Not just holiday time any more, but year-round, retailers are finding that best practices based on accurate, easy to use, actionable scientific data provide the greatest efficiency, agility, and profitability as they embrace new ways to manage products and inventory -- as well as price optimally for profit.
To see what's coming, we assembled some of the bigger trends and challenges retailers must consider for the Holiday Season 2015 and beyond:
1. Consumers will shop earlier and earlier, across more lines, and will be less tied to specific dates.
Last year (Holiday 2014), 32.3% of consumers started their holiday shopping in October or earlier -- while 41.2% waited until the last half of December to finish.
2. Growing consumer economic confidence means more diverse shopping and spending.
Holiday shoppers have less loyalty to brands or retailers which is a huge equalizer for all retailers and for private labels.
3. As the economy improves and interest rates gradually rise, logistics and shipping costs will start to rise.
4. Retailers are scrambling to harness burgeoning mobile. The constantly-connected, savvy shopper holds sway and marches on. Consumers are more than ever in the driver's seat, extensively using mobile for shopping and buying.
- Mobile/smartphone is now INTEGRAL to a consumer's daily life. Mobile device use dominated holiday traffic and sales during Holiday 2014, and is expected to go through the roof (cloud?) for Holiday 2015.
- Mobile advertising becoming more and more important. Behind the scenes, mobile already commands 24% of media consumption time, but only 8% of ad spend.
5. Customer expectations for seamless shopping experiences increase.
From Facebook to YouTube (especially noted is the growing influence of YouTube), retailers are juggling myriad social media to get the best results for their efforts (and dollars).
6. Social Media big influencer.
7. Consumers expect to be able to check quickly where an item is available -- and find out how to get it quickest and most efficiently.
Some of the issues retailers want to understand and improve in their holiday operations and moving forward:
- Continued evolution of marketing and promotions.
- The customer's digital and in-store (or omni-channel) experience.
- How mobile increasingly impacts everything.
- Consumers' rising expectations for fast, flexible fulfillment and customer service.
- Better fulfillment options to meet evolving customer expectations for service.
- Adroitly managing the supply chain.
- Boost In-store service.
- Use mobile and online to drive traffic.
- Improve leverage of in-store inventory to complete online orders.
"Better targeted communication based on customer shopping behaviors."
"More formal controls on promotional events coordinating marketing and technology activities."
"Creating a stronger bond/integration between advertising and e-commerce."
"Improved email marketing. Deeply targeted email campaigns."
Bottom Line for your bottom line
The collaboration between marketing and administration within retail companies continues to grow closer as technology and marketing become further intertwined.
The move to omni-channel has challenged assortment level allocation. Retailers MUST have the necessary visibility into inventory across stores and warehouses to take into account a much more complex set of customer demand variables.
The key to maximizing the data outcomes from your retail intelligence solutions is that the data outcomes are ACTIONABLE.
Retailers need to improve their business intelligence.
Retailers need additional forecasting capabilities.
Retailers must improve their customer relationships.
Most of all, retailers are advised to "invest in planning, planning, and more planning.
*Sources for the blog post: National Retail Federation, Google, Forrester Research, Upstream Commerce
*Note also: This post extrapolates source material, which may, in some cases, take it beyond the original intentions and interpretations of the sources.