopping more immersive. According to Macy’s, shoppers using VR headsets to view Macy’s furniture had more than a 60 percent greater average order value than non-virtual reality furniture shoppers.
  • Walmart recently announced the launch of new AR scanning tool in its iOS app to help customers with product comparisons. Unlike traditional barcode scanners (which allow price comparison on one item at a time), Walmart’s AR scanner can be aimed at multiple products on store shelves to view details on pricing and customer ratings.

Some studies predict the global economic impact of virtual and augmented reality to reach $29.5 billion. Although this number may sound overly optimistic, I do believe there is a lot of value in these technologies yet to be exploited. Both VR and AR have the potential to be among the most valuable tools in any marketer’s arsenal simply because they offer intimate and engaging experiences. They allow brands to build a more profound connection with consumers by offering personalized, interactive experiences. In addition, when combined with artificial intelligence, these technologies have the potential to help make life easier by empowering users to take immediate action (like completing a custom order on the spot).

VR and AR Defined

Even though they may look similar, VR and AR are different:

  • Virtual reality: refers to any kind of experience that places the user “in” another world or dimension usually by way of a headset with special lenses.
  • Augmented reality: the term we use when we place content “into” the real world by using cameras (e.g., Pokémon GO)

Although some brands have rushed to experiment with augmented reality on social media platforms, others are using AR and VR to support commerce. One of the cleverest campaigns was that one from the Spanish fast fashion retailer, Zara.

Although their storefronts may have appeared empty to the naked eye, they came to life when people pointed their phone’s camera at the shop’s window (or in-store podiums) after downloading the Zara AR App. This app enabled users to see seven-to-twelve-second sequences of models Léa Julian and Fran Summers wearing selected looks from the brand’s Studio Collection and allowed the viewers to instantly order any of the looks shown at the touch of a button.

 

Tommy Hilfiger is another example of a retail brand that has also deployed AR technology to improve the shopping experience in their stores. By placing digitally enhanced mirrors inside the fitting rooms, Tommy Hilfiger gave customers instant access to information like styles, models, sizes and colors available both in-store and online. The experience also allowed shoppers to request a new size or color without leaving the room and suggested other products to browse. These smart mirrors made product discovery much simpler and promoted sales by helping users find the right style.

iMirror for Retail from Pieter on Vimeo.

But the business potential seems almost unlimited when AR/VR is combined with artificial intelligence. An example is Salesforce’s Einstein AI technology, which was subject to practical testing along with Coca-Cola. As noted in this article from Diginomica:

Einstein was trained to recognize, identify and count the varieties and quantities of Coca-Cola bottles stored in one of its cooler display cabinets, simply by analyzing a photo taken with an iPad or iPhone. […] Einstein can then take that stock count and combine the information with predictions based on known seasonal variations, weather information from Watson [the IBM AI system], and upcoming promotions, to automatically calculate a restocking order.

There is no doubt about the potential benefits of new technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality and artificial intelligence for both consumers and businesses. In the ever-changing and dynamic world of digital marketing, it would be safe to expect tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook to soon develop and introduce new features that accommodate for these technologies in their portfolio of products and services.

The Key to a Successful Holiday Season: Shipping

The Key to a Successful Holiday Season: Shipping

Retail

Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are just table stakes for retailers to compete in the first-ever $1 trillion holiday shopping season. The real competitive advantage is coming from shipping.

Based on the client work I do, I’ve always known that favorable shipping can help a retailer compete more effectively during the holiday shopping season. Low-cost, rapid shipping caters to the needs of today’s on-demand consumer who want products curated and sent to them and oftentimes at the last minute.

But what’s changed dramatically about the 2018 season is the Amazon effect. Earlier in November, Amazon announced free shipping with no minimum purchase required from November 5 onward. Amazon did not announce a cut-off date, but it will probably be December 22. Now, this change to its shipping policy is huge. Amazon accomplishes two objectives with free shipping during the holidays:

  • Beating Target and Walmart. These two retail giants had announced more liberal shipping and returns policies of their own in October. Walmart had announced it would expand two-day shipping to the entire Walmart marketplace beginning November 1. And Walmart also said that products purchased through its marketplace could be returned Walmart brick-and-mortar stores products purchased through its marketplace. Target had announced free two-day shipping with no minimum purchase or REDcard membership required from November 1-December 22. Amazon trumped both.
  • Luring shoppers to Amazon Prime. Amazon hopes that anyone using free shipping during the holidays will get a taste of what Prime members enjoy all the time – and, presumably, sign up for Prime, where many more benefits await. For example, Prime members get free same-day delivery on millions of items and free two-day shipping on many more. Prime is the center of Amazon’s on-demand world, which encompasses services ranging from entertainment to retail.

Smaller retailers have a harder time competing on those kinds of terms, but try they must. If you’re a brick-and-mortar retailer, advertising on-demand services such as delivery, shipping, and online ordering/in-store pick-up is key to winning this holiday season. It’s important that you manage your online advertising, including your paid search and display, to show how well you service the on-demand shopper. If you need help, contact True Interactive.

Image source: Walmart