Lessons Learned From Holidays 2018: A Blueprint for 2019 Success


According to a recent report, retailers will see a 14 percent year-over-year increase in Christmas traffic. The holiday season has been a robust one thus far, with spending predicted to reach more than $720 billion between November 1 and New Year’s Eve.

It is during this time – when retailers are at the peak of holiday shopping hysteria – that the most valuable lessons will be learned, which will shape strategies, processes and technology investments in the year ahead.

So, with scant days left in 2018, here are the takeaways from this year’s holiday season that will be fresh on retailers’ minds when they design their 2019 holiday game plans.

(There’s no doubt holiday season 2019 planning will be underway in short order, just as soon as retailers survive the onslaught of January returns.)

Holiday Promotions Need to Start Earlier

One trend we’ve seen this season: consumers are shopping earlier and more often. Consumer behavior has evolved to the point where most retailers know that if they wait until Black Friday to start customer outreach, they will have already missed the boat. Now shoppers are beginning to make holiday purchases as early as October, forcing many retailers to send their first promotional email before the holiday decor is even up.

In addition to starting holiday promotions earlier, in 2019, retailers will continue to focus on the relevancy of their outreach. Aptos recently surveyed 2,000 UK consumers, with 34 percent indicating they are inundated with offers in the run-up to the Christmas period and 46 percent saying that more than half of the emails they receive are irrelevant to them.

The findings should prompt a radical rethinking of retailers’ approaches to promotions over this crucial period. Retailers have more customer data than ever at their disposal, and they need to use this to understand individual customers in order to tailor their retail experiences and offers accordingly.

To Save the Sale, Retailers Must Put Mobile First

The holidays are a season for shoppers to turn to mobile for handy gift-buying assistance. But retailers often spend so much time getting the desktop versions of their sites to work that their efforts in mobile get lost in the mix. And if there is one lesson learned from 2018, it is that mobile shopping continues to grow. There are two areas of mobile that retailers should really home in on for holiday season 2019: gift card purchases and gift guides.

Gift card purchases are an increasingly popular go-to for holiday shoppers, meaning the mobile experience to purchase gift cards – especially e-gift cards – should not be broken, especially on mobile apps. Also, easy access to gift-buying guides can serve as a save-the-sale moment. If shoppers can’t find the products they’re looking for in-store and time is of the essence, they will typically turn to their mobiles to see what other options are available. Putting together a questionnaire that works on mobile to help with product selection will improve the customer experience, even if their first choice wasn’t available.

Retailers Will Provide More Inventory Transparency in 2019

With holiday shopping, early shoppers may be looking for inspiration, but late shoppers are looking to have the product in hand, as soon as possible. Retailers often talk about “inventory visibility;” but what retailers really need is to provide inventory transparency – not just visibility into how much inventory they have, but an assessment of the likelihood the consumer will actually get it.

In 2019, more retailers will offer online visibility into in-store inventory levels to provide the assurance that the trip is worth it and ultimately drive more traffic into stores.  

For the Holidays, and Year Round, Give Shoppers the Gift of Experience

During the holidays, and year round, consumers expect a complete omnichannel experience, whether or not they actually use that term to describe it. The lessons learned from the 2018 holiday season are extremely valuable in helping retailers to plan for greater success in 2019.

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