The 2017 holiday season has arrived, and every retailer is wondering the same thing: how will we fare this year? Preparations have been underway for months as retailers scramble to anticipate the desires of this year’s holiday shoppers.
And if sales projections play out, those efforts will be well worth it. After a 3.5 percent increase in holiday sales during the 2016 holiday season, consulting firm Deloitte estimates this year’s growth to be an even higher 4.5 percent.
Various factors will likely contribute to the jump in holiday sales, including lower unemployment that may lead to a rise in disposable income and consumer confidence. Whatever the reasons, retailers are working hard to differentiate themselves in order to gain a bigger share of the potential increase in holiday spending. So what do they have in store (no pun intended) for us in 2017?
Here are a few key ways retailers are standing out from the crowd, and thus changing our holiday shopping experience:
Preparing for holiday shopping before Black Friday.
It used to be that Black Friday signaled the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Not so anymore. We’ve all read the headlines about brick & mortar stores that held sales on Thanksgiving (rather than the day after), but it goes beyond that.
According to RetailMeNot’s recently published 2017 Holiday Retail Trends and Guide, nearly 80 percent of retailers will start holiday marketing efforts earlier than the 2016 holiday season. Over half of them will begin holiday promotions in September!
This trend is reflected in major retailers across the U.S. Target has pulled out all the stops, offering the following promotions starting in November:
- Free shipping through December 23
- Promotional pricing during weekends in November and December
- Upwards of 3,000 gift items priced less than $15
- An online gift box service that allows recipients to choose or change items
3 of these 4 promotions offer customers big savings, which is still a critical factor even with the projected increase in spending. In our own survey on consumer holiday shopping preferences, the highest factors in purchase decisions were price and potential discounts or sales.
Providing convenience throughout the entire purchasing journey
So, our time window for holiday shopping has increased. But guess what hasn’t increased? Shoppers’ willingness to spend time in brick & mortar stores. Sure, we’re willing to spend 2+ hours online browsing and researching our purchases on the aptly-named “Sofa Sunday”, but most of the resulting purchases will take place from the convenience of a device – on Cyber Monday, opposed to in-store.
Convenience and flexibility is key for customers this holiday season. Retailers are working hard to offer them the convenience of online shopping, with the option to pick-up in physical stores at the last minute.
Nordstrom is piloting a new pick-up program where customers don’t even have to set foot in the store. In 10 participating stores, customers can place an online order and notify Nordstrom that they’d like to pick it up by calling or texting “Curbside Pickup”. Within 10 minutes, Nordstrom staff will retrieve the items and meet the customer at a specific pickup point – 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.
And for those that are willing to head into physical store locations, Walmart is offering holiday assistants in stores. These holiday assistants will help shoppers pick up online purchases, navigate through stores, and even find the shortest line.
Offering flexible payment options sweeten the deal.
Don’t get us wrong: retailers are still competing on price this holiday season. But they also have another lever to pull, and that’s means making sure that their customers have a flexible way to pay for purchases, like credit cards and financing.
Over half of our survey participants reported that they are planning to use credit cards (including store cards) for large holiday purchases. And those results play out across various age groups – Generations Y and Z, and Generation X and the Baby Boomers.
Credit options, including offers like zero interest for a certain time, or even a percentage of cash back, can offer customers the runway they need to make their holiday purchases.
Build.com is capitalizing on this interest in retail credit with the launch of the a new financing program. Customers can fill out one application that will give them access to multiple credit offers across various channels. Customers can use Build.com’s online shopping experience or their call center to purchase home remodeling services, make room updates, or even for holiday decorating.
Maintaining and differentiating the in-store experience.
It’s true: much of our shopping has migrated to online channels. But there are still people who like to brave the stores – some even prefer them. According to the RetailMeNot report, more than half of shoppers are prepared to rise with the sun for Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
Retailers are taking advantage of this willingness and are looking to drive foot traffic through creative in-store promotions and other in-store experiences. Amazon is leveraging its’ recent acquisition of Whole Foods to offer Amazon pop-up stores for devices like the Echo, Fire, FireTV, and Kindle.
And Walmart is planning to throw holiday parties, complete with photos with Santa, and catalogs with stickers so kids can make their wish lists.
Retailers are stepping up to earn more sales in 2017.
These are just a handful in a slew of examples of how retailers compete for holiday dollars. And there’s sure to be more as the holiday season continues.
What are your predictions for the 2017 holiday shopping season? Tell us in the comments.