More than half of the participants in a recent survey say they plan to spend about the same amount of money on holiday gifts this year as they did in 2013, which makes for another competitive retail season. In addition, many of those consumers will buy at least one gift from behemoth Amazon. MarketLive, a provider of e‑commerce technology and services that conducted the survey, says the best ways for retailers to distinguish themselves are to cater to multitasking mobile consumers, provide rewards for social activity, and focus on their niches.
MarketLive, a provider of ecommerce technology and services, announced the results of its Annual Online Shopper Survey for the 2014 holiday season, which it says provides merchants with a “roadmap for engaging shoppers during the next few months.”
Provide A Jolly Mobile Experience For Consumers
Fifty percent of holiday shoppers intend to buy gifts via their mobile devices and 49 percent will make purchases based on a social referral, according to the survey. In addition, MarketLive says 36 percent of those respondents plan to purchase half or more of their gifts via a mobile device, 70 percent are likely to do research on their smartphones and 56 percent are likely to reserve products from their smartphones for pick-up. The shift to mobile is well known, but MarketLive CEO Ken Burke said retailers are still caught off-guard in terms of mobile readiness overall. In addition, Burke says MarketLive works with several retailers that do big business for Halloween, so it has what he calls a “precursor” to the holiday season. As much as 50 percent of sales on these Halloween sites are coming from mobile because consumers are buying products on the go, Burke said. Retail brands need to think about how they can promote mobile in their overall strategies with merchandise that addresses the mobile customer or promotions specifically targeted to mobile customers. That being said, retailers do have better mobile sites overall with responsive designs and are paying more attention to make the overall user experience better and making checkout and payments easier. “Next year, the trend will be mobile payments,” Burke said. Thanks in part to the rise of Amazon Payments, Visa Checkout, MasterPass and Apple Pay, Burke said alternate payment methods are only beginning.
Social: The Gift That Will Keep Giving
In addition, 30 percent of participants in the MarketLive survey say they’ve made a purchase as a direct result of interactions on social media, 49 percent will make a purchase because of a social referral and 44 percent intend to discover new products via social networks. Once products have actually been purchased, 52 percent feel it is important to review products they have purchased, 48 percent say it is important to share product recommendations with friends and family via social channels, and 42 percent will pin items on Pinterest. One way to capitalize upon such willingness to provide content is to encourage customers to comment on Facebook posts on product pages or to do Q&As and encourage consumers to ask questions and let their social networks answer those questions. “What we’re finding is driving sales is literally the merchant creating social activity on the site,” Burke said. That means discounts for referring friends or “pin it to win it” promotions on Pinterest. “A reward for doing something socially – that’s where the magic is,” he adds.
Can Retailers Compete With Amazon?
While competition from Amazon and its influence on pricing is always an issue, the survey shows that retailers can have a great holiday season by focusing on key areas that will affect shopping behavior. Noting Amazon is “always a force to be reckoned with” and “the number of customers that are going to buy at least one gift from Amazon is extraordinarily high,” Burke said all hope is not lost for other retail brands. One great way to compete with Amazon more forcefully is with a great mobile experience, but also to look at “the things Amazon doesn’t do as effectively for your specific category.” In other words, retailers “have like customers with like interests and a brand can be very effective and be very niche‑y by creating great content,” Burke said. In addition, Burke says, “Free shipping, free shipping, free shipping. With thresholds, that’s probably the single best discount you can do. It helps limit your exposure a bit and anything tied to free shipping is the #1 discount.” According to MarketLive, the survey included a “random sample of 1,000 U.S. consumers who had shopped online at least four times within the past year, own a smartphone, and typically spend $250 or more online annually.” MarketLive says it powers ecommerce sites like Armani Exchange, Party City, Perricone MD, Sport Chalet, Sundance, Helzberg Diamonds, John Deere, Title Nine, and Intermix.