Get ready for a big holiday

season – and an even bigger return season

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2019 promises to be a big year for holiday shopping – and an even bigger year for holiday returns. Here’s our take on how to make the most of the retail’s most important season, from today straight through to the very end.

The news is looking good for retailers heading into this holiday season! eMarketer predicts that total US retail sales will climb 3.8 percent to $1.008 trillion. That means this will be the first holiday season ever to hit the trillion-dollar mark. At the same time, ecommerce spending in the country will shoot up over 13 percent to reach $135.35 billion. Take that, retail-pocalypse!

With that in mind, retailers can heave a sigh of relief and focus on driving traffic to their stores – and away from competitors. eMarketer suspects that Amazon, Walmart, Target and BestBuy will be the big winners for Holiday 2019, but that doesn’t mean smaller retailers and specialty stores can’t boost their sales, too.

Tips from the Retail State of the Nation

In our recent Retail State of the Nation, we found that many stores were missing opportunities to capture and keep new customers.  To capitalize on the holiday shopping opportunity, we offer the following advice:

  • For retailers optimizing a limited national footprint, mobile communication is crucial to compensate for physical absence and maintain brand share of mind. Take a close look at your mobile strategy and make sure you’re engaging customers within driving distance of your stores. Even if you don’t have a lot of stores but ship nationally, make sure you’re getting your competitors’ shoppers, too.
  • On-the-go retargeted advertising can contribute to conversion both offline and online. It benefits from consumers’ real-world browsing while also capitalizing on their in-store experiences.
  • While luxury and fashion are popular categories in social media due to their aspirational nature, in the real-world, foot traffic analysis shows a completely different shopping behavior. The lesson here is that to accurately address real-world patterns, marketers should add location data to the mobile advertising mix. In other words, even Old Navy shoppers may share Gucci and Prada items on Instagram and Pinterest. Look at where people go, not just what they share online. Real-world insights will tell the true story that social media often doesn’t.
  • Insight into the real-world nuances of competitive consumer behavior opens the possibility for positioning advertising contextually and creatively, allowing brands to gain relevance and share.

These tips will be helpful to all retailers through the holiday season – but they can go beyond the two biggest shopping days of the year.

Great return experiences can yield great customers – for life

There is a massive rush that occurs as customers return unwanted gifts in the days after Christmas. In Canada, the UK, and other countries, December 26th is Boxing Day, and until recently, it was the biggest shopping day of the year in those countries, representing huge post-holiday discounts. Stores would actually break the law by opening their doors and registers on the holiday, viewing the fines incurred as “the cost of doing business.” However, in the last few years, Black Friday has spread beyond our shores and overtaken Boxing Day as the biggest shopping day of the year.

History aside, the day after Christmas still represents a massive retail opportunity, both here and abroad. Just as customers can now buy online, pick up in-store, they increasingly have the ability to buy online, return in-store. In fact, 34 percent of Americans are expected to return their unwanted gifts. That means that with the huge number of dissatisfied recipients bringing gifts back to stores, retailers will have a huge opportunity to delight customers with their return/exchange experience – and even persuade them to make additional purchases at post-holiday clearance sales.

“Retailers need to create beautiful branded experiences all along the customers’ journey, including when they need to make a return. It allows the brand to encourage loyalty,” says an executive from Narvar, a customer experience platform in a recent Forbes interview. “How can you create that seamless consumer experience and not make the customer the victim of your own logistics challenges?”

It’s a question for which retailers should have a well-prepared response. Not only will an easy, hassle-free return policy make shoppers more comfortable buying in the first place, it’s far more likely to build loyal, lifelong customers. Take the famous example of Amazon’s Zappos. The online shoe retailer was among the first to offer free shipping and returns on top of their industry-leading 365-day return policy. The company saw a 50 percent return rate, which sounds horrifying, but guess what? It more than paid off. “Our best customers have the highest returns rates,” said Craig Adkins, VP of services and operations, “but they are also the ones that spend the most money with us and are our most profitable customers.”

For omnichannel retailers, there’s an even greater opportunity to create positive in-store experiences for customers who’ve completed purchases online. When shoppers come back to the store with items to return, don’t just make it hassle-free, make them feel like VIPs. Whether the customer is returning for exchange, cash back, or store credit, you want them to stay in the store and make more purchases, right? So, give these cash-in-hand shoppers the warm welcome and delightful experience they deserve. They may have come in to return something they don’t like – but if you deliver great service and tempting post-holiday deals, they may end up being customers for life.

As always, real-world insights should lead the way. Blis’ Retail State of the Nation dives into the actual behavior of shoppers both online and offline, including where people shop, what the customers of leading retailers do when they’re not shopping, and so much more. All of this information can help retailers like you make more informed and more successful business decisions. Download the report here.



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