shopping

Make or break it. That’s the reality retailers face during the last two months of the year. Competition is stiff, shopping traditions are changing and bargain hunters are guarding their wallets. If predictions ring true, more than $616 billion in retail sales is on the line this holiday season. The forecast is favorable – the National Retail Federation predicts an overall 4.1 percent sales boost over 2013 – but businesses face the challenge of reaching heavily courted customers and making themselves a part of the conversation.

With this in mind, many companies – both retail and otherwise – are making the most out of the holiday season by employing smart tactics to enhance the customer experience and increase their relevancy.

Harnessing Mobile and Online

Nearly 60 percent of consumers plan to do at least some of their purchasing via web this year – making online the leading channel for holiday shopping. To capitalize on this trend, businesses are offering a suite of digital tools to help shoppers find and collect the perfect presents. Enter “showroom” – Google’s hub that features gift guides, personalized wish lists and package delivery.

Mobile devices also help shoppers bridge the gap between online and in-store experiences. Nearly half of consumers believe their mobile devices are more efficient than store associates in helping them make buying decisions. In effect, companies are creating mobile solutions to help shoppers stay organized. For example, the “Target Wish List” app helps parents check everything off their kids’ wish lists. In addition, the retailer’s holiday catalog will be interactive, allowing consumers to point their device at a page and immediately add the desired item to their cart.

Consumers will not only make purchases with their smartphones online, they’ll also make transactions at brick-and-mortar businesses, too. This holiday season, one out of every three consumers plans to use mobile payment services, like Apple Pay or Google Wallet, at these locations: 66 percent at department stores, 48 percent at discount retailers/super stores, 42 percent at fast food restaurants and 28 percent at upscale restaurants.

Bye Bye, Black Friday

Traditionally, hardcore holiday shoppers hit the aisles the morning after their turkey feasts. But in recent years, many stores have been previewing sales earlier and opening their doors Thanksgiving evening. Some experts say Black Friday is losing its relevance as a result. In fact, Super Saturday, December 20 this year, is expected to overtake Black Friday as the top sales day for the first time since 2005. Retailers aren’t the only companies trying to navigate and capitalize on the big savings days. The hospitality industry, for example, is latching on to Power Hour – one designated hour on Cyber Monday when hotels and resorts throw in even more savings. Cyber Monday has also been a hit with restaurant chains promoting gift card purchases.

A Slice of the Pie

Other companies want a slice of the pie, too. Restaurants, especially those in shopping centers and mall food courts, are experimenting with modified business hours and special promotions. In the past, extended hours have yielded tremendous success, so it could be a sign of what to expect this year. In 2012, Auntie Anne’s experienced record sales when its locations were open between 10 p.m. Thanksgiving and midnight on Black Friday. Sonic also opened a few hours earlier that year, offering half-price breakfast burritos to draw in customers who needed to fuel up (or refuel) for their shopping sprees. And IKEA took advantage of Black Friday by offering customers a free meal if they purchased $100 or more of merchandise.

 

These tactics help businesses boost sales and customer experiences throughout the holidays. How will you bolster your business this season?