The holidays are now upon us, and shoppers are gearing up to fight for merchandise. It's vital for retailers to understand holiday shoppers' preferences. A strong online sales season can make the entire year a success, while a weak one can spell disaster.
Here's how consumers are approaching their holiday shopping in 2017, so you can position your business and maximize your sales.
According to data from IFTTT, 60 percent of retailers have increased their technology budgets, planning to profit from the latest gadgets in the industry, such as artificial intelligence-driven chatbots.
But not all consumers are ready for this cutting-edge shopping experience. Sixty-eight percent of respondents have never used a retail chatbot, and 23 percent don't even know what they are.
However, this technology is still making marks on small and midsize retail businesses, helping those merchants with limited resources. According to Gabriel Vizzard and David Hogg from IBM Watson, AI, which can answer questions posed in natural languages, is expected to affect 1 billion people this year. In the coming years, AI will offer small and midsize retailers deeper learning and the freedom to focus more resources on their core challenges.
The new home shopping experience
Thirty-six percent of those polled by IFTTT would rather shop from the comfort of their own home with the assistance of Alexa or Siri than hit up the mall with family or friends. IFTTT CEO Linden Tibbets recommends retailers cater to these homebody shoppers.
"At IFTTT, we see consumers who want instant notifications on the hottest products, to automate the addition of items to their shopping lists with Alexa, and to monitor the price of their wish list gadgets," he said in a statement. "Our research and work with retailers shows us that all consumers are different, but offering them the tools and experiences they want to tailor their shopping experience is key to maximizing retailers' technology investments."
With same-day delivery, virtual wardrobe and social commerce gaining pace, it's now crucial for retailers to have mobile channels.
"Make 100 percent sure there are ways for your customers to browse, order, pay and receive goods that combine online and offline channels – with maximized mobile usability and payment options," said Richard Stevenson, head of corporate communications for ePages. "Then, advertise your flexibility. Research shows that convenience remains the No. 1 priority for holiday season shoppers, and they will pay a premium for rapid, painless options that dovetail with their busy lives."
It's also important for retailers to be flexible with their selling options. Stevenson noted that consumers are buying from multiple, constantly evolving online platforms beyond your storefront – marketplaces, social media, and even Amazon Echo and Alexa. Think local, yet sell worldwide, he says.
"Make sure you figure in all and [that] your online listings for marketplaces, search engines and comparison portals are fully visible," Stevenson told Business News Daily. "Always offer currency and shipping options for cross-border sales – the world is getting smaller."