Holiday Make or Break

Insight: This holiday season may be one of the most important for brick-and-mortar retail.

According to several reports, the holiday season is already well underway. Historically, as much as 40% of retail sales are recorded in the final two months of the year, according to the National Retail Federation. But that window has gradually increased over the past few years, and, in 2015, seems to have doubled.

A report commissioned by over Labor Day weekend found 14% had bought at least one holiday present before their kids started school this year. Another study by Rubicon Project found 29% had started shopping by mid-September.

Millennials outpaced other generations for early shopping in the former survey, and an analyst suggested the prevalence of online shipping and heavy retail promotions are actually causing shoppers to look earlier rather than waiting for late deals. In that same survey, a quarter said they’d plan to be done shopping before the end of November. Google says nearly half of shoppers completed all their shopping prior to Cyber Monday last year.

While Market Trak predicts more promising Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, Business Insider reminds us that those dates fell below expectations last year likely because shoppers started earlier. Many believe early shopping will further dilute these key shopping dates this year, and some have even noted that this combined with relatively slow August and September retail sales could add up to a very disappointing year.

All the reports are adding up to one thing – to win this holiday, retailers and brands will really need to up their game and sustain a level of excellence over a longer period.

Vision: Go big this holiday in order to imprint the value of your brand into the minds of shoppers.

eCommerce has changed brick-and-mortar shopping in many ways, and the holiday impact is huge. As many as 75% will buy at least some of their gifts online according to Google, a quarter will use their smartphones and these online shoppers will likely spend more than their in-store counterparts. But, even more will use the internet for price comparisons before buying in-store (85%), product reviews (80%) and other shopping research (78%). Search will impact the places they shop as well, with the majority of shoppers exploring new stores during holiday shopping.

All this information levels the playing field in many ways for retailers and brands to differentiate in brand new ways. Look for many to finally jump into omnichannel with both feet, improving store pick-up for online orders and of-the-moment communications to drive urgency, and others to leverage the early shopping trend in creative ways.

Increased focus on merchandise selection and stock levels and other operational factors will become table stakes to continue to grow, with many needing to move into rare and unique items, timed assortments and other creative tactics to stand out.

In addition to all of the above, well trained and exceptional service agents will be necessary to gain and retain customers this holiday season and beyond. Customers already expect associates to be armed with tablets and ready to help with content not found online. To rise above the fray, a rock star up-sell and add-on strategy leverage outstanding service will be a key ingredient.

But above all, it will be increasingly important to win on experience. This can be improved product demonstration, in-store promotions and events, store and display design and immersive interaction. Execution and maintenance must be flawless, with each element clean, efficient and pleasing.

Doing all of this is no easy task. As a representative from Deloitte said, though, “Finding a really differentiated, winning strategy is really tough.” But it’s not too late to begin implementing some of these tactics, or even just a test and learn process to lay groundwork for future innovation. DCI-Artform can quickly help you develop a program. Contact us today to get moving!