How retailers will invest now for Holiday ‘13

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The eHoliday 2012 post-holiday results are in! Conducted with our partner, BIGinsight, we polled both consumers and retailers earlier this month to see how the holiday season turned out. This data trove – spanning holiday results, consumer shopping, merchandising, marketing, gift cards, customer service and fulfillment – will be particularly useful to retailers come summer when holiday planning gets underway again.

With not a moment to lose in the meantime, savvy retailers aren’t missing the opportunity to start preparing for Holiday ’13 pretty much right now. We asked retailers both “Based on your experience this past holiday season, what ONE thing will you invest in this year for Holiday 2013?”, as well as, “Looking ahead, what ONE thing will you do differently for Holiday 2013?” Here’s where they’re focusing on this year – and you should, too.

  • Planning and assortment. At the very heart of retailing, inventory management continues to be a major focus area – from plain “inventory management” and “planning” to “Being better prepared with popular items”, “Inventory optimization of top selling items” and “Improved gifting.”
  • Infrastructure. “More servers” and “Boost server capabilities and streamline code for faster page loads” were two comments – clearly, no matter how experienced a retailer is, this is still never an area to be overlooked or under-resourced. Study your Holiday ’12 traffic and sales for patterns, plan for additional capacity now, become an expert at monitoring your site availability – and (obvious as this sounds) have Plans B and C mapped out, tested and at the ready. Make sure your testing extends to multiple devices and platforms, of course.
  • Marketing and promotions. Marketing and promotions investments this year include “more keyword buys”, email, natural search, paid search, and “personalized communication to increase conversion”, among others. Retailers also have lots of ideas of what they will do differently for Holiday ’13: “Better plan the online marketing spend across the tactics that drive traffic to the site”, “Better promo planning and market channel profitability analysis” and “Improve our email process and planning [to eliminate last minute changes]” all demonstrate retailer insight into specific changes needed. Promotion planning (“better”, “fewer”, “strategy”) in general has retailers’ attention. While there was only one specific mention of “mobile marketing”, we expect retailers to more significantly test mobile marketing waters this year than in the past.
  • Cross channel / customer experience. Retailers surveyed have their eye firmly on the holistic customer experience, from “Closer connection between [the] in-store shopping experience and online” to analytics that help them understand how a given customer interacts with the retailer across devices and touch points. Underscoring this focus further, the recently released Shop.org / Forrester Research “State of Retailing Online 2013: Key Metrics & Initiatives” study found that over half of those retailers surveyed are investing this year in “site conversion” as one of their top three initiatives (e.g. user experience and optimization of everything from product detail pages to checkout), and one-quarter are specifically undertaking a site redesign.
  • Mobile. Although still an area where retailers are figuring out where and how to invest for the best ROI, mobile investment areas this year span check out, general optimization, responsive Web design, and all things “tablet”. Per the same State of Retailing Online study, 43% of those retailers surveyed indicated that mobile and tablet are among their top three initiatives for 2013.
  • Fulfillment and customer service. Several retailers noted that they want to change fulfillment services and processes for their customers: “Providing better delivery options for last minute shoppers”, “Speed up delivery” and ‘Better timing for guaranteed Christmas Delivery” were some of the avowed changes to this area. As retailers recently have upped the ante on speedier / cheaper / more convenient fulfillment options, we asked retailers additionally, “In 2013, do you anticipate investing in (i.e. optimizing, expanding and/or adding) additional shipping and delivery options?” Over 3 out of 5 retailers surveyed told us that investing in shipping services was on their list for this year: for example, one in five plans to implement or expand “ship to store” service in their own store. Other service improvements under consideration: same day delivery, ship from store, free returns, and “Simplified shipping options and improved packaging.” The overall customer experience no doubt will benefit from these “last mile” improvements.

What’s your investment priority for Holiday ’13? Shop.org members may download the eHoliday 2012 Post-Holiday Study results here.

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