Christmas comes but once a year, and with it the most significant period of consumer spending on the annual retail calendar.
Courtesy of the rise in online retail and mobile payments, the last decade has seen a major shift in the way people search for Christmas products and purchase them, meaning harnessing new techniques and technology is critical to engaging customers for bricks and mortar stores.
Here are five new ways for real-world retailers to boost Christmas sales.
For many a modern consumer the annual Christmas shopping starts out with some hard time online, seeking ideas, comparing prices and compiling product information.
Known as "Web Rooming" it's the act of researching before heading in store to make a purchase, and according to news.com.au it's a trend on the rise that leads to transparency of pricing and product availability.
This makes knowledge the key to Christmas spending, and marketing the essential tool for retailers, and it can be undertaken across a number of innovative channels.
Social media - Between 20% and 40% of annual sales are said to occur in November and December, and it's all about telling the customer what you have, what's popular and what's available.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram remain the prime social media channels in which to highlight new products and experts suggest adding visual cues to your social media campaigns, just as you would decorate a shop front.
Meanwhile Twitter research indicates 55% of holiday conversation in December is about a consumer's shopping progress. As the Christmas Day deadline approaches there is a spike in mentions of apparel, electronics and gift cards.
They suggest soothing the tired shopper in the Christmas rush, by suggesting gift ideas, easy shopping apps and convenient locations.
Email - While social media is hot, The Balance notes email still wins the day as the most disruptive way to "reach and woo" customers. Their figures indicates it's three time more effective than social media and the average customer order is 17% higher.
Using consumer data and available apps like MailChimp, emails should be used to promote your product and services, or highlight sales and events. Email provides the potential to create a marketing campaign where you can regularly refine the message, highlight a product a day, provide consumers with gift suggestions, target customers personally or notify everyone of a sale.
As a quick tip Hubspot notes that including your customer's name in the subject line increases their click through rate, giving them the message "you're special".
Make no mistake proximity marketing has arrived via technology such as iBeacon and iSign Smart Antenna. And it provides very real potential for retailers to target preoccupied shoppers in-store or on the street by sending messages to their phones when they are in the vicinity of an outlet.
Using either low energy Bluetooth technology or WiFi, it allows messages like product promotions, deals or loyalty incentives to be sent to a consumer's phone. This occurs either directly or via an app that has been previously downloaded.
With gift cards among the top items shoppers talk about on Twitter in the lead up to Christmas, it makes sense for retailers to actively embrace this trend. This means ensuring your point of sale system can handle gift cards easily and you can distribute them electronically to cater to the growing digital wallet uptake.
Gift cards can be utilised in a number of ways to boost Christmas sales:
- You can offer them as a reward or incentive to your loyal customers to get them to walk through your doors and do their Christmas shopping with you. As a side-note, statistics indicate 61% of gift card holders spend more than the value of the card.
2) Provide gift cards as a present option for frantic shoppers seeking last minute gifts. Be sure to highlight this in your marketing campaigns.
According to PayPal, last year 2.2 million Australians used mobile phones to search for and, perhaps more importantly, purchase their presents. That trend is only likely to increase this festive season, with PayPal already notching up record numbers in the US over Thanksgiving sales.
For retailers, taking advantage of this involves having the capability to accept mobile and contactless payments where consumer can utilise their smartphones to pay or simply tap their card and go.
A host of point of sale apps have this hardware capability including PayPal and Square, while bank issued payment terminals are also actively embracing the trend.
The benefits of easy payments are numerous; they reduce time spent at the counter, but also provide consumers with a selection of ways to conveniently pay.
Statistic also indicate Tap-n-Go sees shoppers more willing to buy, and spend more when they do, as part of an ever-increasing "buy now, pay later" trend.
The final word
The Australian Retailers Association and Roy Morgan Research indicate this year Aussie's will spend $48.1 billion in retail stores between November 15 and December 24, making that a 2.3% increase on sales from last year.
The key to gaining a slice of this fat Christmas pudding is all about information, accessibility and ease of purchase.