The stakes are high this holiday season, with Deloitte expecting cross-channel retail sales to top $1 trillion dollars this year from November to January. To succeed, omnichannel retailers and brands need to be true to their names and fully unify their selling channels. Omnichannel holiday strategy requires channels to work together. Companies might have different teams for in-store and eCommerce, but they need to be fully in sync to get ahead. Omnichannel retailers are at a distinct advantage because they already have the cross-channel functionalities. It’s just a matter of putting policies and marketing campaigns into effect to lure shoppers in.
If last year was any indication of the sheer power of omnichannel retailers, then we’re in for a treat again this coming holiday season. During the 2016 holidays, the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) found that nearly 70 percent of purchases were made with retailers who had both a brick and mortar and online store. Beyond that, 91 percent of shoppers made purchases at physical stores. If these two statistics aren’t reasons to diversify and amplify your different selling channels right now, I don’t know what is.
But the problem is that a number of retailers aren’t quite there yet. Mark de Bruijn writes on the Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce that not even one-fifth (17 percent) of “retailers indicate that their current omnichannel selection provides seamless integration for an optimal customer experience.” Having omnichannel capabilities that are subpar simply won’t cut it. That’s why this year omnichannel holiday strategy is paramount to success for retailers and brands.
Let’s discuss in detail the omnichannel holiday strategies that retailers can put into place.
Buy online, pick up in-store has become a requirement for omnichannel retailers, although not all retailers are using it to their advantage just yet. Big box retailers, like Walmart, have figured it out. It doesn’t have to be a belabored process with confusing signage and lines so long, shoppers wished they had just paid for delivery. Instead, retailers are making pickups a seamless process.
During the holiday season, pressure is high to get the right gift for everyone on shoppers’ lists. But with shoppers’ busy lives, remembering to order in time for regular delivery isn’t always possible. USPS, FedEx, others are inundated with packages during the holidays and bad weather on top of that can make it hard to get packages out on time. While shoppers could opt to pay extra for expedited shipping, another option is to pop into a store and walk out certain that they have everything they need. Shoppers would much rather have peace of mind, knowing all their bases are covered, instead of crossing their fingers that retailers will be able to deliver.
Retail Dive reports on a key omnichannel holiday strategy, “Holiday shoppers will take advantage of omnichannel retailers, with 40% of them buying online and picking up in-store. Those services could be a real boon this year, considering that 81% of those plan to make additional purchases when collecting their items,” according to ICSC data.
Click and collect cuts down on delivery costs and has the added bonus of getting shoppers in-store where they might top off their purchase with a few more items. For pure-play retailers, shoppers this holiday season will check out (more than once if they’re lucky), but there’s nothing quite like those impulses buy displays as you walk through a store.
On top of that, websites are missing the human interaction found in-store with helpful employees that suggest complementary products. Online, a retailer may suggest new socks to go with the shoes in your cart, but when an employee in-store tells you they own them and they’re the most comfortable socks they’ve ever worn, that personal connection is much more likely to win an add-on sale.
Leveraging Mobile Technology
Employees can make great recommendations, and they can also keep frustrated shoppers from walking out the door. Instead of grumbling when what they want is out of stock, store associates armed with mobile devices can easily tell shoppers where else they can find the item in order to retain that sale. For example, they can tell the customer that it’s in-stock at a location on the other side of town and get someone at that location to put it on hold for them. Or, that associate can have it shipped to them instead. The key omnichannel holiday strategy is letting shoppers know they have options and following through.
Even Amazon, in all its pure-play glory, is starting to see the omnichannel light. Between their bookstores in cities across the US and their recent announcement that shoppers can drop off their returns at certain Kohl’s stores, they’re out to prove that in-store and online can work together well, even on a massive scale. Making returns easier for shoppers removes some of the barriers to check out. If they know they can stop by a store and return the purchase if it doesn’t work out, then why not pull the trigger?
Ship from Store
Stores are much more than employees, cash registers, and merchandise. They have the ability to act as warehouses, getting online orders out to shoppers faster than a typical warehouse states away ever could. Best Buy has recently gotten this strategy down to a science, sending out online orders from the location that can ship it the fastest, whether that’s a traditional warehouse or the store in the next town.
Last but not least, retailers with stores should utilize the omnichannel holiday strategy that pulls shoppers in with experiences. Malls have Santa Claus appearances, Lululemon has yoga classes, and a boutique I visited in Portland had hot cider for holiday shoppers on a brisk day. What unique experience can you provide to shoppers to get them in-store this holiday season?
Closing Thoughts: Omnichannel Holiday Strategy
Kibo found that 84 percent of consumers think that retailers should do more to bring together their online and in-store channels. During the holiday season, retailers need to use everything they have in their arsenal to make the most of the increased traffic and sales, and omnichannel retailers happen to have a lot more firepower. As more pure play retailers open showrooms and stores, it is becoming clear that when additional selling channels are done right, retailers can boost their bottom lines and brand value higher than ever.