With Christmas fast approaching and customers more digitally connected than ever, how will retailers rise to the challenge of engaging consumers?

With Christmas fast approaching and customers more digitally connected than ever, how will retailers rise to the challenge of engaging consumers?

As Christmas hurtles towards us, the annual pressure on retailers to engage shoppers and grow their year on year sales is increasing.  This Christmas, the vast majority of shoppers are connected through smartphones and tablet access, and thus have, unsurprisingly, higher expectations than ever for exceptional, connected digital and real world experiences. How can retailers prepare for these connected customers?

In 2013, we saw mobile commanding an unprecedented share of Christmas online purchases, and today for retailers over half of all traffic and a third of all online sales come from a smartphone or tablet.  When combined with research that shows that mobile influences over £18bn of in store sales, it’s clear that 2014’s retailers need to be omnichannel to accommodate their multi-device and multi-channel customers.

Connected customers are savvy, now buying fewer items per retailer and preferring to shop around for the best deal. Retailers need to meet this new consumer head-on and differentiate successfully from their competitors. By examining and pre-empting consumer behaviour, retailers will be able to adapt their Christmas strategy to make quick wins this season.

Firstly, let’s take a look at how consumers will be shopping this Christmas. Desktop is no longer the device of research choice for time-poor Christmas shoppers – as mobile devices now account for the majority of retail online traffic. Retailers need to put as much emphasis on their mobile and tablet customer journeys as they do with desktop – optimising not just for the device but also for the context of the user, for example changing their mobile site when detecting shoppers are in store, to help them to navigate and find product information.

Heavy research on mobile also means retailers should look to utilise the range of mobile marketing tools available to maximise usage of the platform for Christmas shoppers. Retailers should invest in mobile display, native and social advertising, along with location based messaging and retargeting across mobile platforms, especially around last minute purchase opportunities where online delivery is closed but footfall can be driven through mobile to high street stores.

Retailers must also navigate the complex connected customer journey. If mobile dominates research traffic, desktop still dominates online sales – nearly two thirds of all Christmas purchases in 2013 were made via desktop. This means Christmas consumers are truly multi-channel, embarking on complex customer journeys involving phones, tablets, and desktops. Retailers need to pre-empt and enable this behavior by optimising the purchase funnel on each device and track journeys through a user’s account login, or through integrated physical and digital activity through click and collect.

CRM and loyalty will be critical for retailers this Christmas, especially in developing repeat purchases or activating shoppers post Christmas in sales. Now that digital services that were once differentiators — for example free shipping, click and collect or free returns — are seen as the norm by consumers, shoppers have fewer reasons to stay loyal to a retailer, especially those who sell commodity goods.

For retailers to win this Christmas it’s paramount to start activating mobile loyalty through personalisation and contextually-driven messaging and creating a competitive advantage through high quality service through the mobile device.  Promotions and offers can be used to drive immediate footfall and purchases, but should be carefully targeted across audience cohorts and discretely delivered through the personal mobile device.

Mobile provides retailers with a number of clear differentiators for Christmas shoppers across their connected journey, from research to context, to purchase and to building relationships.  Activating shoppers in an agile and tactical manner through mobile will create real-time benefits for retailers in the race to drive increased year on year sales this Christmas.

  • Ross Sleight is the chief strategy officer at Somo