Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media & SmallBizDaily.com
For retail businesses, it’s not too early to start thinking about preparing for the holiday shopping season. What’s the best way to get ready? Start looking at consumer trends. A recent Shopkick survey polled nearly 30,000 consumers nationwide about their plans for the holiday shopping season. Here are four things you can do to prepare for the holiday shopping season, based on consumer responses.
Inspire customers to shop
While e-commerce sales are growing every year, don’t count brick-and-mortar out just yet. More than half (54%) of baby boomers and 55% of Generation Z consumers say they expect to do the majority of their holiday shopping in-store this year.
As for why brick-and-mortar stores draw in holiday shoppers, a quarter says they shop in-store to get inspiration and ideas for what to buy. Another quarter says it’s easier to make price comparisons in a physical store. And 14% say brick-and-mortar stores allow them to browse a wider variety of products.
Make your store a place where shoppers can get inspired and find great gift ideas. Display a wide range of products. Create themed displays or online filters like “Gifts for Dad,” “Great Teacher Gifts,” or “Gifts under $25” to help shoppers find what they need quickly. Don’t forget to set a holiday mood with your décor. (These ideas work on your e-commerce website, too.)
Optimize the mobile experience
This year, consumers will be relying on their phones more than ever to get holiday shopping done. 84% of survey-takers say they’ll use their smartphones to research products, compare prices, read product reviews, and get inspiration while in-store. Meanwhile, 76% of Gen. Z shoppers will use their phones in stores. Many consumers will also go beyond browsing to make purchases on their smartphones. 32% of millennials, according to the survey, will do most of their holiday shopping that way.
If you sell online, make sure you optimize website browsing and buying experience for mobile users. Features like search autocomplete or pre-populated forms streamline the user experience and speed up checkout. Then focus on providing high-resolution images that load quickly. Whether or not you sell products online, make sure you also optimize marketing content, emails, and other offers for mobile users.
Offer incentives customers want most
Shoppers expect to get a little something extra when they shop during the holidays, and this year is no different. According to Shopkick, 42% of shoppers say low prices will be the most important buying incentive. Rewards programs are important for 10%, and easy returns are a major motivator for 6%.
Plan your holiday promotions and discounts carefully to attract customers without hurting your profits. If you don’t already have a rewards program in place, get it up and running now so that you can iron out any kinks by the holidays. Entice customers to join your rewards program by offering discounts or a free gift. Get your holiday returns game plan ready. Set up a separate returns station if necessary, and make it easy for gift recipients to exchange products.
Staff up before it’s too late
Of course, you know your store will be busy over Black Friday weekend—this year, 35% of consumers say they’ll start shopping before Thanksgiving. Overall, just 19% of consumers plan to shop on Black Friday. 74% of Gen. Z respondents plan to shop that day. Almost a fourth of consumers (23%) will shop at some point between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Use last year’s schedule and this year’s sales forecast to estimate your staffing needs. Retailer Kohl’s started hiring seasonal workers in July to have them fully trained by the time holiday shopping kicks off. If you need seasonal workers, start advertising for workers now. Employee scheduling software can help you plan ahead, so you always have enough people on the floor to provide the outstanding service holiday shoppers demand.
This holiday season is shaping up to be a good one for both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retailers.
Take advantage of the trends above to plan for a successful year-end.
Rieva Lesonsky is the CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Google+ and Twitter, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for free TrendCast reports.