The 2017 holiday season saw a significant increase in shopping, with nearly 80% of U.S. holiday shoppers buying gifts from Amazon, more than any other top retailer. Feeling the pressure to stay ahead of Amazon, many retailers began holiday promotions in early November but this approach can backfire.
There’s good news though. Shoppers still enjoy going to brick and mortar stores, and the majority are shopping both in-store and online, which means retailers must think about how to create a seamless experience that transitions easily from computer to mobile device to checkout counter.
The busy holiday season provides retailers with a perfect opportunity to bond with customers, regardless of whether they’re shopping online or in-store. To take advantage of the holiday buying surge, and use it to create a lasting connection with customers, retailers must be strategic in creating an omnichannel brand experience.
How can this be accomplished?
1. Blend offline and online experiences. The truth is most people are not shopping only online or only in stores; they are doing some combination of both. So creating a unified experience from website to storefront to mobile is key for making a lasting impression with shoppers. Nordstrom’s “curbside pickup” feature for online orders is a great example of this – allowing people to purchase online, and pick-up from the store.
2. Special in-store experiences. Across the country, Macy’s creates a magical holiday experience for families to take pictures with Santa, look at festive decorations, and shop for loved ones. The holiday season is a great time for retailers to focus on the experiences they’re creating for customers in their stores, but retailers should also think about how to create these experiences year round. Something as simple as wrapping gifts for customers can make the in-store experience unique. Diversify the ways in which customers can pay (i.e. Apple Pay, roving sales clerks) so that they aren’t always forced to wait in line. Retailers should also consider having special shopping hours, and deals that can only be found in stores.
3. Use Amazon-like technology. Next year, instead of starting holiday promotions in July, retailers should think about how to emulate Amazon’s technology by working with vendors in a way that lets them blend social media, mobile, and the online shopping process in a more special way through personalization. Retailers can use personalization technology to show shoppers new products they may be interested in based on previous purchases, as well as reviews from social media in real-time. Bazaarvoice is one company that offers retail software technology and web technology that helps online retailers and ecommerce sites provide an Amazon-like experience. Use technology to your advantage in stores, and in mobile and social advertising promotions, and think about how to be better than Amazon.
The bottom line is retailers need to stop thinking like a store and start thinking like a brand. A store is where you procure things, but a brand is conceptual, a relationship, and an experience. Make shopping an experience during the holiday season and all year round by appealing to people’s desire for seamless online and in-store purchasing. Instead of rushing the holidays, which can kill your business, find a way to truly bond with your most loyal fans by making them the heroes of your brand story.
Deb Gabor is the author of Branding is Sex: Get Your Customers Laid and Sell the Hell Out of Anything. She is the founder of Sol Marketing which has led brand strategy engagements for organizations ranging from international household names like Dell, Microsoft, and NBC Universal, to digital winners like Allrecipes, Cheezburger, HomeAway and RetailMeNot, and dozens of early-stage tech and digital media titans. For more information, please visit www.solmarketing.com and connect with Deb on Twitter, @deb_sol.