Guest blog by Oren Levy
As we prepare to kick off the holiday shopping season with two of the biggest shopping days of the year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s a good time to look back and take stock of how much the retail industry has changed in just one year.
Last year, the Black Friday and Cyber Monday craze was all about m-commerce – especially optimizing the mobile experience for the holiday season. And indeed, TechCrunch reported that overall online sales saw a 19% increase on Black Friday 2013, but mobile sales surged 43%. Cyber Monday also saw record-breaking results: e-commerce sales increased by 20% from 2012-2013 while m-commerce sales increased by 55% year-over year, according to Mashable. The question is, how will the Black Friday Weekend, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday, be different in 2014?
For much of 2014 retailers have taken note of the general rise in popularity of online retail channels, and have wondered whether brick-and-mortar retail would survive to see another holiday season. But on the brink of Black Friday Weekend 2014, brick-and-mortar retail has never been more relevant – and online retail channels are just as critical.
Upping the ante: an Omni-Channel Black Friday Weekend
Creating an Omni-Channel strategy is critical for retailers regardless of time of year, but for many retailers the upcoming holiday season will be about offering a seamless Omni-Channel experience. As opposed to last year’s focus on the mobile channel, this holiday season will be characterized by retailers’ attempts to break down the barriers between retail channels and engage consumers across channels.
Here are some strategies leading retailers are using to provide holiday shoppers with a seamless cross-channel experience:
Synchronizing cross-channel logistics
In the Omni-Channel age, inventory transparency is of critical concern for the retailer as well as the consumer. Retailers are implementing enhanced supply chain management infrastructure and protocols to minimize friction from the shopping experience at every channel.
Retailers are boasting flexible fulfillment and delivery options, including buy online pick up in-store, buy in-store with home delivery, order online in-store with home delivery, and same day delivery. They are also making product availability and supply information more transparent for consumers and sales associates, to prevent situations where retailers’ cannot fulfill orders because of lack of supply. Finally, retailers are preparing for the influx of holiday orders by hiring extra temporary employees to ensure the order fulfillment processes are seamless as the shopping experience.
Incentivizing cross-channel shopping
Retailing over a number of channels significantly increases the potential for conversions by encouraging purchasing at multiple channels. By incentivizing shopping at individual channels, retailers are boosting sales at all of their channels using tactics such as reminding consumers about in-store sales at the checkout or incentivizing shopping at other channels with channel-specific coupons, deals, or sales.
This strategy allows retailers to leverage all commercial touch points to their advantage, while engaging customers equally across channels. Cross-channel incentives not only encourage shopping at every channel, but they make consumers feel appreciated by offering discounts at alternative channels in return for purchases at one channel.
Optimizing Omni-Channel technology
In addition to inventory management solutions, much technology has been developed to make the cross-channel shopping experience more seamless. There are beacons, which incorporate elements of the online shopping experience in the in-store experience through mobile devices. Using Bluetooth technology, beacon hardware, which is installed on store walls, communicates with the shopper’s mobile device to offer in-store assistance, personalized recommendations and offers, and sales and discount notifications.
Another up and coming technology that incorporates the mobile phone in the in-store shopping experience, mobile payment technology, like Apple Pay and Google Wallet, will enable consumers to easily pay for purchases electronically – much like online payment.
Retailers are also continuing efforts to integrate technologies that upgrade the e-commerce experience, and engage consumers online as in-store. Responsive webpages, personalization resources, and post-sale customer engagement services are examples of technologies that enable retailers to humanize their brand’s e-commerce experience for the holiday season and year round.
Internationalizing the offering: cross channels and borders
Retail innovation today is breaking down the borders between online and offline shopping, but it’s also enabling retailers to cross-physical and national borders, as well. While enhancing their cross-channel offerings and technological resources, retailers are focusing on optimizing the shopping experience for cross-border customers, as well.
The Internet is enabling shoppers worldwide to take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, and retailers, eager to take advantage of significant conversion opportunities, are integrating solutions that make cross-border purchases possible and easy. Technologies, like BorderFree, that are minimizing the hurdles of cross-border retail convert prices into local currencies, factor taxes and duties into prices, manage international shipments and customs clearance, and localize websites and payment options for international shoppers.
While these obstacles seem minor, they significantly impact international conversion rates and consumer comfortability with cross-border shopping.
Capitalize on Black Friday Weekend hype
According to MarketWatch, consumer enthusiasm for Black Friday Weekend has never been higher and retailers are eager to maximize their Black Friday success by meeting the consumer demand for a seamless cross-channel and cross-border shopping experience.
Oren Levy is CEO of Zooz