The top 3 retail strategies that dominated the holiday season
As we say goodbye to the holidays and hello to a new year, columnist Tom Mucklow looks back at the strategies and technologies that drove online shopping.
As the holidays fade into memory, we can look back at a very successful holiday season. Retail sales from November 1 through Christmas Eve increased by 4.9 percent from last year, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, and online sales beat predictions with an 18.1 percent growth rate. Many analysts attributed the growth to the influx of new strategies and technologies that make online shopping easier and faster than ever before.
So, what were the top three retail strategies that dominated the holiday season?
Retail forecasting showed that, more than ever, customers were shopping on mobile. Site visits by device were nearly equal this year, with 45 percent of visits coming from smartphones and 46 percent of visits coming from desktop browsers, according to Adobe Analytics.
Mobile-optimized websites and native apps won big by offering push notifications with the latest sales, location and beacon services to let shoppers know about deals close by, along with a personalized, on-the-go experience that shoppers could use to hunt for the perfect gift.
New ways to pay
Digital payments have become a driving force in online commerce ever since the birth of PayPal. This season, more retailers opened up their checkouts to break away from the standard credit card forms of holidays past to accept new providers, and even currencies of the future. This year, peer-to-peer payment providers like PayPal and Venmo were popping up on checkouts across the internet, while digital wallets like Apple Pay facilitated easy one-click purchasing.
Approximately 66 percent of shoppers are open to using devices to connect to a seamless payment experience, according to the PYMNTS/Visa “How We Will Pay” study. And a Paysafe study found that 31 percent of Americans are already turning to mobile wallets for everyday use, while one in seven have used cryptocurrencies.
Not only do digital payment solutions push customers through checkouts faster, but they also can increase customers’ confidence in the buying experience.
One of the undeniable winners of e-commerce technology in 2017 was same-day delivery. With Amazon pioneering one of the most seamless customer experiences on the internet, we’ve seen more retailers, from Nordstrom to Walmart, hop on board same-day delivery services to push the holiday e-commerce season all the way up to Christmas Eve.
Retailers that catered to the instant gratification mentality of the modern consumer were able to drive sales, push aside competitors and gain a loyal following of digital consumers who want it all — now.
Unfortunately, delivery can be a double-edged sword that can lose a customer quicker than a same-day delivery. According to our recent report, “Fixing Failed Deliveries: Improving Data Quality in Retail,” 82 percent of consumers believe that on-time delivery is vital when shopping for gifts, yet 66 percent of US shoppers have already experienced a late or failed delivery in the past 12 months, regardless of the delivery method they selected.
While the holidays come but once a year, brand reputation can be damaged permanently when retailers don’t perfect the technology behind their experience. Damage to a brand’s reputation due to a failed delivery or a poor user experience is harder to quantify than simply looking at a financial statement.
So, what is the real extent of damage from a failed delivery, and what are some of the unseen consequences that result from a poor holiday shopping experience?
A look ahead: How to keep holiday customers through the new year
Our research shows that 75 percent of online consumers prefer to purchase from retailers they have ordered from in the past, but after a bad delivery experience, 57 percent of consumers would be reluctant to use that retailer again. One bad experience easily undoes all of the gains from the technology and strategy implementation throughout the year — and it often means more than one lost customer.
Over 60 percent of retailers have noticed an increase in public online complaints this year after a bad experience. In an age where we spend a huge chunk of our time online, this is hardly surprising, but it’s becoming a big issue for online businesses fighting tight competition for digital customers.
Nearly a third of shoppers feel that it is more effective to voice a complaint about a delivery issue on social media or a review site rather than speaking to the retailer directly, according to our research. With more and more consumers checking reviews before committing to making a purchase, it only takes one bad review in a sea of great ones to plant a seed of doubt in a shopper’s mind.
After all, if shoppers are making the purchase as a gift, are they likely to buy it if they see that other customers received their item late? Nope! And the same goes for those angry social media posts.
So, what can retailers do to ensure that customers are happy and willing to return? Failed deliveries often are due to incorrect address details, so implementing the technology to collect accurate data is one of the most important takeaways for the new year.
One solution that ensures great UX (user experience), accurate and valid address data, is a type-ahead address verification tool. Our research shows that 80 percent of users prefer it, and retailers are seeing a huge reduction in failed deliveries and cart abandonment as a result.
Whatever technology you decide to test or implement in 2018, remember to always think like a user. Catering to payment, shipping and device preferences are just the tip of the e-tail tech iceberg, and we’re sure to see huge improvements across each of these sectors in the coming year.