Holiday season 2014: Why Retailers Need to Put Customer Engagement Apps at the Top of Their Christmas Wish List

Holiday season 2014: Why Retailers Need to Put Customer Engagement Apps at the Top of Their Christmas Wish List

The holiday season is a very exciting time of the year – not only for the children who made it onto Santa’s “nice list”, but for retailers too. As much as 30% of a retailer’s annual sales come from the holidays, contributing to nearly 20% of the industry’s annual revenue of $3.2 trillion.

More and more of these sales, however, are taking place online rather than in line at brick-and-mortar stores. Shop.org, the digital branch of the Nation Retail Foundation, forecasted an 8 – 11% growth in online sales for the 2014 holiday season. That’s about $105 billion more spent online compared to last year’s Christmas.

With such a growth in online shopping, retailers need to focus more of their attention on servicing their e-clients. To manage online customer experience, and address customers’ doubts and questions in real-time, is no longer a nice-to-have for online retailers. It’s a must.

 

A growing share of online shoppers for Christmas 2014!

Last year, an Econsultancy research showed that 1 in 5 consumers in the US and UK knocked off their entire Christmas shopping list online. In the same survey, the majority of American respondents said they bought more than half of their Christmas gifts online.

This trend towards online shopping is expected to continue over the 2014 holiday season. A recent National Retail Federation survey taken between October and November 2014 found that 27.9% of holiday shoppers planned to purchase their Christmas gifts online, which represents a 64% increase from last year.

Accenture conducted its yearly survey to predict what would be the American consumers’ behavior for 2014 Christmas Season. The economic crisis seems to belong to the past as 25% of US consumers plan to spend more on holiday shopping this year, compared to 20% in 2013. And these spendings will happen online as more than half (58%) of respondents said they will shop at online-only retailers, compared to 50% in 2013 and 44% in 2012.

 

Consumers want a seamless holiday shopping experience – online and offline.

The online shopping experience and the brick-and-mortar experience are not as mutually exclusive as one might think.

Consumers can use a retail’s website and their store for Christmas shopping in two very distinct ways: webrooming and showrooming.

Webrooming is a popular method of shopping whereby consumers browse online to find the product or service they want, and subsequently go to the physical store to purchase it. This year, 71% of American consumers plan to use ecommerce sites for “webrooming” according to Accenture survey. These consumers typically use webrooming to check the availability of a product and determine if it’s in stock.

Oppositely, showrooming refers to a shopping method whereby consumers go into a physical store to see and try a product, then browse online to check for better prices and finalize the purchase. Surveys show that 68% of consumers say they are likely to participate in “showrooming”, an 8% increase compared to 2013 figures.

The growth in both of these trends shows that consumers still want to be in close contact with the products they purchase. That’s why being able to provide an online shopping experience that mimics the intimacy of walking into a real store is so crucial. For instance, talking to a real person while directly on a retailer’s site builds a consumer’s trust and confident in that brand exponentially.

 

A growing influence of mobile and social channels.

Laptops and home computers remain to be the most common devices consumers use to search for and/or purchase their holiday gifts. This season, Accenture reported that 63% of American consumers intend to use a computer for searching or buying their Christmas gifts, which is 16% more than 2013. But the use of smartphones and tablets are growing, as 24% of respondents plan to use a smartphone this season, up from 18% last year.

The NRF conducted an analysis on consumer behavior regarding Christmas purchases on mobile devices. They found that 18.5% of consumers planned to purchase products from their smartphone and 28.4% on their tablets. Consumers seem to be more confident with bigger screens when purchasing a product.

Mobile applications are also becoming a serious trend when it comes to online shopping. Around 12.6% planned to use smartphone or tablet apps this holiday season.

Social networks are also very much coming into play. Up from 11% in 2013 and 8% in 2012, 13% of respondents said they intend to use social networking sites to assist them in their holiday shopping.

 

Christmas season never ends…

The reason why Holiday Season is so important for retailers is because after Christmas period is critical for online retailers:

  • There are Boxing Day sales.
  • People receive money for Christmas that they’re willing to spend.
  • People increase their spending leading up to New Year’s Eve.
  • There is an important amount of product exchanges from people who weren’t satisfied with their Christmas presents.

 

Clearly, retailers interacting with their customers across digital platforms needs to be taken a lot more seriously moving forward. They need to be able to provide comprehensive and real-time online experience, whether it’s from their websites, mobile devices or social networks.

The growth in trends like “webrooming” and “showrooming” show us that people require real contact and conversations when making purchasing decisions. Consumers have doubts and question that they want answers to by a real person as they browse a retailer’s product page.

There’s a solution for retailers to make their online store experience feel a little more physical, more personal and let’s even say realer!

 

Customer Engagement apps bring real customer conversation to online stores.

These apps help retailers connect to their consumers online in real-time, through real conversations. For example, an app like Click to Call allows consumers to ask retailers to call them back instantly for free. This is an opportunity for retailers to reach their consumers when they’re behind their computer screens at their homes, and address their questions or doubts. This sort of service creates a level of trust in the retailer’s brand that increases the likelihood of purchases made.

Another customer engagement app, called the Live Chat Support widget, enables retailers to integrate a digital customer service directly on their website. This widget offers online consumers a non-invasive way to ask for help when purchasing goods and get a real-time answer.

Building customer loyalty and trust online is a high priority for any and all brands that want to compete in this increasingly digital era. This holiday season, your customers are coming to your retail website and expect it to feel like they’re walking into a real physical store. They want to be able to engage with the business, get questions answered, and voice their concerns.

They want to talk to you – offline and online. Don’t you think you should be talking back?

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Raphaël ISCAR

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