According to analysts, consumers started thinking about their Christmas purchases as early as mid-July this year, with internet searches increasing by 600%. If retailers combine strategy and technology, they can be one step ahead by seizing many new opportunities related to Christmas shopping (and more).
In consumers’ minds, Christmas shopping means many things: the magic of streets, shops and houses covered in colorful lights and decorations, the tasty sweet or savory treats, the emotion of giving and receiving gifts and the joy of prolonged holidays. According to PWC analysts, consumers are more optimistic this year than in 2020 and they are now ready to spend for the Christmas holidays – with estimates around 20% higher than last year’s budget. By anticipating demand, retailers can combine technology and strategy to better engage customers, offering them a Christmas shopping experience which provides emotion, satisfaction and loyalty over time.
The benefits of early Christmas shopping
Researchers report the number of online searches indicates that consumers have started their Christmas shopping as early as the second half of July (since then, online searches for foods and products related to Christmas have grown by 600%). In addition to taking advantage of autumn cyberdays to get cheaper prices, there are other reasons why shoppers have become more foresighted in planning their purchases. The main ones are:
For retailers, early Christmas shopping is an opportunity to:
Thinking beyond e-commerce
Brands need to think about how to attract people to their physical stores. Here are 5 tips that will help brands provide their customers an unforgettable Christmas shopping.
The goal is to strengthen all aspects related to communication and relationships by diversifying in-store services, in order to contemplate the switch in consumers behavior in terms of searching for information, choice of products, delivery methods and types of payment.
Being phygital means being cross-media
Brands can learn from these changes and enhance their attractiveness and services in a cross-media era, by amplifying their offer potential from a phygital (Physic + Digital) perspective. When a customer enters a store, the bond that is created with them is much stronger than any landing on a remote web property can achieve – especially when it comes to CCJ (Customer Christmas Journey).
#1 Endless shelf
Online browsing has become a common habit for everyone. This new behavior can be applied to the physical store through the “infinite shelf”, which represents a winning solution for different reasons. First of all, by opening a practically unlimited offer window for the customer, the system guarantees the products availability even if they are not physically present in the store – they are still available and can be consulted and ordered with any preferred method: return to the store for trying on and purchase, Click & Collect or home delivery. In addition to strategically managing any out of stock issues, solves any space problem for point of sales disposing of small warehouses, by guaranteeing the customer a full browsing experience, with or without the support of a salesperson. Retailers will be able to manage the infinite shelf in a more advanced way, by integrating multimedia content management which, in addition to detailed personal information, shows videos and product demos, advice on use, promotions and other additional information.
#2 Display cases, totems and interactive kiosks
Digital signage set in intelligent and interactive structures has for some time been reinventing the space in the store, by proposing a system capable of surprising, engaging and informing customers at the same time. In addition to the smartification of totems and kiosks also associated with the use of RFID tags on products, which make interaction even more intelligent, interactive display cases are a renewed topic of interest. The latter, in fact, are a winning solution for retailers as they allow to display extremely expensive or delicate products, thus avoiding the direct manipulation of customers while still guaranteeing the proximity of the experience. Being able to see a bag, a shoe, a jewel, a watch or an electronic product in its natural size is always an advantage, compared to online browsing. For customers who are more thorough on hygienic rules, the ability to navigate all the additional information by interacting with a digital menu can be easily solved through the use of a QR code that allows them to access the information on their own smartphone or tablet. Lastly, the Christmas musical soundtrack will help attracting attention.
#3 Evolution of a Personal Assistant
From clerk to connected, the technological evolution has undoubtedly impacted the role and function of store operators. In addition to friendliness and courtesy, customers require contextual, relevant and pertinent information from in-store staff. Continued education is important, but providing mobile devices as a technological endowment to salespeople accelerates their learning and service curve, allowing them to quickly navigate information and give customers the information they need. From mere salesman to consultant, in fact, the figure of the Personal Assistant has been further strengthened thanks to digital technologies. Even more than robotics (which makes sense in large-scale distribution but not in other areas, for example in fashion), increasingly pushed programming allows us to explore new ways of engagement with added value: from hologram staff who amaze customers with a smile, announcing promotions, events and initiatives to personal assistants integrated into smartphones who, thanks to Artificial Intelligence, are able to better profile purchasing preferences and habits, in order to offer personalized products and services.
#4 Magic mirror and virtual shopping in the IoT era
Going from the cold of winter to the warmth of a store is a pleasant experience, which becomes even more enjoyable if you don’t have to undress to keep trying on clothes and accessories until you are really sure about buying it. It is also important to remember that the Christmas shopping experience continues to the New Year: during this time, consumers become much more playful and braver, as they dare to wear outfits not contemplated at other times of the year. Through the use of magic mirrors distributed in various strategic points of the store, and virtual dressing rooms for those who prefer discretion, retailers can combine the comfort offered by the digital environment with gamification aspects linked to social sharing of pics with friends and relatives.
If the products are equipped with RFID or NFC tags, it will be possible to provide more demanding service situations such as, for example:
#5 E-commerce versus commerce? Today… Just commerce!
Physical stores regain importance in the eyes of multichannel consumers by adopting a cross-media strategy, which allows integration of digital and physical touchpoints inside and outside the physical store – following a logic of interaction without friction. Managing such an increasingly fragmented customer journey – dependent on the speed, fickleness, variety and volatility of each individual – requires retailers to take a holistic approach to monitoring and managing all the endpoints used by the customers to interact with the brand. Whether it be the search of a product or a payment, or the need for information and certification, customers want the brands to provide them a personalized service also in terms of communication and relationship.
Communication is a strategic asset for customer loyalty, both when the customer is physically inside the store with their smartphone and when they are on public transport scrolling their tablets, from their computer at home or outside an interactive shop window. Communication is key especially at Christmas, when the level of attention is among the highest of the year.
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