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Can retailers cater for the smart Christmas shopper?

Posted by Jhanvi Gudka on 5th November 2014

Yet another year has flown by and the time for family, mulled wine and an overload of food is fast approaching. However, what would the day be without a gift or three? With less than two months to go before Christmas, consumers and retailers are bracing themselves for the imminent festive shopping spree.

December 2013 saw online trade cater for almost 20% of all Christmas sales, revealing record figures for the amount of internet shopping. Couple this with the proliferation of the smart technology that has defined recent years and it’s clear that retailers must revolutionise the shopping experience to match customer expectations.

Personalising the relationship

In a trend that is growing exponentially, consumers now expect a connected and seamless experience on all of their devices, regardless of whether they are shopping online or in-store. A recent survey conducted by Leadership Factor across 2,000 consumers, revealed that almost 25% of people feel frustrated when retailers have no record of their customer history, despite having been previously asked to divulge their details from a different device.

This is just one example highlighting the need for retailers to invest in technology that will enable a personal service and ultimately keep their customers loyal. Collating data from different sources to build customer profiles can leverage the value of store apps. Not only do mobile apps improve the online browsing experience, the combination of apps and data science allows retailers to engage with customers in real-time, targeting them with products and offers based on purchase history, preference and location.

Simultaneously, store apps can deliver valuable information directly to their tech-savvy customers too. Whether this covers stock availability or queuing times, the app can address consumers’ everyday concerns and even encourage footfall. While expectations can be managed online, particularly on mobile-optimised websites, an app that facilitates in-store navigation or further product information can allow a retailer to sidle ahead of its competitors.

Blending the best of both worlds

A couple of years ago, most consumers were satisfied with digital services such as “click and collect” and free returns. Today, such services that blend the virtual and physical worlds are no longer a luxury; they are expected.

Although the majority of Christmas purchases are made from mobile devices, either for the variety of choice or the sake of speed, consumers still expect the rich experience they receive in-store. This hammers home the importance for retailers to expand their omni-channel offering and optimise the performance of each platform, so they can deliver the high-quality and streamlined service their customers desire.

A simple way to start modernising processes is by personalising marketing campaigns. The value of targeted marketing is well documented, but technology now enables a whole new realm of communication. It is now possible to send a message, that is received on a smartphone or tablet, about a last minute offer on mince pies using location sensors so retailers can virtually grab customers the second they walk past their store.

With time-poor consumers becoming increasingly focused on getting more for their money, retailers must pre-empt the complex customer journey and shape their Christmas strategy accordingly. Whether it’s using technology to reward customer purchases, combining real-time weather updates with relevant product promotions or even incorporating sensors for automatic stock replenishment, retailers need to keep pace with upcoming trends.

Photo credit: David Porter

Jhanvi Gudka

Jhanvi has a solid grounding in tech media having been on both sides of the fence as a tech journalist, as well as helping start ups develop engaging content, email marketing and website copy.