The holiday shopping season often puts the entire retail industry under a microscope, placing an emphasis on the trends and technologies that shape the way people shop. Even if the season lasts for only a few months and some sense or normalcy returns with the new year, the holidays are a time when consumers tend to dig deeper to find sales, shop with greater frequency and face promotional messaging being sent to them on all fronts. Because of all this, retailers are under a great deal of pressure to have their web and brick-and-mortar strategies aligned with emerging consumer shopping patterns. For 2016, mobile optimization may be a key focal point for the the holiday shopping season.
Mobility changing traditional retail options
The back-to-school shopping season often sets expectations for what retailers can anticipate when the holidays roll around. The period is a good barometer for how consumers actually shop when they have a deadline in place and opportunity to take advantage of unique sales. A recent MediaPost report analyzing various studies on back-to-school shopping and putting them in a context for the holidays found online shopping leads to a meaningful change in how people shop, and mobile devices could prove transformative this holiday season.
Citing data from the National Retail Federation, MediaPost explained online shopping experienced a fairly significant rise in the 2016 back-to-school shopping season, something that is especially telling as back-to-school purchases have a reputation for being made in brick-and-mortar stores. The NRF found 46 percent of back-to-school purchases were made online, a 10 percent increase over 2015.
A robust transition to online shopping is in place for the back-to-school season, something that will advance into the holidays as consumers take advantage of mobile devices to perform research and blend online with brick-and-mortar experiences. Pointing to research from Hitwise, the news source explained 77 percent of retail searches including the word “coupon” are made on mobile devices. Similar figures were found for search queries related to “sale” (73 percent) and “discount” (68 percent), showing consumers are quick to turn to mobile devices when seeking an opportunity to save some money while they shop.
On top of all this mobile searching, Google found consumers increasingly used mobile devices to do research pertaining to back-to-school shopping this year. MediaPost explained the back-to-school trends this year point to a variety of conclusions for the holidays, including:
- Shoppers are starting to research and even make some purchases earlier than expected, so marketers may want to get moving on promoting holiday shopping.
- Understanding how each customer uses different devices and channels to shop is key, and reaching individuals on the right device at the right time is essential.
- Deal-hunting is a growing movement, something retailers can use to connect their web, mobile, social and brick-and-mortar strategies to maximize sales potential.
As shopping trends toward an omnichannel experience in which users leverage diverse devices and methods based on their specific needs at any moment, retailers must provide flexible experiences. But how many resources should be placed into these efforts? Retailers must be cautious about overspending for the holidays to end up with only a weak purchasing year, but a recent Forbes report analyzing a variety of studies explained that signs point to a strong holiday shopping season in 2016.
2016 holiday shopping season showing potential
According to Forbes, studies up to this point have shown 2016 to be a relatively slow year in terms of retail growth, but signs already point to a turnaround for the holidays. Consumer sentiment has been improving on a year-over-year basis since the second quarter of 2016, something that creates a foundation of hope for the holidays. That said, there are still some global economic conditions creating uncertainty, so retailers should pay close attention to consumer sentiment moving into the holidays. The more telling sign of a strong holiday season may actually stem from the Architectural Billings Index.
The American Institute of Architects regularly publishes an index of spending on residential construction, with the study often serving as an indicator for retail sales. Forbes explained that new-home construction has a few implications for retail in general:
- Rising home values create consumer confidence and leaves individuals more willing to spend when the holidays roll around, especially as consumers feel more satisfied with their status in the economy.
- New construction underpins economic growth in general, making it a positive sign for expansion moving forward.
- People who spend on new residential construction are left with homes, or at least new rooms, that they need to fill with furniture and other items.
Research indicates some potential for a healthy holiday shopping season, and retailers need to work to get ahead of their competitors if they want to stand out. Google has some advice that can pay off when it comes to getting ahead.
Focus on moments
A recent blog post from Google pointed out that consumers now have so many options when it comes to holiday shopping that they can easily be left stressed and facing analysis paralysis when making choices about what they should buy. Amazon alone sells more than 225,000 scarves. This variety has left consumers moving away from casual browsing and searching more for which products are the best. This has come into play not only in online searches focusing on “best” within the search terms, but also a growing trend toward seeking shopping advice online.
According to Google, consumers turn to YouTube and similar channels to get advice on which products stand out, with the emphasis being placed on content that serves as a shopping guide. Browsing through large online stores, window shopping or thumbing through print catalogs are all slipping to the background as consumers don’t just go online, but also look for advice on the top products.
Even with this research, however, consumer purchasing often boils down to moments. Google explained most holiday shoppers still initiate their browsing process without knowing exactly what they look for. The difference is they often use digital tools as they browse, with many taking spare moments to search on their smartphones. This adds up to create a situation in which retailers must capture the moment to get and keep consumers’ attention. Doing so requires they have a presence wherever consumers look to find information, making a connected presence over brick-and-mortar, web, social and mobile channels critical.
The upcoming holiday season comes as a variety of technologies change the way people live. Retailers that can stay on top of these trends and capture the moments can position themselves to take advantage of a marketplace that is well-positioned for growth and looking to use a diverse range of devices to shop any time and from any location. Connected experiences are critical here, and omnichannel ecommerce strategies incorporating responsive design can ensure retailers get the attention they need.
Contact us to make sure your online presence is ready for the upcoming holiday season.