There’s still plenty of holiday shopping ahead. Retailers can not only capture more peak season sales but also win long-term loyalty.

Katrina Gosek, senior director, digital customer product strategy, Oracle

Katrina Gosek, senior director, digital customer product strategy, Oracle

Retailers raked in almost $20 billion in sales this past Thanksgiving weekend, fueled by record-breaking online and mobile purchases. But not all consumers were wooed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. In fact, about 39 percent of consumers won’t begin their holiday shopping until the last four weeks leading up to Christmas, according to JLL Research’s Holiday 2017 Retail Survey.

So what can brands learn from this retail frenzy? Here are five essential “post-turkey” takeaways and actionable insights to consider as you adapt and adjust your e-commerce strategy to drive loyalty and sales through the New Year.

 

Turkey Takeaway #1: Redefine brick-and-mortar

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For the first time ever, more consumers did their shopping online rather than in stores on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 58.4 million shoppers made their purchases online only, versus 51.6 million shopped who purchased in store only, says the National Retail Federation (NRF). However, even more holiday shoppers, a total of 64.6 million, made their purchases both in store and online. The trend is evident—it is time to redefine the role of brick-and-mortar stores. 

Stores need to be directly tied to your digital strategy. Shoppers prefer to shop from the comfort of their own homes and are not scared to make big purchases online. So what can consumers get from an in-store shopping experience that they can’t online? Exclusive experiences. Retailers should right-size store footprints and inventory and focus on inspiring shoppers. Whether it’s simply the convenience of same-day pickup, fulfillment of online orders, or the presence of information-armed concierges (traditional store associates) with personalized service, stores need a digital infusion in the next era of retail.

 

Turkey Takeaway #2: Shoppers are mobile-first

According to the NRF, 63 percent of smartphone owners used their mobile devices to make holiday decisions, and 29 percent used their phones to make actual purchases. Shoppers are mobile-first, so retailers should be too. Mobile isn’t just a research tool anymore—it’s a money-collecting machine for retailers who have optimized for it. Get inventive. Enable fast, easy mobile shopping through voice control, transparent inventory as a bridge to stores, simple checkout, and artificial intelligence-driven alerts.

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Turkey Takeaway #3: Cyber Monday is now Cyber Week

Forrester analyst Brendan Witcher reveals that while nearly 90 percent of organizations say they are focused on personalizing customer experiences, only 40 percent of shoppers feel that retail content is relevant to their tastes and interests. The result? Individual sales are getting lost in the shuffle. The big sale is dead.

Consumers now enjoy price transparency and endless options. So how can your brand stand out in a sea of competitive prices and products? Harness the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to reach the right shopper, at the right time, with the right offer, on every channel as well as in marketing messages. Automate personalization at scale and ditch the blanket promotions. Segmented, compelling communications with personalized messages see more engagement without impacting profitability.

 

Turkey Takeaway #4: Shoppers find comfort in expensive online purchases

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Retailers have typically reserved big-ticket items for stores, believing that shoppers spend more in person. But overall brick-and-mortar foot traffic was down 7.5 percent this year according to Cowen Research, and shoppers are increasingly comfortable with making expensive online purchases.

Customer service isn’t just for returns or complaints anymore. It drives sales and loyalty and should be a proactive element across the buying cycle. Whether it’s through chatbots, live chat, video chat, or self-service, unsure digital shoppers who need the extra confidence in the moment will convert more—and come back—if they get a human (or almost human) touch.

 

Turkey Takeaway #5: Loyalty is more important than ever

Closing the holiday sale is just the tip of the iceberg. With a predicted $680 billion in retail sales expected November through December, according to NRF’s holiday 2017 forecast, retailers should also focus on fulfillment. Turn your new buyers into year-round loyalists. Loyalty is the only tool that retailers have moving forward in an ultra-competitive market. Foster it through great service, fast shipping, and unique in-store experiences. Leverage AI to personalize all your interactions, from site merchandising and search to email and marketing campaigns. Make your shoppers feel like your brand “gets them.”

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Oracle and its Oracle NetSuite subsidiary together provide e-commerce platform technology for 110 of the Top 1000 online retailers in North America.

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