Key to providing this seamless, omnichannel experience is optimizing mobile, online and in-store digital channels and tapping data to keep up with consumers’ shopping wants, needs and habits. Read on for a look at how retailers can optimize their digital channels to gain a bigger slice of holiday sales pie this season.

Chris Wraight, director of industry marketing, Akamai.

Chris Wraight, director of industry marketing, Akamai.

As we jump into fall, retailers are already feeling the rush of the holiday shopping season. The National Retail Federation predicts that the 2019 season will drive over $3.8 trillion in revenue, with up to 18% expected to be driven by e-commerce sales.

In order to capitalize on the often make-or-break opportunity the Q4 season provides, it is imperative that retailers provide a superior user experience that includes bringing digital to the in-store shopping journey. Key to providing this seamless, omnichannel experience is optimizing mobile, online and in-store digital channels and tapping data to keep up with consumers’ shopping wants, needs and habits.

Retailers should operate under the assumption that any in-store shopper is using a mobile device, and make sure their infrastructure can scale to meet the seasonal increase in foot traffic.

Read on for a look at how retailers can optimize their digital channels to gain a bigger slice of holiday sales pie this season.

The Mobile Influence

Mobile devices have quickly become the go-to in-store companion for shoppers, who are increasingly turning to their phones while shopping in physical stores. In fact, a recent study by RetailMeNot shows that 69% of shoppers prefer to consult a product review on their phone rather than speak to a store associate.

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As shoppers increasingly take a self-service, omnichannel approach to their buying journey—walking through stores with a phone in hand, comparing prices, and researching alternatives to best suit their wants and needs—retailers must ensure that their mobile experiences are fast and seamless, content-driven—including a growing number of videos, optimized for the mobile devices and browsers – and that a buyer is provided all the information they may need to make a purchase decision.

Retailers should essentially operate under the assumption that any in-store shopper is using a mobile device, and make sure their infrastructure can scale to meet the increase in foot traffic the season brings.

Don’t Sleep on Desktop

While mobile commerce is a fast-growing retail sector—eclipsing desktop holiday traffic for the first time in 2018—the reality is that holiday digital shopping conversion rates continue to be higher for desktop (including laptops) compared to mobile.

Contributing to this is the fact that baby boomers are more apt to shop on their home computers than mobile devices when shopping digitally. Therefore, desktop shopping experience remains critical for in-store success today.

For example, many successful retailers understand the importance of online-to-offline sales and offer customers blended shopping options like Buy Online Purchase In-Store (also known as BOPIS). This strategy allows customers to research products on-the-go or from the comfort of their own home, make their purchase, and conveniently pick up their goods in-store immediately. Some retailers have even created special pick-up lanes at their stores so the shopper doesn’t even have to step out of their vehicle; their merchandise is brought to them.

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While ultimate engagement with the product is in store, it’s critical that retailers offering cross-channel shopping options like BOPIS recognize that their websites are the first point of engagement in the shopper journey. That means this experience must be flawless to make the process successful. This includes making sure pages load fast, images and videos are of top quality, content is optimized for a broad spectrum of mobile devices and browsers, and that your site can scale to meet the influx in traffic.

Leveraging Digital Shopper Data

Many successful e-retailers trace their growth back to leveraging shopper behavior data to create personalized and efficient shopping experiences. Retailers looking to get a leg up on the competition will leverage customers’ online and mobile data to inform the in-store shopping experience.

For example, by tracking conversion history and frequently viewed pages, retailers can unite this data with shoppers’ mobile geolocation to engage with a customer when he or she enters a store. If a customer has been eyeing a pair of shoes for weeks and abandoning them at check-out, retailers can offer a 25% coupon for shoes via their mobile app when they come into the store to offer an incentive to move that customer to purchase.

By leveraging real customer data based off of websites and mobile apps engagement, retailers can arm themselves with new tools to improve in-store experiences.

In-Store Technology

To remain competitive, retailers must also consider new in-store digital features. For example, stores can boost customer engagement by integrating connected services through Wi-Fi, such as creating personalized messages to a customer’s smartphone when they enter a store, or alerting them of specific promotions.

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Leading retailers are also tapping advanced technologies like AI and machine learning to provide an uber personalized, in-store experience. Consider Sephora, which created Sephora IQ—a service that taps the power of AI to scan the surface of customers’ skin to recommend “scientifically precise” foundation matches.

Additionally, retailers are focused on creating simple and quick purchase experiences during the holiday rush, by using tablet-based checkouts and offering mobile payments. Providing these options not only simplify the customer experience, but can help store associates check customers out more efficiently during high traffic surges.

While these in-store digital services are critical to remaining competitive, it’s important that IT departments test their store networks to ensure bandwidth is optimized and equipped to avoid strain amidst surges in holiday traffic. There’s little worse than touting these digital offerings only to offer a poor experience because solutions aren’t prepared to handle the rush.

By optimizing mobile and desktop properties, leveraging customer data, bringing digital to the in-store shopping experience and understanding the importance of online-to-offline sales such as adding BOPIS capabilities, retailers can remain competitive throughout the holiday shopping season and beyond.

Akamai Technologies provides content delivery network services to 345 of the 1,000 leading online retailers in North America as ranked In the Internet Retailer 2019 Top 1000.

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