It’s The Most Shoppable Time of the Year
Give Your Customers the Gift of a Unified Online and In-Store Experience.
Holiday shopping can be intense. Don’t get me wrong, I love walking around stores during Christmas: the decorations are out, the dulcet tones of Michael Bublé call out from somewhere… you can almost smell the gingerbread. But throw me out there when I have to actually buy gifts, and it turns into a nightmare: too many people, too loud, too much choice, and not enough time to find the perfect gift.
Online shopping has changed the game. I can look for gifts at 3am in my sweatpants. I can compare prices without moving from my couch. And guess what? I am not the only one who does this. In 2015, E-Commerce sales grew by a massive 13.4%, while retail hit its lowest plateau since 2008, at 1.7%. This year, E-Marketer is expecting a similar trend, predicting a 13.3% increase in e-commerce, while retail will crawl along at 1.8%.
Ok, So… Just Shop Online?
Yes, but no. Buying online can feel like a big commitment. What if the product isn’t as nice as it seems on the website? And after spending time and energy ordering the gift, I definitely do not want to deal with returns or starting all over again in-store.
Working in digital marketing, I see endless research discussing e-commerce's takeover of the holidays. But I’m a shopper at heart, and I feel like this research misses a key aspect of holiday shopping: like me, people love the holiday retail environment. Online can't replace the act of browsing, touching, smelling, and trying.
My ideal gifting experience includes a bit of digital and a bit of legwork: preliminary research in-store – just wandering around and looking for cool gifts – then turning to online resources for reviews, and price hunting.
Holiday shopping is already painful enough. As a retailer, if you want happy customers, you need to make things effortless for them. According to Signal, 90% of online shoppers want to be able to pick up where they left off when switching devices. 50% expect to be able to buy online and pick-up in store. The experience needs to be seamless; there should be no disconnect between online and in-store.
Creating a unified experience online and in-store should include the level of assistance and attention you give people. Equip your website with some sort of virtual sales assistant, like a chat window, to help customers with any questions. But don't stop there.
Promotions and stock should be aligned in-store and online. All shipping options should be on the table: shipping from the web to store, store to your door, in-store returns of online purchases, purchasing online from a specific store's inventory, and more. The holidays are a time people want to spend with their friends and families. If you make gift shopping simple, they'll thank you with their business.
The examples I mention above are just a few ways to bring the online and in-store experiences together. I have no doubt that by December, many of you will have found amazing new innovations to create total retail harmony. Many brands and shops live in fear of online giants like Amazon, but don't: with no stores to call their own, they can't beat you at this game.
Being able to combine the two worlds creates a richer experience for people, which can be a huge bonus during the holiday scramble. Give it a try and you'll make everyone's holidays a little happier.
Here are some of the articles that inspired my thinking: