With the continued growth in online commerce, one of the best ways to anticipate and prepare for the coming holiday season is to look back on what happened in 2014. A recent report from NRF captured data from 2014 holiday activities in North America. At a high level, the report found that consumers are more confident in the economy - leading to a likely increase in spending.
"...Confidence is on the rise -- 49.7% are confident or very confident in the economy, up from 42.2% last year -- and average gas prices are the lowest they've been in six years." 2015 Retail Holiday Planning Playbook, July 2015, National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.
However, for retailers to capture additional spending they need to prepare to serve the needs of their customers through two primary activities that lead to revenue - the shopping phase and the buying phase.
Shopping - as customers begin the process of searching for a product or service, there are a number of potential channels available to them, but three rose to the top in a consumer survey from NRF:
1. Email from the retailer - 32 percent
2. Shopped from the website before - 30 percent
3. Used search engine results - 15.9 percent
But what does it mean? Retailers should focus their efforts on improving the personalization of their emails to increase the likelihood of opens, clickthroughs, and eventually purchases. This will also push more consumers into the "shopped from website before" group, helping to create a growing, loyal customer base. Success here is tied to customers' ability to access the content they need to move from awareness to consideration in a simple, fast and reliable way - regardless of content type, device being used, or location. As we found in our Performance Matters report, failure to perform in these areas can lead to lost sales and brand damage.
There are numerous technologies available that can help. Chiefmartec.com provides a comprehensive marketing technology map including some personalization companies that are worth investigating.
Buying - a cohesive purchasing experience across physical and digital channels (regardless of location, device type or size) is no longer the exception for advanced retailers. It is fast becoming the norm - table stakes for success.
"Customers increasingly expect that all parts of their relationship with a retailer -- loyalty programs, past purchase history, customer service and other interactions -- will be connected, regardless of how and when they interact with the retailer." 2015 Retail Holiday Planning Playbook, July 2015, National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.
What does it mean? According to Deloitte, "smartphones and tablets used before or during a shopping trip to a store collectively influenced $970 billion (or 28%) of total in-store sales in the U.S. in 2014 -- or six times the amount just two years earlier." Digital Device Use Influences $1.7 Trillion in In-Store Retail Sales. June 2015, eMarketer.
Retailers need to ensure their digital experiences are optimized across devices, screen sizes, OSes, browsers and locations so customers have a consistent, reliable experience wherever they are. The ability to quickly transition from reviewing product content, images, reviews and more into a buying decision phase increases the conversion rate. Cloud-based, globally distributed technologies such as Akamai are a key component to success in delivering an omni-channel experience that is content rich, fast and reliable. That is why we have many commerce customers entrusting us to deliver revenue driving content quickly, reliably and securely.
To learn more about how Akamai enables retail, travel & hospitality companies deliver a great customer experience in their busiest periods, view our on-demand webinar Holiday Readiness: Preparing for the Retail Season Ahead.
Caley Iandiorio is the global industry marketing manager for commerce at Akamai.