Maybe it was the high consumer confidence, record-breaking sales or the resurgence of a retail swagger the likes of which we haven’t seen in quite some time, but this marathon holiday season was one to watch and offers important lessons as the industry jumps into 2018. From our courtside seats measuring Verizon ecommerce traffic volume for the 4th annual Holiday Retail Index by Verizon, some predictable patterns emerged alongside some surprises too. Here’s a look at several highlights and how these may signal what’s to come this year:
- The Thanksgiving holiday weekend remains the gold standard for holiday season shopping and spending by consumers. As Michele Dupré, group vice president for Retail, Hospitality and Distributions with Verizon Enterprise Solutions, commented, “The record-breaking sales and activity reports by both retailers and other industry players proved that Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday was a blockbuster ecommerce event. Starting with Thanksgiving Day, early Black Friday offers combined with the post-turkey dinner downtime kick started the holiday shopping season.” Dupre cited data from the Holiday Retail Index by Verizon which recorded some of the historically highest year-over-year average traffic increases on Thanksgiving Day (73%) and Black Friday (111%), indicating that retailers kept consumers engaged and the digital marketplace was bustling.
- In a surprise twist this season, Cyber Monday came roaring back. After several years of posting relatively flat traffic on Cyber Monday, the Holiday Retail Index recorded an 84% average traffic surge over the previous year. Remarking on this season’s standout Cyber Monday, Dupré noted that, “though successful retail strategies should not hinge on a single day, consumers seem to rally around signature events such as Black Friday or Singles Day in Asia Pacific. The lesson for retailers is to leverage these opportunities with enticing promotional and personalized offers as they can generate significant engagement and sales activity.”
- Court the procrastinators (or follow the money): Another trend reinforced this season is the importance of Super Saturday and engaging the procrastinators who finally get around to shopping during the last week before Christmas, and are often willing to pay premium pricing to get the job done. According to Dupré, this is a strategy that will likely accelerate as retailers increasingly leverage technologies that allow them to personalize customer interactions for catering to this lucrative market with special offers to help them get their shopping done along with appealing discounts.
- The post-Christmas market is a golden opportunity: As the Holiday Retail Index has demonstrated annually and this year was no exception, New Year’s weekend represents a critical opportunity for capturing wallet share. In fact, there was a 32% growth in average ecommerce traffic on New Year’s Day this year compared to 2017. Many consumers are off work or school with time to redeem gift cards and take advantage of year-end sales. The take away for retailers says Dupré is, “Don’t give up yet, keep up the engagement strategies because Christmas Day is not the end point for many consumers.”
As we close out 2017 and usher in 2018, it’s worth emphasizing that the ability to personalize customer interactions will be paramount for retail success. As Dupré notes, “In today’s digital world, consumers have the ability to engage with their favorite brands, how and when they want to. Empowered consumers are engaging on their own terms and retailers have successfully adjusted to this new normal. Retailers should do what they can to leverage consumer interest across multiple channels to convert browsing to sales.”
And, finally, despite the continued growth of digital commerce, Dupré is bullish about the future of brick-and-mortar stores and predicts a retail landscape where bricks and clicks will co-exist as they are stronger together. “There will always be a place for brick-and-mortar which should be viewed as an asset, not a liability. The visionaries understand the significance of offering multiple options for meeting consumer demand.”
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