Target and Toys R Us posted overall sales declines during the holidays.
Merchants need to allow shoppers to shop however they please.
More shoppers will be shopping across channels this holiday season, says Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at research and advisory firm Retail Systems Research LLC. That means retailers need to engage those shoppers wherever they may be.
“Retailers need to have or create a single brand identity across channels,” she says. “They need to have their various channels in sync, particularly during the holiday season because who knows what the weather will bring.”
Weather can have a pronounced effect on how consumers shop, she says. For instance, last holiday season a major snowstorm on the East Coast helped bolster online sales and hurt bricks-and-mortar store sales. “You have to be prepared for anything because the weather is so unpredictable during the holiday season,” she says.
Beyond the weather, helping consumers shop however they choose is important because 65% of merchants say that consumers that shop across multiple channels, such as online, in-store and on their smartphones, are more profitable than single-channel consumers, according to a recent study by RSR. That’s up from 56% a year ago. The trend should continue because online and mobile sales continue to rise, she says.
In preparation for the holiday season Rosenblum says retailers that don’t have an m-commerce site need to get one. And, if they can afford it, they should offer a mobile app as well.
“Consumers expect to be able to use the mobile web easily, and if they can’t then the retailer may miss out on a sale,” she says. “Every site or app doesn’t have to be a glorious exercise in mobile commerce, it just has to work.”
Working means that not only does it allow a consumer to view a product and make a purchase, but that the inventory shown online is up to date and not on backorder, says Rosenblum. Retailers can maximize the usefulness of their inventory by sharing it across platforms, she says.
Only 54% of the retailers in RSR’s survey allow inventory allocated for one channel to be used for another channel’s fulfillment. Although that’s up from 43% a year ago, it still leaves a huge opportunity for improvement, says Rosenblum.
“Sharing inventory across channels ends up making the customer happy and making the retailer happy because they make the sale,” she says. “It’s a no-brainer.”