The 2016 Holiday Shopping Season Starts Now


Image Credit: ABC News

It’s time for retailers to start planning for the 2016 holiday shopping season.

You might not know yet what kind of merchandise is going to be hot come December, nor do you need to. But what’s clear from retailers’ experiences in 2015 is that the holiday season is extending its reach well beyond Black Friday, compelling retailers to plan ahead sooner. So I’m not surprised when I see marketing experts suggesting that retailers test their holiday marketing campaigns several weeks ahead of Thanksgiving.

Now is the time to lay the groundwork for the holiday season by mastering some habits that will serve you well when the results of the 2016 holiday season are tallied up. If you want to create in-store foot traffic and convert store visitors to customers, here are some a few important practices you need to own:

Turn Moments of Interest into Moments of Conversion

During the 2015 holiday season, Americans spent $12.7 billion online via mobile devices, up 59 percent year over year. Yes, the $12.7 billion is a small fraction of the $626 billion that we spent during the holiday season, but undeniably, mobile is shaping the holiday experience even when — actually, especially when — consumers use their devices to research a product they buy offline. When consumers use their devices to do initial product research, they’re experiencing a moment of interest. Retailers need to turn mobile moments of interest into moments of conversion by:

  • Being visible everywhere moments of interest occur. Google refers to moments of interest as micro-moments, or times when people are considering where to go, what to do, or what to buy. Businesses need to share contextual information and experiences, supported by accurate location data, everywhere your shoppers experience moments of interest. We usually think of mobile moments of interest occurring in context of a shopper Googling “stores near me” or “Star Wars toys near me” on a mobile device, and this scenario certainly applies. In addition, a lesson from the 2015 season is that mobile moments of interest are occurring everywhere, including mobile apps and social spaces. Target capitalized on these “everywhere moments of interest” by conducting a holiday campaign that engaged consumers on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, including suggesting holiday gift ideas and creating playful experiences. Thriving in moments of interest means sharing contextual content as Target did — supported by accurate store location data so that when shoppers want to jump off Facebook and come to your store, they’ll find an accurate address, contact information, and store hours updated for the holidays. If the location data is wrong, a moment of interest will quickly become a moment of frustration.

Succeeding with moments of interest and next moments comes down to consumer intent to buy: encouraging it and creating it.

Offer an Experience

What can offline retailers provide that Amazon can’t? A special experience. Shoppers can’t enjoy a department store’s window displays or take their kids to see Santa on Amazon.

Surprise and delight is a key element of a local experience. For example, just as Starbucks created an unusual gift card offer, the coffee chain provided a special in-store experience during the holidays, offering limited edition mugs and gifts with gold and crystal trim, thus adding some holiday bling to your Starbucks visit.

Offering a good experience also means harnessing the power of technology at or near stores — for instance, using GPS and beacon technology to offer shoppers loyalty points if they’ll try on clothing while they’re in the store, as American Eagle does, or making it possible for shoppers to organize and find merchandise, as Target does. The Skip phone app, being piloted by Gerrity’s in Pennsylvania, allows shoppers to bypass the check-out line and scan purchases as they shop, then pay for them on their phones. Gerrity’s, a grocery store, is on to an idea that retailers might want to apply to create a better experience.

Get Ready

Creating a holiday game plan goes well beyond mastering moments and a great experience. The SIM Partners Holiday Retail Guide, published in 2015, contains more insight and best practices. Consider next moments and experiences to be the cornerstone of your approach, though. And why not start learning how? The year provides plenty of milestones for you to get better at next moments and creating local experiences, including Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, and events specific to a region.

Don’t wait until the fall to figure out the holiday season. Start now. Borrow and adapt ideas liberally from the online world. ¬†Consumer shopping intent is always in season. ¬†Contact us to talk more.

David Deal

Author David Deal

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