Will it be Happy Holidays for Retailers this Year?


avalara_SeptNovember and December are no “ho-ho-ho” laughing matter for retailers. Seasonal shopping is serious business. Nearly 20% of total retail sales occur during this period. But shopping trends are a lot like fashion trends; what was hot last year may not be now. Here’s a closer look at some key takeaways from 2014 as well as a “nice list” for what retailers can do this year to keep customers happy and keep them spending.

1. Get the early birds and the last-minute shoppers

Why wait for the day after when you shop on Thanksgiving! The shopping calendar is getting longer with more people getting a jump start on holiday gift-buying and others waiting to snap up last-minute deals. Last year retailers offered premium deals on Thanksgiving Day rather than holding off until Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Drawn-out discounts also led more people to shop later into the season causing sales to spike on December 21 and 22. Continue the tradition this year by:

  • Getting promotions out early and keep them running longer
  • Offering free shipping earlier in the season
  • Extending the window on deals and discounts
  • Promoting last chance delivery dates for late shoppers 

2. Create a more seamless experience for shoppers

Buyers no longer draw a hard line between physical and virtual stores. What matters most is getting what they want, when they want, and how they want. Webrooming and showrooming were big in 2014 and will continue to influence buying behavior in 2015. Feed consumers’ habits by:

  • Offering same-day shipping and delivery
  • Adding options to buy online and pick-up in store
  • Being consistent with pricing and promotions online and in-store
  • Syncing shopping carts across devices so customers see their items when they channel hop
  • Featuring downloadable mobile coupons in apps that can be scanned in store
  • Integrating beacons and QR codes into in-store displays
  • Adding geolocation technology to web stores for real-time stock and in-store pickup options

3. Be mobile-ready

More mobile apps, better UI design, and larger screen sizes made shopping on smartphones easier last year. But the number one thing that would make people spend more on their phones? Easier checkout. Make it happen for them in 2015:

  • Invest in responsive design and mobile-friendly checkout
  • Ensure promotions, shipping charges, and sales taxes are automatically calculated
  • Offer mobile payments like Apply Pay and Google Wallet

4. Socialize More Often

More than ever before, social media and social consciousness are shaping consumer opinions. People are talking about their retail experiences through social channels, and fellow shoppers are seeking out this content when making buying decisions. Nurture these relationships through:

  • Promotions, experience stories, and customer reviews on social sites and apps
  • Integration of charitable, social, or environmental causes with marketing campaigns 
  • Rich site content on your web stores such as ratings, reviews, Q&A, video and testimonials 

5. Be ready for big data

Using consumer behavioral data strategically can increase operating margins by 60%, according to a McKinsey Global Institute report. More importantly, your customers expect it and want it. So why not make them happy?

  • Tailor deals, ads, and communications to channels and brand preferences
  • Use geographic data to stock stores based on local demand

Want the detailed data and drivers behind these trends? Read How to Win at Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

One last To-Do for your holiday checklist: Sales tax. Shoppers can be a real Grinch about incorrect or unexpected costs at checkout. Wrap up their purchases neatly by automating sales tax in your eCommerce system, shopping cart, or point of sale system.

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