We’ve got fresh data on how consumers and merchants tackled and managed the 2010 holiday season. Interesting stuff, to be sure, but you’re probably wondering: “Isn’t there a lot of other holidays to focus on for now like Easter, Mother’s Day and back-to-school?” Absolutely. However, my take after reviewing the data is that retailers actually have a limited window in which to get done all that they want to do before we’re all looking November 1 in the eye again.
We conducted the annual eHoliday post-holiday consumer and retailer surveys in January with our partner, BIGresearch. Some of the open-ended questions asked yielded quite interesting insights. Here are three trends that will help you get your holiday 2011 strategy ready to roll.
1. Bouncing back: While some are still searching for deals, consumers are (a bit) more willing to pay full price.
For starters, we asked retailers, “How were the patterns of holiday shopping different this year (2010) than last (2009)?” Retailers noted how very successful Black Friday and Cyber Monday were for them. Consumers were “still deal-focused and looking for a discount”, though as one noted, “…the marketplace was less desperate than last year.” Several retailers noted, however, that consumers were more likely than in recent years to buy at full price, and that lower minimums to qualify for free shipping helped drive sales as well. While still for many a “small piece of the pie”, mobile did have a positive impact, especially for “last minute shoppers”, while social media had varying impact on actual sales.
2. Lesson learned: Back-end operations a higher priority for 2011 than flashy social or mobile strategy.
Based on their 2010 holiday season, we asked next “Looking ahead, what ONE thing will you do differently for holiday 2011?” Top of the list for retailers – no, not mobile and social, but the less flashy yet operationally crucial areas of inventory management and planning, along with site performance and some adjustments to free shipping policies.
3. High investment priorities will need months of planning. Get started now.
So let’s get to my point earlier about the clock ticking for retailers to get everything done on their list before November 1 hits. What do retailers plan to invest in this year to make 2011 holiday season most successful? Not surprisingly, inventory management and planning are top of mind for many retailers, along with e-commerce infrastructure, shipping policies, email and prospecting before the season, along with some mentions of mobile and social. As one retailer noted, “Although…who can plan when you have no idea what is going to happen from year to year?” – which simply points to just how challenging things still are for retailers, despite gradual steps to economic recovery.
So with 8 months to go before jack o’ lanterns beckon from shop windows and front porches (for me, a sure sign of the holidays ahead), how to best invest resources? Inventory and planning take time to think through and implement, as does developing and testing a free shipping management philosophy that simultaneously encourages sales and avoids losing one’s shirt. As consumers increasingly switch to smart phones, my take is that a well executed mobile strategy – will be more and more important this year. With back-to-school shopping starting in a mere four months, now is a great time for retailers to get cracking on optimizing their sites for mobile to ensure consumers have a premier in-store and online mobile shopping experience.