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Omnichannel Is the Key for the 2013 Holiday Shopping Season

11 Sep

Showrooming will be less of a concern this year

Mounting evidence shows that multichannel shoppers spend more, so to gear up for the most crucial shopping months of the year, retailers are cementing omnichannel strategies, according to a new eMarketer report, “Holiday Shopping Preview: Omnichannel’s Blurred Lines.”

Prosper Insights & Analytics found that as of July 2013, most US consumers planned to spend the same as last year during the holidays, with only 8.9% intending to spend more, down slightly from 2012. The two demographic groups with the largest shares of planned holiday spending were boomers (32%) and Gen X (34%), with $39.5 billion and $41.7 billion apiece, likely the result of having more children to buy for than seniors or millennials.

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November and December will contribute significantly to overall online sales for the year. eMarketer expects more than one-fifth (23.7%) of the $262.3 billion in US retail ecommerce sales forecast for all of 2013 to occur in those two months.

Mobile is one of the key growth channels this holiday season, and last year’s performance shows how critical mobile really has become. Tablets—the iPad in particular—stood out and continue to grow in popularity, particularly for retail purposes. In March 2013, according to IBM, the iPad passed the iPhone as the largest driver of mobile traffic to retail sites, with more than 10% of site visits and the highest conversion rate (4.4%) of mobile devices.

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With online and mobile now omnipresent in consumers’ shopping behavior, the key to creating a seamless customer experience and driving sales is reaching shoppers on any device or at any location, increasing inventory and pricing transparency, and providing more fulfillment options than ever before.

According to a June 2013 survey from Retail Systems Research (RSR), an aligned customer experience was the most important aspect of an omnichannel strategy for marketers worldwide, followed by more logistical tactics like inventory visibility and fulfillment.

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Bringing more of the online experience in-store is becoming integral to omnichannel retailing as well. A majority of retailers in North America surveyed by Edgell Knowledge Network (EKN) had plans to increase various consumer mobile initiatives over the next two years.

Larger multichannel retailers are also starting to adopt all-in-one mobile solutions as part of the sales process, not only to make sales away from the checkout counter but also to perform services like find out where an out-of-stock size might be shipped from.

One of the key benefits of adopting an omnichannel strategy will be that it sidelines concerns over showrooming. Larry Freed, CEO of ForeSee, a customer experience analytics firm, emphasized channel consistency: “Make sure that your channels are integrated, so that when that person goes from a website into a store and pulls out their mobile device, you’re giving him a great experience that makes it more compelling than to go to Amazon,” he said.

Other remedies to showrooming include price-matching, a focus on inventory management and revamped distribution models to improve the customer experience during heavy shopping periods, and cheaper and faster fulfillment options.

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