News & Trends

It’s the most omni-channel time of the year

Posted by: Diane Agostinello Diane Agostinello
on December 22, 2015

In the words of Seth Sigman, a retail analyst at Credit Suisse, this is the most omni-channel holiday yet, with holiday shopping becoming increasingly mobile. For Walmart, this trend rings very true, with nearly half of their orders since Thanksgiving having been placed on a mobile device — double what the retailer’s mobile purchases were last year.

The benefits of mobile shopping? It can take place anywhere, whether the shopper is looking to buy from the comfort of their home or from within the store itself. Today’s shopper wants convenience — and mobile shopping allows for just that. While in-store, many shoppers are using their mobile devices to check what’s in stock and compare prices with other retailers. ICSC’s 2015 holiday survey also revealed that three out of four holiday shoppers are conducting research online prior to heading to the store to make their purchases.

Brick-and-mortar retailers aren’t letting this trend pass them by. Walmart alone invested an additional $1 billion into its e-commerce operations over a nine-month period this year. The retailer kicked off its “eight weeks of savings and holiday retailtainment” November 1, and made sure to make this its most digitally-integrated holiday season yet. Walmart promised rollback prices lasting at least 90 days with prices backed by the retailer’s ad-match guarantee and online price matching. Also as part of its holiday omni-channel strategy, Walmart opened in-store pickup areas, gave shoppers the opportunity to check in from their phones when they arrived, and created the ability to scan items to a wish or gift list using the Walmart app.

But Walmart isn’t the only retailer adopting new strategies to attract shoppers. Payment Week recently released the three omni-channel shopping trends expected to emerge this holiday season:

  • Retailers offering a range of fulfillment options. Shoppers are likely to experience more delivery options, with the most desired being same-day delivery, an agreed upon delivery window, and 90-minute delivery for in-store purchases. Target is offering free shipping and free returns through December 25, with no minimum purchase required, and a variety of delivery options to ensure arrival by Christmas Eve.
  • Hyper-local messaging. Retailers are expected to continue testing beacon technology to communicate with customers in-store. In fact, beacon-triggered messages are estimated to influence more than $4 billion in retail sales this year. This Thanksgiving, shoppers at more than 700 Macy’s stores with the retailer’s mobile app had the opportunity to instantly win prizes through push notifications triggered by their proximity to beacons placed throughout the store.
  • E-commerce brands testing physical spaces. Some holiday-focused e-commerce brands are making the transition to brick-and-mortar this season, with many choosing the “pop-up” approach over a long-term lease. At our Suburban Square shopping center in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, for example, we welcomed three pop-up shops — Ellelauri, Duke & Winston, and Vineyard Vines — all looking to test the market over the holiday shopping season.

Omni-channel retailing has enabled a wider audience to receive promotions through various channels. Gone are the days of waiting in line on Black Friday to get all of your holiday shopping complete — omni-channel retailing means customers can cross items off their list whenever and however they want.

Let’s not forget — simply integrating an omni-channel strategy might not be enough to engage your target audience this holiday season. Customers are seeking a consistent experience across all channels, with the physical store, the retailer’s website, and the mobile application being the most visited. Take Amazon’s new Seattle location as an example. It opened November 3 and offers Amazon’s interpretation of what the “seamless integration of digital and physical” can look like.

Are you a retailer or small business owner experimenting with an omni-channel approach to your holiday strategy? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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